So much for “conservative” support of local control 2

Corcoran touts Legislature as more responsive

Editor’s note: If House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s point is that through big spending in political campaigns corporate giants such as Florida Power and Light can gain control of local governments, as they have done in Vero Beach, he has a point. At the same time, though, FPL has poured so many millions of dollars into the campaign accounts of members of the Florida Legislature that one can now reasonably argue the Legislature is a wholly owned subsidiary of FPL. 

ADAM C. SMITH/TAMPA BAY TIMES

Florida House of Representatives Speaker Richard Corcoran thinks Tallahassee knows best.

Florida’s Legislature is more responsive to Floridians and less susceptible to special interest influence than local governments, House Speaker Richard Corcoran asserted to a skeptical and occasionally hostile group of Tampa Bay residents Friday.

 

“If you are a special interest or you are somebody that wants to curry favor, it is generally much more difficult in a comparative scale to get something through in the state government that would affect the state than it is the local government,” the Pasco County Republican told about 100 people gathered for the weekly Cafe con Tampa breakfast in South Tampa. Continue reading…

Related article… Local governments responsive to citizens

 

Bob Graham: Lawmakers ignoring ‘will of the people’ on Florida Forever funding Reply

Editor’s note: Indian River Neighborhood Association Chair, Honey Minuse, today sent the following letter to IRNA members addressing the Florida Legislature’s failure to use funds voters approved for addressing Florida water supply issues.

In 2014 voters in Florida approved a statewide amendment to dedicate a source of funding to preserve sensitive lands, a major source of water.  The IRNA supported that referendum which today is still known as the “Water and Land Legacy Amendment”. 

 It is noteworthy that 75% of the voters in Florida approved this Amendment.

 It is equally noteworthy that, for the third consecutive year, the Legislators in Tallahassee have not used those dedicated funds for the intended purpose.  

 Former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham has been particularly alarmed about this. He recently spoke out about it and that interview, sponsored by USF, is accessed by clicking on the link in the following article.  At the conclusion of the article, you may listen to the entire interview.  

 Many of you have questioned what happened to this Amendment.  Hopefully, your questions will be answered by Florida’s former Governor, Bob Graham. 

 This information was sent to us courtesy of the Florida Conservation Coalition.

 Sincerely, Honey Minuse, Chair, IRNA Board of Directors

 

STEVE NEWBORN/HEALTH NEWS FLORIDA

The Florida Legislature has voted to eliminate funding for Florida Forever, the state’s primary land-conservation program.

The only part of Florida Forever that is receiving any money this coming year is $10 million dollars for ranchers to not develop their land.  Since 2001, the state has spent nearly $3 billion to buy more than 700,000 acres of land. Continue reading…

Rate difference between Vero Electric and FPL now down to 6.4% Reply

 

The Indian River County Commission assesses a 6% franchise fee on the electric bills of county residents who are customers of Vero Electric and of FPL. Similarly, if and when they become customers of FPL, residents and businesses within the city will also pay a 6% franchise fee, yielding an effective FPL rate of $108.69, compared to Vero Beach’s current rate of $116.08. The difference between the two rates is 6.4%, not 20% as some continue to claim.

MARK SCHUMANN

According to Florida Power and Light, the company’s typical residential customers using 1,000 kilowatt hours per month is now paying $102.54.  Vero Electric’s rate for the same level of use is $116.08. One might conclude a move from Vero Electric to FPL will save the average Vero Beach residential power customer 11.7%.

However, anyone following the story of the proposed power sale knows Vero Beach’s rate includes a 6% transfer to the City’s general fund. Further, anyone seeking to report the story truthfully will account for the fact that the City will begin assessing a 6% franchise fee on FPL’s new Vero Beach customers. In short, accounting for an inevitable 6% franchise fee, Vero Beach residents would today be paying an average of $108.69 per 1000 kilowatt hours, if they were customers of FPL. That amounts to a rate differential of just 6.4%.

When the power sale was first sold to the public, the rate differential between Vero Electric and FPL was closer to 30%.  Further, the public was told the sale would net the City some $180 million dollars, and would not require cuts in services or increases in taxes.

Today, the rate differential between the two utilities is down to 6.4%, and it is obvious the sale of Vero Electric will lead to tax increases and cuts in services. More likely, the sale will leave the City unable to develop a balanced budget.

