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Mike Fasano grills Terry Deason over water company's black water

Terry Deason Do Florida’s regulated utilities sufficiently respond to customer complaints. Do electric companies offer consistently reliable service?

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, doesn’t think so. Citing the famous black water case at Aloha Utilites, he wants the Public Service Commission to be able to adopt rules to establish specific standards for investor-owned electric companies, investigate consumer complaints that utility companies fail to resolve, including water and sewer companies, and impose fines. 

No surprise. The utility companies don’t like his idea (SB 1104). The state’s four big power companies have hired former PSC Commissioner Terry Deason to lobby their case before legislators.

Deason, who served for 16 years at the PSC, said the commission already has the power to impose fines for unreliable service, adopt reliability standards and has an existing consumer complaint process.

That provoked the following exchange:

Fasano asked if he had ever been to Pasco County as a PSC commissioner. Deason said he had.

Fasano: Would you have drunk the water that was shown to you a in a bottle that someone got out of their tap.

Deason: I was never offered to drink the water. I saw some water that was not very appealing to drink.

Fasano: Why didn’t you as a commissioner do something about it?

Deason: The commission acted within its authority…The jurisdiction over the quality of the product itself, that being water, or removing effluent, that is a dual jurisdiction and it could primarily rest with the Department of Environmental Regulation.

(He then admitted that the black water problem involving Aloha Utilities, which Fasano was referring to was a “complicated problem…and took many years to finally address.”)

Fasano: You’re right it took 16 years to solve that problem and the only way we solved it was by purchasing the utility by the taxpayers for $95 million because the commission didn’t have the authority to solve that problem. I want to give them that authority.

Deason: I would agree that if there is a problem in this area it would probably rest in the water and wastewater side.

The committee unanimously approved the bill.