Is Florida’s Public Service Commission serving the public – or is it serving the utilities it regulates?
That’s the question raised in a new report detailing how power companies in the state wield what researchers say is too much influence over the governor and legislature.
Ben Wilcox, research director of Integrity Florida and a coauthor of the report, says the commission has been “captured” by the industries it regulates.
“When I say ‘captured,’ that means that the utilities have been able, through their campaign contributions and lobbying, to exert influence on the legislature and control the selection of the public service commissioners,” he explains. “And they also have oversight over the Office of Public Counsel, which is supposed to represent the public.”
The utility companies have vigorously rejected similar claims by Integrity Florida, and point to rate reductions some consumers have seen over the years as progress.
The report suggests the public isn’t being adequately represented by the commission, whose five members are appointed by the governor.
Wilcox recommends changing the PSC to an elected body, or a mix of elected and appointed members, to make it more accountable to the people.
“Doing so would give the public a voice in selecting the members of the Public Service Commission,” he states. “Currently, the public doesn’t have a voice in that process.”
Wilcox also recommends Florida follow best practices from other states such as Ohio, where commission membership also includes a representative from a consumer group and other professional organizations.
By Trimmel Gomes
Public News Service – FL