In spite of these undeniable facts, the Press Journal continues claim the rate differential between Vero Electric and FPL is 20%.  Further, the newspaper has yet offer any enterprise reporting on the likely impact of the sale on taxes and services. Assuming the newspaper’s staff is not intentionally misleading its readers, but is simply misinformed, I wrote the following letter today to reporter Colleen Wixon, local columnist Larry Reisman, editor Adam Neal and editorial page editor Eve Samples. More…

Kept in the dark, Winger seeks attorney’s time sheets Reply

NEWS ANALYSIS

“FPL’s determination to acquire Vero Electric is evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of dollars the company has spent pushing referendums and sponsoring council candidates friendly to its cause. The larger objective, of course, is FPL’s desire to expand its customer base by acquiring additional municipal utilities in Florida. Vero Beach is just the first move in a much broader, state-wide chess game. FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy admitted as much in public statements made at an investor conference in March, 2013.” See: FPL president tells investors Gov. Scott is urging other municipal utilities to sell to FPL (Since 2013, FPL’s rates have risen steadily and significantly. Accounting for a franchise fee, the rate differential between Vero Electric and FPL at 1000 kilowatt hours per month is now less than 10%.)

MARK SCHUMANN

Richard Winger

Laura Moss

The law firm of Carlton Fields, engaged by the City three months ago, has yet to submit invoices for work the firm has done and is doing to negotiate a sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power & Light.

Absent invoices and itemized time sheets with which to assess the work of Carlton Fields, Councilman Richard Winger today submitted a public records request seeking those documents.  Even though Carlton Fields may be holding back on submitting invoices, surely the firm is keeping detailed records of time spent and work done. Those records will be needed to eventually prepare invoices. In his records request Winger wrote, “Such sheets, (time and billing sheets), should include time billed, or to be billed, and who acted or was “Present” (in person or on the phone) and on what specific day. “Present” means all personnel, whether from the City, Carlton Fields, FMPA, FPL, etc.”

Given Mayor Laura Moss’s secretiveness about discussions she has had with representatives of FPL and with Carlton Fields, it seems likely Moss may have requested Carlton Fields to delay submitting invoices and billing records.  Her goal would be to keep from public view as long as possible the nature of the discussions and of the work being done to craft a deal acceptable to FPL, to the Florida Municipal Power Agency and to the Orlando Utilities Commission. More…

FPL’s parent company didn’t pay Federal tax for 8 years, got $313 million in credits 1

JERRY KANNELLE/MIAMI NEWS

Since 2016, Florida Power and Light, the monopoly consumers are forced to pay if they want electricity in Miami, has been accused of the following: Leaking radioactive wastewater into Biscayne Bay; trying to trick consumers into giving up their rights to solar power; attempting to stash radioactive waste in an area that could possibly leak into Miami’s drinking water; unjustly raising rates on consumers by $811 million; paying off bigoted State Sen. Frank Artiles via $2,000 in Daytona 500 and Disney World trips; and even just straight-up writing their own bills in the state legislature. Despite all this, its parent company’s stock price hit an all-time high of $133 per share on Friday. Continue reading…

Florida Senate advances bill to let FPL charge customers for fracking costs Reply

Intended to overturn a 2016 Florida Supreme Court ruling, the legislation will allow FPL to place the financial risk for fracking and exploration on the backs of its costumers. In 2015, FPL lost $5.6 million on a fracking venture in Oklahoma.

Editor’s note: Tuesday, May 9 the Vero Beach City Council is to receive, and presumably accept a letter of intent from FPL to buy Vero Electric.

MARY ELLEN KLAS/MIAMI HERALD

Florida Power & Light’s quest to have customers pay for natural gas fracking projects in other states overcame a key hurdle Tuesday as the Senate Rules Committee passed the controversial measure and overlooked opposition from residential and commercial customers.

The proposal, SB 1238 by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, now goes to the Senate floor. A similar measure in the House, HB 1043, has made it through one of three committees in that chamber. Continue reading…

Politics and Money: Legislator who received generous contributions from FPL accelerates two bills favorable to the company Reply

 

Editor’s note: Locally, Florida Power and Light gave $55,000 last fall to a political action committee supporting Laura Moss and Lange Sykes.  The only other contributors to the PAC were residents of Indian River Shores. In a previous election, FPL spent more than $50,000 on then Councilwoman Tracy Carroll’s campaign. The previous spring, the company spent more than $100,000 persuading Vero Beach voters to approve a purchase and sale agreement with the City of Vero Beach. In total, FPL has invested some $250,000 in political contributions to influence the outcome of Vero Beach’s municipal elections. The following story by Miami Herald reporter Mary Ellen Klas reveals how FPL’s political contributions are also winning the company favor in Tallahassee.

