PSC Laughs Off Scott’s Nomination Flap
Around the State
Early last week, the jobs of four of the five Public Service Commission members were in jeopardy when Gov. Rick Scott pulled their nominations along with more than 150 other nominees to various state boards. All nominations had been submitted by former Gov. Charlie Crist.
Two days later, Scott’s office resubmitted the names of the four commissioners, though they are still awaiting approval by the state Senate.
For PSC Chairman Art Graham, it was like being raised from the dead. So much so, in fact, that he had placed a makeshift nameplate before him on the dais during the PSC’s Tuesday meeting.
It read “Lazarus.”
“I got an e-mail from a friend that said, you know, you’re like Lazarus, and I thought, ’Yeah, you’re right,’” Graham said.
Graham continued the Biblical theme in the invocation before Tuesday’s meeting, expressing appreciation for Scott’s “wisdom” in “keeping the Commission together.”
“Hopefully, you guys are just as happy as I am to be here today,” he told the crowd.
Then the commissioners got back to work, dismissing a customer complaint brought against AT&T and Florida Power & Light Co. for inappropriate charges, and refusing a request by FPL to reconsider its award of a customer refund of $13.8 million stemming from a power outage on Feb. 26, 2008.
FPL had asked the PSC to look at the decision again because it had to buy power from other generators in order to provide service while one of its substations underwent repairs for the outage. Since only one sitting commissioner, Lisa Edgar, was present at the June 2010 meeting granting the refund, she was the only one who could rule on the item Tuesday.
“I do not believe that the standard for reconsideration has been met,” Edgar said.
The refund amounts to $0.14 per month for 12 months, assuming the usage of 1,000 kilowatt hours.
As a sitting commissioner already confirmed by the Senate, Edgar was the only PSC commissioner not to be pulled by Scott. The other four were appointed by Crist last year to fill vacancies in a period of turbulence for the PSC.
Former Commissioner Nancy Argenziano resigned last fall in order to campaign for Alex Sink, Scott’s Democratic opponent in the governor’s race. Meanwhile, Commissioner Nathan Skop was fighting against charges that he is biased against FPL, holding up all business relating to the power company until his term ended in January. The issue was a source of acrimony between Skop and others on the commission.
“I got here at the tail end of all that. You could feel the tension,” Graham said.
Then came last week’s confusion over pulling and resubmitting of the nominees by Scott. Though he has renominated Crist’s appointees on the PSC, it is still unclear how much Scott is on board with the commissioners. Under state statute, Scott would have had to appoint someone from a list of the people submitted by the PSC nominating commission.
Graham hopes those issues are behind the PSC, and the commission can focus on its job of regulating Florida’s utilities.
“It’s supposed to be a collegial body,” Graham said.
Reach Gray Rohrer at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.