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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Public counsel says settlement eliminates 'uncertainty'

Public Counsel JR Kelly said the settlement between the state and Progress Energy to freeze base rates until 2012 “is a win-win situation for both ratepayers and Progress Energy’’ because it allows the utility company to increase its cash flow and thereby attract financing for their projects at more favorable interest rates.

But, in turn, ratepayers will see their base rates fixed at least for another two years, although other parts of the bill could rise if fuel costs or other expenses increase, he said.

The settlement also allows all sides to avoid uncertainty, Kelly said: the uncertainty that comes from the state Senate’s rejection of two Public Service Commissioners, leaving the board with only three members for the summer; and the uncertainty of what would have come if the case had gone to the Supreme Court.

 “We got what we want in this deal --  frozen rates,’’ he said. “Progress Energy got what they wanted: the ability to manage their own earnings.”

The agreement also appears to be a bit of an olive branch from Kelly, who had been under fire by the state’s largest utility companies after the PSC sided with him and rejected the rate increases sought by both Progress Energy and the state’s largest utility, Florida Power & Light.

A month after the rate case ended, a legislative committee voted to require Kelly to reapply for his job in and then abruptly halted the process after their action was criticized by the governor.

Attorney General Bill McCollum said his office helped coordinate the settlement because “we thought it was in the best interests of the taxpayers and ratepayers of Florida.’’

He said that although FPL has also asked the PSC to reconsider its rate case, the Juno Beach-based company has not sought a similar settlement.

“We are always willing to open our doors and see it we can come to an amicable solution,’’ McCollum said.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 10:36am]


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