See also: When all else fails

MARY ELLEL KLAS/MIAMI HERALD

Sen. Frank Artiles put on a brown jacket with “NextEra” emblazoned on the back and waved the green flag for the unofficial start to the Friday night truck race at this year’s Daytona 500 weekend.

Within minutes, a dramatic crash became the highlight of the season-opening event sponsored by NextEra, the parent company to Florida Power & Light.

Artiles, the chairman of the Florida Senate’s Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee, also used the event to conduct a fundraiser, which he says raised him more than $10,000.

Now, Artiles, a Republican from south Miami-Dade County, is returning a favor to Florida’s largest utility. Continue reading…

 

FPL’s multi-year rate-increase request approved Reply

FT. LAUDERDALE SUN SENTINEL

FPL LogoFlorida Power & Light’s residential customers will see their bills increase each year through 2019 following the state Public Service Commission’s approval Tuesday of a negotiated rate-hike settlement.

The first increase will take effect in January, when a typical 1,000-kWh residential user’s bill will jump about $7, from about $91.56 currently to $98.77. That bill would jump to $102.50 in January 2018 and then to $103.70 in June 2019 before declining to $102.97 in January 2020. Continue reading…

 

 

Related story: After Spending $8 Million to Deceive Solar Voters, FPL Shamefully Hikes Rates by $811 Million

FPL: Rates going up Jan. 1 no matter what Reply

SUN SENTINEL

FPL LogoIf the Public Service Commission approves the negotiated rate at a conference scheduled on Nov. 29, a user of about 1,000-kWh a month would see their bill increase about $7 — from about $91.56 currently to $98.77 in January.

Two more increases would follow, to an estimated $102.50 in January 2018 and $103.70 in June 2019 before declining to $102.97 in January 2020.

If the commission fails to approve the negotiated rate, the 1,000-kWh monthly users would pay nearly $10 a month more right away, as outlined in the originally proposed rate-hike schedule — from $91.56 now to $101.18 in January. Continue reading…

Editor’s note: To FPL’s rate Jan. 1, 2017 rate of $98.77 would be added a 6% franchise fee, making the bill for 1000 kWh for Vero Beach residents $104.70. Vero Electric’s rate as of Jan. 1 will be $116.08, a difference of $11.38 per month, or $136.50 per year. Put in context, the loss of the annual transfer from the electric fund to the General Fund resulting from a sale of Vero Electric would require a doubling in the City’s real estate taxes, a drastic cut in municipal services, or a combination of the two.

 

 

All Aboard Florida retooling plans to sell tax-exempt bonds 1

PALM BEACH POST

All Aboard Florida’s Brightline has renewed its push to sell millions in tax-exempt bonds to help pay for its proposed passenger train service connecting South Florida to Orlando.

The Coral Gables-based company first sought permission to sell $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds in 2014, but the tight municipal bond market forced officials to shelve the sale last year.

Continue reading….

Shores-FPL PAC treasurer known by some as ‘the prince of dark money’ 1

Editor’s note: Eric Robinson, the subject of the following report by the Sarasota Herald Tribune, is the treasurer of a political action committee jointly funded by Florida Power and Light and several dozen Indian River Shores Residents. The PAC, calling itself “Flip the Switch,” is supporting three candidates for the Vero Beach City Council who have pledged to approve a sale of Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customers to FPL for $30 million.  A team of five utility experts advised the City it will take $47 million, not $30 million, to partition and downsize Vero Electric without the move leading to higher rates for the remaining customers.

SARASOTA HERALD/TRIBUNE

Eric Robinson can’t stand being called “The Prince of Dark Money.”

He gained the reputation as one of the most connected campaign money men in the state, helping bring bare-knuckle campaign tactics long common at the federal level to local races. Robinson, sometimes reveling in the job and typically profiting mightily along the way, has helped pro-development interests gain or maintain influence, determine who sits in the Florida Legislature and on school, city and county boards and boost or kill local referendum proposals — all while concealing the source of many donations.

