Saturday, January 20, 2018
Business

Balbis will not seek reappointment to PSC

State Public Service Commissioner Eduardo Balbis has announced that he will not seek reappointment to the post he has held since 2010.

In a letter dated Monday to the Florida Public Service Nominating Council, Balbis said he had decided to pursue "challenges in other arenas after the expiration my current term."

"Although there are more challenges ahead for the commission, I am confident I am leaving the commission in a better state than when I arrived," wrote Balbis, 41. "While my fellow commissioners and I have not always agreed on every issue, we always conducted ourselves in a collegial, professional manner."

Balbis' office said he was not available for comment Monday.

On the commission, Balbis served as the hearing officer for issues regarding the broken and now shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant. He was the lone vote against a settlement agreement between the state and Duke Energy last October relating to the Crystal River plant and cancellation of the Levy County nuclear project. While the agreement reduced the potential financial burden on Duke's 1.7 million customers, they will still have to pay $3.2 billion for projects that produced not a kilowatt of power.

Balbis, who made about $132,000 a year, favored additional inquiry into the Crystal River mishap that led to a series of cracks in the reactor's concrete containment building, citing insufficient expert testimony and a paucity of public documents regarding insurance matters. He also wanted to know more about Duke Energy's decision to retire, rather than repair, the broken Crystal River plant.

"We have plenty of time to thoroughly review the critical issues in this case," Balbis said before the vote last fall. "I think it is important that we get this information."

In recent years, the PSC has been criticized for being pro-utility at the expense of consumers. State Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, said he appreciated Balbis' stand against the Crystal River settlement and support for consumers in that vote.

"I felt like he clearly was a stand out when trying to do what's right when the vote on the settlement came," Dudley said. "I will remember him for his independence and his courage in that regard."

Former Gov. Charlie Crist appointed Balbis in 2010 after the state's largest utilities mounted a campaign to oust four of the five commissioners after they voted against a $1.3 billion rate increase request sought by Florida Power & Light. Gov. Rick Scott reappointed him in 2011 for a four-year term that expires Jan. 1, 2015.

Before serving on the PSC, Balbis was the assistant city administrator for West Palm Beach, where he managed the Public Utilities, Public Works, and Engineering Departments, with a total of more than 400 employees. He oversaw major upgrades to the city's water treatment plant that significantly improved the city's drinking water quality, and he coordinated the planning efforts for long-term improvements to the city's water treatment plant to bring important operational and capital savings.

"We've had a great team for three and half years," said PSC chairman Art Graham. "Ed is a fellow engineer. He understands the technical issues, and he'll be missed."

Ivan Penn can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2332.

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