Monday, September 25, 2023
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Business groups sound off on utility ballot proposal

The proposal would change the state constitution to allow customers to choose their electricity providers and would limit the role of investor-owned electric utilities — private companies such as Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric Co. and Gulf Power Co. — to constructing, operating and repairing transmission and distribution systems. Wilson noted that Florida utility rates were 25 percent lower than those of the average deregulated state last year. Indeed, private utility companies have slashed rates over the past couple of years — Panhandle electric co Gulf Power recently had a new rate plan approved that will see their customers pay a lower monthly bill than they did a decade ago. The company said more than half of its power will come from renewables by 2020. The Chamber’s stance was echoed in AIF’s Thursday release. AIF President Tom Feeney said his group was “staunchly opposed to the deregulation of Florida’s electric utility industry,” citing the the rate increases brought about in other states. It is very troubling a state like Florida that already has low electricity rates, would even consider electricity deregulation. While a handful of states chose this path 20 years ago, the electricity prices in these states are on average higher than those in Florida,” Quackenbush said. “In addition to higher prices, Florida consumers should be concerned about the potential for reduced reliability and aggressive and/or deceptive marketing tactics that this proposal to deregulate the electricity market would invite.” The Florida Chamber and AIF condemnations come as the initiative, known as “Right to Competitive Energy Market for Customers of Investor-Owned Utilities,” hit the threshold to be reviewed by the Attorney General and state Supreme Court. As of Thursday, the proposed amendment had 76,632 valid petition signatures.

Politicians say utility at center of explosions should close

Executives at the utility company responsible for September's natural gas explosions and fires in Massachusetts should step down, congressional members said Monday at a special hearing into the disaster. They painted a picture of a corporation that cut corners and lacked the internal procedures to prevent, let alone respond to, the Sept. 13 disaster that killed one person, injured dozens more, damaged more than 100 homes and left thousands without heat or hot water in the Merrimack Valley communities of Lawrence, North Andover and Andover. "At every step of the process, there was a chance to avoid this disaster," said U.S. Sen. Ed Markey to company executives. Instead of choosing to do things the right way, you chose to do things the easy way and the result was disaster." Joseph Hamrock, CEO of NiSource, and Steve Bryant, the president of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, said the company was taking steps to assure another disaster doesn't happen. Charlie Baker has proposed legislation changing that in Massachusetts. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, pushed the executives to disclose if anyone had been fired as a result of the disaster, noting the company has been responsible for a number of gas leak incidents in Massachusetts in recent years. Hamrock demurred, saying that the company would "take all appropriate actions" once the ongoing review into the incident is complete. Congress members also used the hearing to underscore deficiencies they saw in natural gas oversight at the federal and local level. Don't miss a thing Get breaking news alerts as they happen