Despite his success — Robinson has set up more than 50 political committees that manage close to $6 million — he protests his sometimes sinister public image. He says he is not some Machiavellian operative who plots ways to destroy candidates deemed insufficiently conservative, or a lackey for local real estate developers or Florida’s governor.

“I’m just an accountant,” Robinson said repeatedly during a series of interviews with the Herald-Tribune. “I’m a good guy. I’m not some right-wing nut.”

Continue reading…

Editor’s note: Apparently working in a coordinated effort with the island weekly, civic activist, Charlie Wilson, last week filed an compliant with the Florida Elections Commission in what can only be seen as an effort to silence InsideVero. 

Sen. Latvala says bill may put PSC over local utilities Reply

Editor’s note: Vero Beach leaders have offered to submit the City’s electric rates to review by the Florida Public Service Commission. Despite the fact that Vero Electric’s rates are well below rates already approved by the PSC for three of the state’s investor owned utilities, Indian River Shores leaders and their allies at the County insist the City’s rates are “unreasonable.”

JIM ROSICA/SAINTPETERSBLOG.COM

State Sen. Jack Latvala, his chamber’s next budget chief, Friday said he might file legislation for next year to put municipal utilities under the supervision of the state’s Public Service Commission.

“I think you’re going to see a bill dealing with the municipalities that are currently not supervised by anybody above them, in terms of their (storm) preparedness, their rates,” he told reporters in Tallahassee.

The commission already oversees investor-owned utilities, including rate increase requests. Continue reading…

Sen. Latvala cancels Shores appearance set for Thursday 1

COMMENTARY

“If Latvala can tap into the tremendous wealth in Indian River Shores, the state’s most affluent community, then the senator from Clearwater will have even more money to spend supporting his ‘friends’ and increasing his power base across the state.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Sen. Jack Latvala

Sen. Jack Latvala

In an email released Wednesday afternoon, Indian River Shores Town Clerk Laura Aldrich announced that Sen. Jack Latvala, Clearwater, has cancelled his planned appearance at the Shores Town Hall scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at 4:30.  Aldrich gave not indication if, or when a meeting between Shores residents and Latvala might be rescheduled.

Making a number of inaccurate and unfounded charges against Vero Beach and Vero Electric, Latvala has been encouraging, if not pressuring the Florida Public Service Commission to turn its long-standing rational for service territory agreements upside down by reassigning Vero Electric’s Shores service territory to Florida Power & Light. Ironically, Latvala is not also asking the PSC to reassign his home county of Pinellas from Duke Energy to Florida Power & Light.  The switch would lead to savings of some 18 percent for the residents and businesses of one of the state’s most populus counties.

In describing Vero Electric’s rates as excessive, Latvala joins Mayfield in demonstrating a fundamental ignorance of how rates are established by municipal utilities and by the PSC. The Vero Beach City Council establishes Vero Electric’s rates based on costs plus six percent of projected revenue.  The PSC, which has approved rates higher than Vero Electric’s for three of the state’s investor owned utilities, allows a return on equity of 10 to 11 percent. Vero Beach’s return on equity is 4.8 percent. More…

Why isn’t Sen. Jack Latvala, Clearwater, working for his own constituents? 3

COMMENTARY

Editor’s note: In an email released Wednesday afternoon, Indian River Shores Town Clerk Laura Aldrich announced that Sen. Jack Latvala of clearwater Clearwater has cancelled his planned appearance at the Shores Town Hall tomorrow afternoon at 4:30.  Aldrich gave not indication if, or when a meeting between Shores residents and Latvala  might be rescheduled. 

Making a number of grossly inaccurate and unfounded charges against Vero Beach and Vero Electric, Latvala has been pushing, if not pressuring the Florida Public Service Commission to turn its service territory agreement arrangements upside down by reassigning Vero Electric’s Shores service territory to Florida Power & Light. Ironically, Latvala is not also asking the PSC to reassign his home county of Pinellas from Duke Energy to Florida Power & Light.  The switch would lead to saving of some 18 percent for the residents and businesses of one of the state’s most populated counties. 

MARK SCHUMANN

Sen. Jack Latvala, R, Clearwater

Sen. Jack Latvala, Republican, Clearwater

Based on rational Florida Sen. Jack Latavala laid out in a letter he wrote recently to Florida Public Service Commission Chairman Julie Brown, you have got to wonder why the Clearwater Republican is not working as hard to represent the interests of  his own constituents as he is in taking up the cause of the residents of Indian River Shores.

