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A Times Editorial

Utility customers lose again

Gov. Rick Scott says he wants it to be inexpensive to do business and live in Florida, and he has a tax-cut agenda to prove it. But when it comes to power bills, he hasn't lifted a finger to stop the pillaging of his constituents by the state's electric companies. So much for being an outsider. This governor looks as beholden to special interests as every other leader in Tallahassee — at the expense of average Floridians and business.

The latest installment in this anticonsumer saga came last week: The state's chief consumer advocate filed a complaint with the state Supreme Court contending he had been illegally shut out of the Public Service Commission's rate negotiations with the state's biggest utility, Florida Power & Light. Not a single elected state leader batted an eye. That includes Scott, who has appointed four of the five PSC members since taking office in January 2011.

Scott, a former hospital CEO, knows better than most that the cost of electricity is just as important to businesses' bottom line as taxes — if not more so. Yet he's never said a word about the fact that Progress Energy customers in Florida — including in Pinellas and Pasco counties — pay on average 25 percent more than customers of Florida Power & Light. He hasn't weighed in on the ongoing debacle at the Crystal River nuclear power plant, where consumers face years of potential repair costs for Progress Energy's do-it-yourself attempt. He hasn't said a peep about repealing the 2006 law that has allowed Progress Energy to make money by billing consumers for a proposed Levy County nuclear plant that may never be built.

While Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy (which recently merged with Duke Energy) have been pleading their cases to raise rates before the Public Service Commission, they have also been generous political contributors. Since Scott took office, both companies and their affiliates have contributed a combined $2 million to the Republican Party of Florida. And they have sent nice contributions to Scott's "Let's Get to Work" political committee: Progress Energy deposited $100,000 in April; FP&L gave $250,000 in June.

That's a total of 2.4 million reasons that Republican leaders in Tallahassee, including Scott, aren't more concerned about Florida's two biggest utilities looking to raise prices on average Floridians. Only in Tallahassee does $2.4 million in soft money from special interests weigh more than the wallets of 19 million Floridians. The utilities have owned the Public Service Commission for years, and PSC members who stuck up for consumers have been replaced. Now they are buying silence from the governor and his Republican allies.

Who will speak up for Floridians?

Utility customers lose again 10/21/12 [Last modified: Sunday, October 21, 2012 5:30am]

    

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