A comic interpretation of your state utility regulators at work.
The setting: Monday's hearing into whether Duke Energy plans to retire or repair the Crystal River nuclear plant north of Tampa Bay.
The players: the Florida Public Service Commission and Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers.
Commission chairman: Welcome to Florida, Mr. Rogers.
Rogers: It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
Commissioner Flattery: Well said! (Applauds.)
Commissioner Toady: Bravo!
Chairman: Indeed. To be clear, today's hearing is a "meet and greet" with our esteemed guest. It is not investigatory nor evidentiary. (He laughs.) But then, we never investigate.
Commissioner Flattery: Well said, Mr. Chairman!
Commissioner Toady: Mr. Rogers, we're not here to tell you how to run your company but to find out how you intend to run your company. And, of course, how you intend to tell us how to run the PSC.
Rogers: I'm glad we are all on the same page. Duke's purchase of Progress Energy includes, as promised, the acquisition of the Florida PSC's spine. Formalities do require me to say that I want to reassure the PSC and our Florida customers that Duke has an interest in this state.
Chairman: Heroic! But, Mr. Rogers, you must be weary of our intense grilling. Can we pause to offer you some tea or coffee?
Commissioner Flattery: I baked muffins!
Commissioner Toady: Let us retire to the buffet for some well-earned treats.
(The PSC hearing takes a 30-minute recess while Rogers accepts food, drink and a manicure, his suit is pressed, and the chairman juggles crumpled-up customer complaints for entertainment. The hearing then continues.)
Chairman: Well, I read somewhere that we should ask something about the Crystal River nuclear power plant, which somehow stopped working in 2009. I know you like nuclear power, Mr. Rogers. What a coincidence. Did you know I'm a huge fan of it myself?
Rogers: Yes, well let me be crystal clear in saying that Crystal River will be repaired. Unless, of course, we decide to retire it. That's my position. Until it changes.
Commissioner Flattery: Breathtaking leadership!
Commissioner Toady: Please, let me commend Duke for buying Progress Energy Florida, which charges Floridians at least 25 percent more for electricity than Florida Power & Light in South Florida.
Chairman: Isn't a powerful industry without competition a fine thing to witness?
Rogers: Don't forget the extra mind-bending billions we'll need for Crystal River — whether we fix it or shut it down. Either way, we'll simply charge the costs to our Florida customers. (He pauses.) Say, there's really nothing like becoming the biggest monopoly electric utility in this land of opportunity, eh?
Chairman: Sir, I am you humble servant. Massage?
Commissioner Flattery: Some Grey Poupon, perhaps?
Commissioner Toady: May I detail your private jet?
Chairman: I'm exhausted from such rigorous oversight. This meeting is adjourned.
Robert Trigaux can be reached at email@example.com.