Latvala serves Sen. District 20, an area that receives it electric power from Duke Energy. Duke’s current rate for 1000 kWh per month is $108.48, compared to Florida Power & Light’s rate of $89.54 – a difference of nearly 18 percent.  What is most interesting about Latvala’s encouragement to the PSC to redraw the electric service territory for Vero Beach to exclude the Shores is that he is not also urging the PSC to re-assign Pinellas County from Duke Energy’s service territory to FPL.

Just imagine what a boost it would be to the Pinellas economy if the residents and businesses there could cut their electric bills some 18 percent. It’s simple. Just ask the PSC to reassign Pinellas County from Duke Energy to FPL.  Well, it’s really not that simply, which is exactly why the PSC did not follow Latvala’s advice. More…

Sole PSC member who voted with Shores not seeking reappointment Reply

COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

Lisa Edgar

Lisa Edgar

After a 4-1 vote by the Florida Public Service Commission yesterday denying Indian River Shores’ petition to redraw Vero Electric’s service territory to exclude the Town, the best Shores leaders and their high-priced attorneys can now do is prepare for an expensive appeal, hanging their hopes on the fact that one Commission member “agreed” with them.

The sole Commissioner who supported the Shores’ petition, (and ultimately FPL), was Lisa Edgar. On Jan. 1, Edgar will end her third 4-year, $131,000 a year assignment on the Commission. Edgar has not said publicly what is next for her, but if she follows in the footsteps of other former PSC members, she will move on to a much higher paying job as a lobbyist working for the utility industry. With her eyes perhaps on a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow ahead of her, Edgar may not have been listening closely yesterday when Vero Beach’s special utility counsel Schef Wright eviscerated Shores attorney Bruce May’s many unfounded assertions.

Edgar was first appointed to the PSC in 2005 by Gov. Jeb Bush, then subsequently reappointed by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2008 and by Gov. Rick Scott in 2012.  When it came time for Edgar’s third confirmation by the Senate, she faced some still opposition.  FloridaPolitics.com reported, “…Edgar came under fire during her last appointment, with tea party groups and others urging Scott to replace her, saying she wasn’t aggressively defending the state’ utility customers from rate hikes.” More…

When changes in facts do not lead to altered opinions 2

Calcified minds are impervious to new information

COMMENTARY

“The difference between 30 percent and 3 percent is not a rounding error. Sykes, Solari, Gilmore, Moss, Turner, Howle and other so-called pro-sale advocates did not arrive at their exaggerated numbers by touching the wrong key on a calculator. No, theirs is an intentional effort to push for the sale by misleading the public into believing it would significantly benefit the local economy. Just as importantly, their claims of being able to find a way around the contractual obligations that have so far prevented the sale are nothing more than empty promises.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Bob Solari

Bob Solari

Testifying before the Florida Public Service Commission this week, Florida Power & Light attorney R. Wayde Litchfield said that, if approved, the FPL’s proposed $1.3 billion rate increase will bring the utility giant’s rates closer to the statewide averages.

FPL’s willingness to justify its latest rate hike request on the basis of Litchfield’s argument signals a radical departure for the company, for FPL has spent heavily on a years-long marketing, advertising and public relations campaign positioning the Juno based, investor owned utility as the lowest cost electric provider in the state.

If approved, FPL’s rate hike request will bring the company’s monthly charge for 1000 kWh to $107.29 in June 2019. Adding a 6 percent franchise fee to $107.29 yields an average monthly bill of $113.73.  If Vero Electric’s rate remain the same, (all indications are the City’s rates will continue to decline in the coming years), that would leave a FPL-Vero Electric rate differential of 3.2 percent. More…

FPL chief defends $1.3B rate request 1

JIM TURNER/THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

A request for $1.3 billion in base-rate hikes is “driven by investment and infrastructure” rather than profit as critics claim, the president of Florida Power & Light told regulators Monday during the opening of an expected two-week hearing on the proposal.

Eric Silagy, president and CEO of the Juno Beach-based utility, defended the request to the Florida Public Service Commission as a way to maintain the company’s “stability and predictability” while making improvements that include increased use of solar power.

“Ultimately, these are going to end up providing savings for customers,” Silagy said.

But the company’s proposal has met stiff opposition from representatives of consumers and some business groups. Patricia Christensen, an attorney with the state Office of Public Counsel, was among the critics telling the commission that the four-year request is “unjustifiable.”

