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Skop counters, won't back off FPL's cases, leaves it to court to decide

17

September

Public Service Commissioner Nathan Skop fired back at Florida Power & Light Thursday, formally denying the company's request to have him removed from its 13 remaining utility cases before his term ends in January.Skop's 17-page response also attempts to address many of the arguments being made by FPL in a Sept. 8 motion filed in the First District Court of Appeal. The company asked the court to remove Skop from all its pending cases because it believes it can't get a fair hearing based on antagonistic comments Skop has made during recent hearings.  Download Skop order 91610

Skop told reporters on June 30 and July 1 that the decision by the PSC Nominating Council not to interview him and PSC Commission Chairman  Nancy Argenziano for reappointment was "payback" for the commission's unanimous decision to reject the rate cases of FPL and Progress Energy.

"Commissioner Skop’s outbursts followed a year in which his conduct toward FPL in fact-finding hearings has become increasingly more hostile and adversarial,” FPL's motion stated.

 FPL filed the nearly 400-page motion after Skop refused to recuse himself from voting in a nuclear cost recovery hearing on Sept. 2. (He went on to oppose FPL's request for a $31 million increase in customer bills in January and justify it later in the year, but the commission voted 3-2 to support the increase.) Skop argued then that he was not obligated to remove himself because the law requires a request for recusal to occur prior to the hearing, not during the proceeding.FPL filed the nearly 400-page motion after Skop refused to recuse himself from voting in a nuclear cost recovery hearing on Sept. 2. (He went on to oppose FPL's request for a $31 million increase in customer bills in January and justify it later in the year, but the commission voted 3-2 to support the increase.) Skop argued then that he was not obligated to remove himself because the law requires a request for recusal to occur prior to the hearing, not during the proceeding.

In his order Thursday, Skop claimed that the reason for filing the motion to disqualify a commissioner before a case is heard is to avoid using the tactic to "relieve a party's discomfort when the going gets tough during an agency proceeding" especially if a commissioner pursues "an unexpectedly irksome line of questions.

"Such an untethered, free-roaming threat of recusal would seriously impair the ability of the Commission to carry out its important responsibilities,'' he wrote.

Skop argued that he has no bias against FPL because his statements referred to the legislatively-controlled nominating council and were also aimed at Progress Energy Florida. "I voted against PEF's rate increase requests as well as FPL's, and noted in the July 1, 2010, statement that the Nominating Council's 'payback' reflected my participation in PEP's rate case as well as FPL's rate case,'' Skop wrote in his order.

"Apparently, PEF, having filed no motion similar to FPL's, does not interpret the exact same public statements of mine as seeking to blame PEF for my failure to be interviewed by the Nominating Council,'' he said. He added that FPL's argument was "tenuous and speculative" and provided insufficient grounds to require his disqualification.

The matter will now move to court, where the FPL case is pending.   

[Last modified: Thursday, October 7, 2010 6:29pm]

    

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