Florida Power & Light wants to get into the natural gas fracking business and it wants its customers to pay for it.
At a hearing on Monday, the state’s largest utility asked regulators for permission to charge customers up to $750 million a year to form a partnership with an Oklahoma oil and gas company because, it argues, the investment would help FPL stabilize fuel prices and save customers money.
How much? Estimates indicate the savings would be between $51 million and $107 million over the life of the project — or a total of 50 cents to $1 for the average customer over several years. In addition to the savings, FPL argues that customers also will benefit from less volatility in fuel prices.Similar projects would be sought to reach the annual $750 million investment cap.
In tapping a well that already produces gas, FPL argues, customers are unlikely to see price increases because exploration costs will be offset by savings from the investment — the first time any utility has asked to have its customers pay for gas exploration.
Opponents, representing the state’s largest commercial electricity users and the general public, had a simple response to the question before the Public Service Commission: “No thank you.”
They argued at a day-long hearing that the risks of operating the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, outweigh the rewards. They said FPL can’t be sure that the natural gas wells will produce enough gas to meet its needs and customers will shoulder the costs of dry wells, environmental impacts and market changes for the next 50 years.
“Fifty years is a long time to receive guaranteed profits on something that’s not guaranteed,’’ said Eric Sayler, an attorney for the Office of Public Counsel, which represents the public in cases before the Public Service Commission.
He said the idea is an attempt by FPL to earn a guaranteed profit on the investment and have the risk borne by customers, not shareholders.
“No other utility has attempted to put this in its base rate,” he said. Story here.