Continue reading…

Editor’s note: That FPL is seeking a $1.3 billion rate increase may be news to many Treasure Coast readers. Though announced by FPL early this year, the utility giant’s proposed rate hike has yet to be reported by the Press Journal and its sister newspapers to the south.

Palm Beach Post reports on pedestrian deaths along the FEC tracks Reply

 

Death on the tracks

FEDOR ZARKHIN/PALM BEACH POST

By all accounts, Leonor Cuervo was not suicidal. Her husband and daughters can only guess why she was hit by a train a few hundred feet from her Boca Raton home.

But the fact that the Colombia native was crossing the Florida East Coast Railway tracks in the first place is something the company could have prevented, asserts her daughter, Andrea. No fence or signs stopped her as she followed a makeshift footpath across the tracks to get from a bus stop to her home.

Of 61 deaths on all train tracks in Palm Beach County since 2008, 47 were pedestrians, a Palm Beach Post analysis of medical examiner reports shows. A quarter of the state’s reported pedestrian rail deaths in 2011, 2012 and 2013 were in Palm Beach County. Continue reading…

 

FMPA wholesale power costs down 10% from 2015 Reply

Power costs to members down 30% since 2009

Editor’s note: Vero Beach is a member of the Florida Municipal Power Agency, buying approximately one third of its wholesale power from the joint action agency.

NEWS RELEASE

Nicholas Guarriello

Nicholas Guarriello

Wholesale electricity costs from the Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA) decreased 10% last year and are down 30% since 2009, according to FMPA’s recently released 2015 Annual Report. Declining fuels costs and a modern, efficient fleet of power generators have resulted in competitive wholesale electric costs for the municipal electric utilities served by FMPA.

“I’m proud of how FMPA’s member cities and staff have worked together to improve our competitive position,” said FMPA General Manager and CEO Nicholas Guarriello. “During the past few years, we’ve addressed some challenging issues. Today, we’re stronger than ever. The results speak for themselves, and we are well positioned for the future.”

Highlights of the 2015 fiscal year included:

Power Costs Decrease: All-Requirements Project (ARP) power costs decreased 10% from the prior year and are down a total of 30% since fiscal 2009. As a result, FMPA’s costs are lower than one major investor-owned utility and nearing the other.

Load Growth: ARP’s net energy for load grew 1.4% in fiscal 2015 on a weather normalized basis. This is the second consecutive year of load growth for the ARP, which grew 0.8% in fiscal 2014.

Clean Emission Profile: Natural gas-fired gen­eration supplied more than 80% of ARP energy sources in fiscal 2015, while less than 15% of energy came from coal-fired generation. ARP’s young fleet of largely gas-fueled generation gives the project one of the cleaner emission profiles in the state.

Exploring Utility-Scale Solar: FMPA is working with its members to develop a joint-action, utility scale solar project that is cost-effective for customers and addresses the limitations of roof-top solar systems.

 

FPL’s proposed rate hike draws fire Reply

DAN TRACY/AARP FLORIDA

Harold and Joyce Salomon have been customers of Florida Power & Light (FPL) since they retired to Coral Springs 20 years ago. They oppose its request for a $1.3 billion rate increase that would be phased in over four years starting in January.

“They are doing excellently,” Harold Salomon said of FPL’s finances. “They don’t need an increase.”

Salomon, 79, a retired air-conditioning engineer, has owned FPL stock for years and tracks the performance of the utility’s parent company, NextEra Energy Inc., of Juno Beach, on the New York Stock Exchange. NextEra stock has risen from $56 a share five years ago to the neighborhood of $120 recently.

This is the third time in seven years that FPL has sought higher rates. Four years ago, the company won a $965 million increase from the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC). In 2009, the utility got a $300 million raise. Continue reading…

FPL seeks additional rate increase – wants PSC permission to hike customer service charge 27 percent 1

“The utility estimates that a typical residential bill of 1,000 kilowatt hours would rise from $91.84 per month to $100.66 per month next year, including all charges and fees, according to FPL materials. That typical rate would eventually rise to $105.31 in 2019 at the conclusion of the increases.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, June 3, 2016

MARK SCHUMANN

The Press Journal has yet to inform its readers on Florida Power & Light’s proposed $1.3 billion rate increase. Meanwhile, other news organizations across the state have stepped up their reporting on the utility giant’s plans. Below are links to stories published recently by Florida Today, the Palm Beach Post and the Miami Herald.

