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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

FPL resumes rate case; will it answer questions about documents?



Florida Power & Light will get one more chance to persuade regulators to raise electric rates $1.3 billion starting next year when three final days of hearings resume Wednesday before the embattled Public Service Commission. Full story here. 

Progress Energy -- the second largest electric utility in Florida, which is seeking a $500 million increase in base rates -- concluded its hearings two weeks ago, with a decision expected Dec. 1. But controversy continues to follow FPL.

Documents filed in the case Monday indicate that the company appears to have stacked public hearings with a line-up of residential and commercial customers with favorable opinions of FPL. In preparation for the rate case, the PSC conducted five public hearings in South Florida last summer to get input from customers about the quality of FPL's service.

Attorney General Bill McCollum's attorney Cecelia Bradley has already asked a series of questions about these hearings, and we expect she'll be asking about the documents now that they have been entered into the record. Stay tuned for live coverage here.

Meanwhile, here is FPL's spokesman Mark Bubriski's comment on the documents and our follow-up questions, which the company has declined to answer:

"What follows below is the statement we have repeatedly provided reporters on this subject. In addition, we would guess that any suggestion that the views of one customer should be ignored or rejected in favor of those of another would be incredibly offensive to customers who came to these hearings to provide their views: 

"FPL as required by law invited ALL customers to the quality of service hearings through advertising, notices in our customer newsletter, customer email, etc. Our people in the communities we serve also let their local contacts know that they would have the opportunity to comment on our service if they were so inclined. We assume the other organizations represented at the hearings did at least that much as was readily apparent.  

"We are very pleased that the majority of those who attended the quality of service hearings spoke very favorably about the quality of their electric service. In total, 418 customers testified in the hearings. Of those, 243 customers, or 58 percent, made positive statements about FPL’s quality of service, and 54 customers, or 13 percent, discussed a negative service issue. The remaining 120, or 29 percent, made no mention of FPL’s quality of service.  

"We were also pleased to have the opportunity to hear customers’ views on the other topics they chose to discuss, such as new nuclear power in Florida, transmission line issues, solar power generation and other topics concerning renewable energy. Likewise, we were pleased to hear positive comments regarding customer’s perceptions of our commitment to the communities in which we live and work."

Our follow-up questions:

What was the need for the company to create a grid that listed a "summary" of what customers might say? Weren't you trying to actively influence commissioners by supplying a line-up of testimony, rather than take a chance that the testimony at the hearing might not be dominated by favorable remarks? Why keep a tally, as you have, of positive statements? And why is the employee time involved with this exercise a good use of customer, rate-paying, dollars?


[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 2:23pm]


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