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A Times Editorial

Public wins, but advocate may lose

The same day he helped to deliver one of the biggest consumer wins in years before the Public Service Commission, the state's chief consumer advocate for utility customers was warned he might soon be out of a job. Once again in Tallahassee, corporate special interests are trumping the public good. And legislative leaders should explain why they appear more concerned about the interests of utilities than of ratepayers.

At issue is the reappointment of public counsel J.R. Kelly, who is hired by the Legislature to represent consumers' interests in the highly technical realm of utility regulation. Kelly has been particularly effective, and the latest evidence came Monday when the PSC voted unanimously to dramatically reduce the rate increase sought by Progress Energy. The commissioners frequently cited the arguments brought forth by Kelly over the recommendations of their own staff.

So what payback will Kelly get for doing his job so well? Legislative leaders said Monday they are accepting applicants for his job rather than proceeding with the usual reconfirmation process. It's lost on no one that the unprecedented move is occurring just as Kelly's success is obvious in influencing the two biggest rate cases in 25 years, Progress Energy's and Florida Power & Light's. The commission votes today on FPL's rate request.

The Republican Legislature's maneuver smacks of retribution on behalf of the utilities that contribute generously to their campaigns. Senate President Jeff Atwater and House Speaker Larry Cretul should halt this charade or risk voters deciphering the real message: Represent consumers too well in Tallahassee, and you will be replaced.

Public wins, but advocate may lose 01/12/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 6:27pm]
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