Florida Today: FPL customers concerned over proposed $1.3B rate increase

Palm Beach Post: FPL customer service charge could increase 27 percent

Miami Herald: FPL offers to skip nuclear fee – but rate hike is still looming

See also: Reisman pleads ignorance

Local news blackout continues 3

MARK SCHUMANN

On May 19, the Florida Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision effectively ending the Indian River County Commission’s effort to force Vero Electric to abandon its customers outside the city limits of Vero Beach.

The Supreme Court’s ruling was issued a full five days before the May 26 issue of island weekly, Vero Beach 32963, went to press. Despite having had ample time to prepare a story, the newspaper failed to report what can only be seen as a devastating setback to both the County, and ultimately to the Indian River Shores Town Council. Had Florida’s highest court sided with the County Commission, the story would almost surely have dominated 32963’s front page.

From its launch in late 2008, the island weekly, whose publisher lives in Indian River Shores, has made its mark attaching Vero Beach.

Like the Press Journal, the island weekly has also failed to inform its readers of Florida Power & Light’s proposed $1.337 billion rate increase.

The two local newspapers have also avoided reporting on the mounting cost of Indian River Shores’ legal battle with Vero Beach. To date, the Town has spent nearly $1 million on high-priced attorneys. Town leaders are now looking at selling off public land to help pay mounting legal bills.

 

Newspaper supported legislation that would have increased electric rates Reply

NEWS ANALYSIS

MARK SCHUMANN

There is little justification for St. Lucie County Property Appraiser and former Florida Senate President Ken Pruitt’s triple dipping and moonlighting. Still, it defies reason how Treasure Coast Newspaper, which publishes the Press Journal, can attack Pruitt while at the same time essentially admitting the newspaper, and its opinion columnist, Larry Reisman, supported legislation that would have increased rates for the customers of Vero Electric and Fort Pierce Utilities.

In a story posted yesterday, Treasure Cost Newspaper’s reporter,George Andreassi, wrote, “Ken Pruitt was paid to promote two bills whose effect could have included increased electric rates for 28,000 Fort Pierce Utilities Authority customers, agency officials said.”

That same bill, sponsored if not instigated by Florida Power & Light, was targeted at the Florida Municipal Power Agency, and was designed to increase the agency’s cost of doing business.

Treasure Coast Newspaper’s editorial board, which includes publisher Bob Brunjes, has consistently supported State. Rep. Debbie Mayfield’s sustained attacks on the FMPA.  Brunjes is married to Amy Brunjes, a key FPL vice president of external affairs. Prior to joining FPL, Amy Brunjes worked for Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Since FPL began its efforts to acquire Vero Electric, Treasure Coast Newspapers has supported the utility giant’s every move, including legislative initiatives that would have led to higher electric rates.

 

Key West cracking down on vacation rentals Reply

Editor’s note: The Vero Beach City Council and the Indian River County Commission have taken very different approaches on short term rentals. At Commissioner Bob Solari’s urging, the County Commission opened the door to these so-called vacation rentals. Solari and his fellow commissioners see transient rentals as a boost to the economy.

Sensitive to the concerns of those focused on preserving quality of life, the Vero Beach City Council, rather than relaxing regulations, has doubled down of fines for offenders, and has gone to court to protect the City’s right to enforce its long-standing ban on the operation of short term rentals in areas zoned residential. 

Like the Vero Beach City Council, Key West leaders are holding the line on investor property owners who want to operate transient rentals in residential neighborhoods.

MIAMI HERALD

The Key West luxury vacation rental won rave reviews on the travel website Airbnb, where tourists showered their host, Don Morris, with gratitude for his accommodations and charm.

“Don was a great host and the property is incredible,” gushed Airbnb user Richard this past January.

But the place with the balconies, pool and private garden was an illegal rental inside the four-bedroom home at 916 James St., for which Morris lacks the required transient rental license.

Morris, a repeat offender who in May 2015 signed an agreement with the Key West Code Compliance Department swearing not to rent the place again, now faces up to $8,000 in fines and fees.

Supreme Court rejects FPL’s attempt to make customers pay for fracking Reply

Editor’s note: Florida Power & Light makes exceedingly generous political contributions. The practice has proven to be good business for the investor-owned utility giant. These benefits, though, are not without limits. Political contributions can buy a governor, and the Public Service Commissioners he/she appoints, but apparently not judges. Today, the Florida Supreme handed FPL a stinging rebuke for seeking to require its customers to guarantee the company’s capital investments and hedging practices. 

