There is a new sheriff in town, though. Chairman Nancy Argenziano took charge at the start of 2010 along with several like-minded commissioners appointed by Governor Charlie Crist. They just said no this January to the customary generous rate increase requests from Progress Energy and Florida Power and Light. The howls of protest from executives of the two companies and their legislative allies haven’t died down since.
There are rumblings that the two newest commissioners may not be confirmed, that the public counsel who successfully represented customers’ interests in the rate cases will be replaced. Another proposal would require a college degree of commissioners. (Ms. Argenziano, up for reappointment in 2011, dropped out of veterinary college years ago to care for her son). Also legislation is pending to impose a much stricter ethics code on how the five PSC commissioners interface with those they regulate. Commissioner Argenziano is not at liberty for legal reasons to discuss details of the rate cases. But we can count on her to have plenty to say about the contentious atmosphere of utility regulation in Florida. The outspoken Brooklyn native had a reputation as a brawler during her 10 years representing Citrus County in the Legislature and once famously sent an Associated Industries lobbyist a 25-pound box of cow manure. So watch for sparks to fly as she ventures into the Tigers’ Den the week the 2010 legislative session opens.