The Florida Supreme Court is being asked to pull the plug on a rate hike settlement deal reached between the state’s largest utility and the state’s Public Service Commission. The case is very reminiscent of another Florida Supreme Court case from the 1970s.
A state-appointed lawyer, representing Florida ratepayers through the Office of Public Counsel, argued Thursday that citizens got a raw deal in a March 2012 settlement between the state and Florida Power and Light. That deal allowed the state’s largest utility to increase base rates through 2016 in order to recover costs incurred by building new power plants. The attorney, Joseph McGlothlin, contended his office wasn’t given a seat at the negotiating table.
“No settlement could take place that was unacceptable to the utility. But, settlements could take place that are unacceptable to the statutory representative of all the citizens. We don’t ask for any special advantage. We ask for the equal footing that would allow us to represent the citizens in the manner that this court in the Mayo case said that the legislature intended,” McGlothlin said.
In the Citizens V. Mayo case, the Florida Supreme Court ruled citizens are entitled to representation in any deals reached between utilities and the Public Service Commission. But, Alvin Davis, Florida Power and Light’s lawyer countered that the Office of Public Counsel knew about the deal well in advance.
“They were invited to participate in the settlement when it was first broached by FPL – they signed a confidentiality agreement so they could obtain the information. For whatever reason, they declined to participate in the settlement. The argument was you should’ve come back to us or you didn’t wait for us – that’s not the point. They knew the settlement was being considered,” Davis said.
Residential customers can expect their average rates go up about $9 a month. But, utility officials say that number is closer to $3 a month because of increased efficiency. The Florida Supreme Court doesn’t have a deadline to decide on the case.