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Regulators to decide controversial settlement over FPL rates at hearing today

Florida utility regulators on Thursday will consider one of the most pivotal cases of their term — whether to approve a base rate increase of more than $543 million for Florida Power & Light without the consent of the office that represents consumers.

The proposed settlement would mean a $1 per month increase for typical customers next year and would allow the company to automatically raise rates again for two new power plants without the approval of the Public Service Commission in 2014 and 2016

The proposal has the backing of the state’s largest commercial power users, who would benefit from the deal.

But it is vigorously opposed by the Office of Public Counsel, the state agency charged with representing most consumers in utility rate cases.

Depending on how the PSC rules, the case “has the potential to change the way cases proceed in the future and, we think, not in a positive way,” said J.R. Kelly, the state’s public counsel.

FPL counters that “this has been a very thorough process and we think that the settlement is really the right path forward that benefits all of our customers and effectively locks in low rates while helping us deliver strong service for at least four more years,’’ said Mark Bubriski, FPL spokesman. Story here.