Bill eyes to reform the Public Service Commission

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Two Tampa area lawmakers want the Public Service Commission to better reflect the public it serves. The six-member commission sets rules for electric and other utilities but its regulation of for-profit electric companies recently has gotten lawmakers attention. Consumer advocates say it has failed to adequately represent the interest of consumers.

Sen. John Legg and Rep. Chris Sprowls are behind a four-point reform package they say address the concerns of their constituents.

“The Public Service Commission should serve the public good,” said Sprowls. “These meaningful first steps will add some diversity and accountability to the PSC as we work on other reforms that will fundamentally alter the culture of the PSC.”

 Sprowls and Legg said Friday they filed legislation which would:

  • Limit commissioners from serving more than two consecutive terms
  • Divide the state into five districts aligned with the district courts of appeal
  • Require commissioners to live within the district they represent
  • Forbid the appointment of elected officials for the first two years after leaving office.

A flash point between consumers and the PSC has been a nuclear cost recovery program which allowed electric utilities to collect money to build nuclear power plants before construction started. Earlier this year the PSC directed Duke Energy to refund some of the $3 billion it had collected for two projects it has since abandoned.

Duke also experienced a snafu in a rerouting of utility meters causing some customers to be bumped into a higher rate tier.

“People don’t feel like they’ve been dealt with fairly and that is a problem,” said Legg. “Reforms are needed to restore confidence in the Public Service Commission.”

As of mid-afternoon Friday the bill had yet to be assigned a number in either the House or Senate.