Consumer groups file lawsuit challenging Tampa Electric rate hike
In what could be another blow to Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy's quest to raise base rates, several lawyers representing customers of Tampa Electric Company today filed a lawsuit challenging the $136.9 million increase awarded to them by the Florida Public Service Commission.
The group is asking the Florida Supreme Court to halt the rate increase approved on a 4-1 vote. Only Commisisoner Nancy Argenziano objected to the increase.
The lawsuit was filed by the Office of Public Counsel, which represents utility customers, Attorney General Bill McCollum, the Florida Industrial Power Users’ Group and the Florida Retail Federation. Their claim: the PSC erred when it approve a rate increase above and beyond that TECO had sought.
“The commission went too far,” said Public Counsel J.R. Kelly in a statement.
In the final days of the hearing, TECO petitioned for a so-called step increase that allowed it to get $104 million rate increase effective May 7, 2009, and then another $32.9 million in 2010. The company’s original application sought the rate increase to pay for new gas generators and a new rail facility at Tampa Electric’s Big Bend plant in Tampa that were supposed to start production during 2009.
The step-increase request mirrors what Florida Power & Light is seeking in its rate case pending this month, in which it's asking for a $1 billion increase starting in 2010 and another $300 million beginning in 2011.
“We are also opposing the step increase for FPL,” said Florida Retail Federation President Rick McAllister in a statement. “We believe that now is the time for the Supreme Court to take a strong look at the Florida Statutes and the FPSC’s decisions to make sure that Florida citizens get an even break, adequate notice and a fair hearing when decisions are made to increase their basic cost of electricity.”