Florida Supreme Court Hears Objection To FPL Settlement
The state Office of Public Counsel asked the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday to reject a settlement with Florida Power & Light, arguing the state Public Service Commission improperly abandoned its public hearing process when accepting a rate increase that varied from the original proposal.
Assistant Public Counsel Joseph McGlothlin of Tallahassee told the justices the PSC violated the Constitution when it conducted a hearing on a $350 million rate increase, which the OPC attended under protest.
The arguments took a turn when Justice Barbara Pariente painted the dispute as a beef between big business and little people with the public counsel's office representing the "99 percent" and the settlement accepted by the "1 percent" of FPL's major commercial customers.
"Aren't we talking about the rest of the residential users who are going to be affected by this?" she asked.
FPL submitted its rate request in March 2012. Extensive hearings were conducted in cities across FPL's East Coast territory covering 4.6 million customers.
When hearings were to resume last fall, Public Counsel J.R. Kelly objected because the proposed settlement was outside the scope of issues covered in the pre-hearing order.
McGlothlin said about 200 line-item issues were raised by the public counsel but not addressed. Rather than fully discuss the concerns of the public counsel, the PSC shifted to consideration of the proposed settlement.
"You're saying that they can't do that?" Pariente asked. "That this settlement that only involved 1 percent of FPL users was unfair to the remaining 99 percent of users?"
McGlothlin argued it couldn't be a legal settlement if the public counsel, as the designated consumer advocate in PSC business, was not heard or in agreement.
Comparing the hearing process to a court hearing, Pariente noted it's not unusual for a judge to hear some of the evidence in a voluminous case and avoid wasting time going into duplicative issues. She asked if any of the evidence was heard.