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Gelber's got a plan for PSC

Sen. Dan Gelber is proposing legislation aimed at improving accountability of the Public Service Commission.

The proposal, still in bill drafting, would change the appointment process of PSC commissioners and the Public Counsel, and clarify rules for communication between staff and individuals with regulated industries. Instead of the Governor appointing all the PSC members, the Governor would appoint two individuals and each Cabinet officer appoint one.  Rather than the Public Counsel being appointed by a legislative committee, the Governor and Cabinet would select and appoint the Public Counsel.

The bill also would make it clear that any communication by mail, e-mail or similar electronic means between staff and a person legally interested in a proceeding must be preserved and easily retrievable.

"Floridians are facing hard economic times and it is especially important they have confidence that they are paying no more than they need to on their utility bills," said Gelber, D-Miami Beach. "Enhancing accountability by opening up electronic records should help. Also, engaging the entire Cabinet in the appointment process should bring greater attention and oversight to this critical process.”

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A dash of irony

PSC room kept at chilly 68 degrees as commissioners ponder power rates

A dash of irony: At the Tallahassee hearing room where state regulators are deciding power rates for millions of Florida Power & Light customers, state officials aren't too worried about cotting utility costs. The room is absolutely freezing.

During two days of marathon hearings this week, the room was as cold as 68 degrees -- eight degrees lower than the state standard for room temps.

State buildings are supposed to be set at 76 degrees in the summer, according to a March 2008 memo mandating cost-saving measures on utilities. Buildings are supposed to be 70 degrees in winter.

The state spent $17.3 million in energy costs last year -- about $7 million of which is for heating and cooling, according to the Department of Management Services. Those figures cover 115 facilities managed by DMS, which includes buildings and parking garages.

In the PSC hearing room, where FPL rate case has been unfolding, room temperature are usually set around 74 degrees, said DMS spokeswoman Linda McDonald. "But it changes based on PSC request and crowd size at a particular meeting. As we all know, when a room fills up with bodies, it usually warms up," she said.

PSC officials said they knew the FPL hearings on Wednesday and Thursday were going to last late into the evenings, so they set the A/C on overdrive.

The current room temperature is 69.7 degrees, but temps ranged from 68 to 72 degrees over the last few days, officials said. The state raised the thermostat this afternoon to 72 degrees, said facilities manager Brian Fienemann.

A cavernous space with high ceilings and a large public seating area, the PSC meeting room has been mostly empty, save for a few dozen lawyers, FPL reps and three journalists. Body warmth never helped heat things up.

So, warning to anyone who plans to be at the FPL hearings when they resume Oct. 21: bring a blanket.

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