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PSC agrees to postpone FPL request for $822 million project to fix polluting plants

The Florida Public Service Commission on Tuesday approved without comment a request by Florida Power & Light to dismiss its $822 million request to rebuild 48 gas turbine plants at locations in Broward and Lee counties while it conducts environmental tests.

But FPL got a sense of the intensity of the opposition to the plan when two attorneys, representing the public and the state's largest utility users, sent a warning shot with a rare statement on the record.

FPL is proposing the project because it believes it must replace 48 small 1970s-era power plants to comply with new federal air emission standards. More here. 

But FPL wants to pay for the new plants in an unconventional way: as a fee tacked onto customer bills under the environmental cost recovery clause, intended for costs associated with complying with environmental laws.

Charles Rehwinkel, lawyer with the Office of Public Counsel, which represents the public in utility cases, said his office vigorously opposes using the environmental fee to charge customers for new power plants. He argued the issue is better addressed in a full rate case.

Rehwinkel quoted from the records from 1994 legislative session, when the sponsor of the amendment who passed the law to create the environmental clause said it “was to be interpretted in the most restrictive fashion by the Public Service Commission” and was “not to authorize recovery of new power plant construction costs.”

The provision passed 106-0 in the House and was sent to the Senate and became law that year.

John Butler, attorney for FPL, said Rehwinkel's reading of legislative history "is selective" and "if we proceed down a similar path we will be asking for ECRC recovery."

Jon Moyle, attorney for the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, who represents some of the largest eleectricity users in the state, said if the PSC allows FPL to bring the issue back it should be considered a separate rate increase and undergo the scrutiny of a rate request, instead of the lower level of scrutiny allowed when it is attached to an environmental clause.


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