A recession is the wrong time for Progress Energy Florida to seek a $500 million annual rate increase that would boost profits and executive pay, a state consumer advocate told utility regulators Monday. Associate Public Counsel Charles Rehwinkel made that argument as the embattled Public Service Commission began hearings in Tallahassee. "Progress Energy has come in here and asked you for $500 million at a time when the state is suffering immensely. ... There's not enough sharing of the pain," Rehwinkel told the commission. The St. Petersburg-based subsidiary of Progress Energy, headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., wants to raise base rates $14.18, including $4.52 already in effect on an interim basis, for a typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours a month. The Progress hearings could last up to 10 days. A decision is not expected until December.
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Regions to pay $1M fraud penalty
Regions Bank has agreed to pay a $1 million penalty to settle a Securities and Exchange Commission complaint that it played a role in a long-term investment fraud that charged huge hidden fees and sales commissions to thousands of unwitting Latin American investors. The Birmingham, Ala., bank, the fourth-largest bank by deposits in Florida, and its predecessor, Union Planters Bank, acted as trustees for a pair of unregistered investment brokers that have previously been charged as deceptive by the SEC. Without telling investors, the two investment plans deducted between 18 percent and 85 percent of contributions to pay large sales commissions and enhance the plans' own profits. The SEC charged that Regions' did not adequately disclose the fees to investors in its trust agreement papers, which were called misleading in court papers.
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TIA to administer flu shots for $35
Here's a new place to get your flu shot when the season kicks off next week: Tampa International Airport. Starting Oct. 1, a contractor hired by the airport will administer the vaccine at kiosks located in the four airside terminals and the main terminal's third-floor transfer level. Shots cost $35 to the public. Employees at Tampa International can get one for $24. Kiosks will be open through Nov. 30 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. The initial shots will inoculate people only against standard influenza, airport spokeswoman Kelly Figley said. Swine flu vaccine could be available later this year, she said. About two dozen U.S. airports offered flu shots in 2008, according to USA Today, but this is the first year for Tampa International.
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Citrus acreage in state at record low
Florida's signature crop is down, but not out. The state's commercial citrus acreage shrank by 7,763 acres in the past year. At 568,814 total acres, it's an all-time low for the industry since tree count surveys began in 1966. While citrus canker and greening diseases contributed to the loss of 19,918 acres, new plantings of 12,155 acres offset that, the U.S. Agriculture Department's National Agricultural Statistics Service said in the report released Friday. Martin County on the east coast of the state suffered the greatest loss of acreage at 4,170.