November 16, 2008

PSC Assists FPL in Customer Rip-Off. Again.

I'm not sure which pisses me off more: FPL claiming it's not responsible for costs incurred by its own mistake, or that the Public Service Commission is letting them get away with it.

Back in 2006, an FPL sub-contractor drilled a one-eighth inch hole in a pressurized pipe in its Turkey Point nuclear power plant. The damage necessitated a five-day shutdown of the plant for repairs, at a cost of about 6.2 million dollars.

FPL claims that it should not have to pay for the damages, because they followed all the rules required of them for the work that was being done, and in allowing the sub-contractor access to the plant. Just because FPL hired him, and FPL vetted him, and he was doing workf for FPL, they argue that it doesn't follow that they should be resoponsible for the fact that this worker, with a questionable history of criminal charges, damaged their plant.

Such a move is not suprising from a company that collected monies from customers to fund alternative energy plants, but instead spent it on marketing. FPL seems to have a healthy sideline in bilking its customers.

But then there's the Public Service Commission.

Most of us probably think that the PSC is there to protect consumers - aka "the public" - against abuses by the various utilities we are forced to do business with.

And we would be wrong.

Here's the PSC's actual mission statement:
To facilitate the efficient provision of safe and reliable utility services at fair prices.
And just in case you missed the fact this mission statement says nothing about consumers, here's the very first goal they pursue in fullfilling their mission:
To the extent possible, streamline regulatory requirements to provide an open, accessible and efficient regulatory process that is fair and unbiased.

In other words, the PSC's primary purpose is not to protect the consumer, but to remove legislative roadblocks that might impede the utility.

That's not to say that watching over consumer interests isn't in the purview of the PSC; it is. It just happens to be its least priority, according the PSC's own website.

In any other field, if a company hired a contractor to do work on their site, and that contractor damaged the company's facilities, the company would have to cover repair out of its profits. Look at it this way: if you hired a guy to work on your roof, and in the process he knocked out a window, would you think it reasonable to ask your employer to pay to replace the window for you?

But this is hardly the first time that the PSC has sided with FPL against the public's welfare.

Hundreds of thousands of Floridians were without power following Katrina and Wilma, when category 2 winds knocked down rotting poles and excessive overgrowth that had grown around the lines, winds well below the survival threshold mandated for power lines.

And yet, the PSC signed off on FPL's request to lower the pruning schedule from every three years to every SIX! Since trees in sub-tropical South Florida can double their volume in TWO years, THREE years wasn't even fully adequate, but made fiscal sense. But a six year cycle is simply unacceptable. Unless, of course, you're on the PSC.

To add insult to injury, FPL also wanted to be reimbursed for lost revenue. Hundreds of thousands of its customers sat in the dark for days, and some of us went without power for a week or more. The PSC seems to have overlooked that a company should only be paid for the product it delivers, not for the product it can't deliver due to its own negligence. So FPL had record profits during a period when it not only had to replace a significant amount of its infrastructure, but a significant number of its customers went without any power at all!

1 comment:

  1. We called FPL this weekend (during a party) about a wire that was sparking and burning leaves over the roof of the guest house. We could see and smell it. We showed them deeply singed palm fronds 3 hours later they came out, stayed for 1 second, assured us it was safe to sleep in the guest house and indicated they'd be back - in a few days or weeks. They really are disgusting profiteers with no regard for public safety.