The normally staid meeting of the Public Service Nominating Council could get a bit lively on Thursday as a group of climate change activists, including a scientist who met with Gov. Rick Scott, stage a protest at the Miami International Airport to complain about the utility board's "cozy relationship with Florida's utility companies."
There are two vacancies on the five-member PSC and the legislatively-dominated nominating council has a history of picking candidates that are endorsed and backed by the state's largest utilities -- which are among the largest contributors to legislative campaigns and non-profit causes promoted by legislators.
The nominating council will interview 16 candidates on Thursday and offer up as many three nominees for each of the two seats on the commission. Gov. Rick Scott will choose from the list of nominees and in the past has re-appointed candidates backed by the state's power companies.
Seeking a second term is Commissioner Julie Immanuel Brown, who will be among those interviewed on Thursday. A second position was opened when Commissioner Eduardo Balbis decided not to seek a second term. He was an occasional critic of the industry on a board that has a record of embracing much of the agenda of the state's largest electric utilities in the past four years.
Also to be interviewed is Rep. Jimmy Patronis, a Republican from Panama City, who runs the popular Captain Anderson's restaurant which is owned by his family. Patronis lists no utility-related experience in his resume but is a favorite for the job because of his political connections. Patronis dropped out of the 2016 state Senate race to replace Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, leaving Gaetz's son, Matt Gaetz, the frontrunner in the race and many expect him to be named by Scott to the utility board in return for dropping out.
Here's the press release from Florida For All:
To protest the Scott Administration & Public Service Commission’s cozy relationship with Florida’s utility companies, South Miami Mayor Phillip Stoddard, Climate Scientist Harold Wanless, and activists will hold a press conference Thursday at 11:00am, at the Miami International Airport Hotel, while the PSC holds its nominating meeting of new board members.
Rick Scott, whose campaign committee has received more than $1 million from both FPL and Progress/Duke Energy, has final approval over the PSC appointments. Critics say Scott and the PSC have consistently favored utility companies at the expense of consumers and Florida’s sensitive ecosystem, which is highly vulnerable to climate change.
Particularly egregious is the nuclear recovery fee, which allows utilities to charge for construction of nuclear projects, even if no energy is ever produced. Critics say this is both unfair to ratepayers and crowds out renewable energy development. FPL customers may end up paying at least $16 million for FPL’s proposed expansion of Turkey Point, which will add two additional nuclear reactors and hundreds of miles of power lines that will tear through highly populated communities. In Central Florida, Duke Energy customers are on the hook for $3.2 billion in costs related to two nuclear projects that are not producing any energy.
Dr Wanless, one of the climate scientists that Scott met with for 30 minutes last week, will reiterate the danger climate change poses to Florida and the Scott Administration's failure to it seriously. Case in point, FPL's plan to expand Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant, which does not adequately take into account climate change-related superstorms or rising sea levels.
WHO: South Miami Mayor Phillip Stoddard, Harold R. Wanless, Ph.D., chairman and professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at University of Miami, and activists.
WHAT: Press Conference to expose Rick Scott and PSC cozy relationship with utilities
WHEN: 11:00 am, Thursday, August 28th
WHERE: Miami International Airport Hotel Airport
Airport Terminal, 2nd Floor, Concourse E
NW 20th Street & LeJeune Road
Meeting Room C & D on 7th Floor of Hotel