MIAMI HERALD

In a rebuke to Florida Power & Light, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that state regulators exceeded their authority when they allowed the company to charge customers for its speculative investment into an Oklahoma-based fracking company.

In June of last year, the Public Service Commission rejected its staff recommendation and unanimously approved guidelines that gave FPL the right to charge its customers up to $750 million a year for speculative natural gas fracking activities without oversight from regulators for the next five years.

In a 6-1 opinion, written by Justice Ricky Polston, the court concluded that the PSC did not have statutory authority to authorize the charge and called its decision “overreach.”

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Florida Supreme Court rules against Indian River County 1

Unanimous ruling affirms Public Service Commission’s territorial orders

NEWS ANALYSIS

Either because he does not understand utility regulation, or because he is practiced at presenting limited facts, Reingold did not acknowledge that if Vero Electric’s rates were approved by the PSC, the City could well justify higher rates.  Reingold also did not mention that Vero Beach has proposed, and Indian River Shores has rejected, submitting the City’s rates to review by the PSC.

MARK SCHUMANN

In a unanimous decision, the Florida Supreme Court today ruled against the Indian River County Commission in a case in which the Commission sought to overturn a ruling by the Florida Public Service Commission. In that decision, the PSC affirmed Vero Beach’s ongoing right, and obligation, to serve its customers in the unincorporated areas of the county.

Essentially, the justices gave the members of the Indian River County Commission, and their attorneys, a schooling in the meaning of “exclusive and superior.” As it turns out, at least according to Florida’s highest court, those words – “exclusive and superior” – mean exactly what they say. The PSC, and not county commissions, has the sole authority for determining utility service territories.

In its appeal, the County argued that the PSC’s territorial orders will no longer be valid when the franchise agreement between the County and Vero Beach expires next year. Writing on behalf of the court, Justice Ricky L. Polston rejected the County’s position. “The PSC’s declaration that the City ‘has the right and obligation to continue to provide retail electric service in the territory described in the Territorial Order upon expiration of the Franchise Agreement’ is within the PSC’s ‘exclusive and superior’ statutory jurisdiction to determine utility service areas,” wrote Justice Ricky L. Polston in a 16-page ruling. More…

FPL will pause Turkey Point expansion but wants to keep charging customers for it Reply

MARY ELLEN KLAS/MIAMI HERALD

FPL LogoFlorida Power & Light has told state officials that it will put a four-year pause on its construction plans for two proposed nuclear power plants at its troubled Turkey Point site but it wants the state to waive a requirement that it prove the project is still “feasible” in order to charge customers in advance for it.

“The analysis would impose a substantial hardship upon FPL and violate principles of fairness,” FPL wrote in an motion filed April 27 with the Florida Public Service Commission.

This week, the City of Miami, consumer groups, environmental advocates and some of the state’s largest electric power users, urged utility regulators to reject the FPL request for a waiver, saying the company should be required to justify whether it is allowed to continue charging customers for the $20 billion expansion project that may be halted.

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Florida Public Service commission delays approval of FPL’s proposed $1.337 billion rate increase 1

MARK SCHUMANN

In an order issued May 9, the PSC commissioners unanimously agreed to delay approval of FPL’s proposed $1.337 rate hike. The delay, the Commission explained, will allow time for the Office of Public Counsel and others objecting to the increase to make their case. “We find it appropriate to suspend the requested permanent rate schedules to allow Commission staff and intervenors sufficient time to adequately investigate whether the request for permanent rate relief is justified,” read the Commission’s orders.

In mid-March, Florida Power & Light filed with the Florida Public Service Commission plans to permanently increase rates $1.337 billion over the next three years, with a $866 million hike in 2017.

In addition to the Office of Public Counsel, the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, Wal-Mart Stores, the Federal Executive Agencies, and the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association have all moved to oppose FPL’s plans to raise rates.

Editor’s note: Though widely reported across the state, Treasure Coast Newspapers, whose publisher is married to an FPL vice president, has yet to report on the utility giant’s proposed rate increase. Responding to an email from a disgruntled reader, Treasure Coast Newspapers editor, Mark Tomasik, wrote, “I stand behind our body of work on this issue. We have covered the topic independently longer and more comprehensively than anyone else. We have done so without any agenda.”