PSC’s Skop refuses to withdraw from Florida Power & Light Co. cases

Florida Public Service Commissioner Nathan A. Skop has refused Florida Power & Light’s request to remove himself from all cases involving the utility.

Skop’s 12-page order filed Thursday is the latest round in a war between Gov. Charlie Crist’s reform-minded PSC appointees and the utilities and their allies in the Florida Legislature.

The Legislature in April refused to confirm two Crist appointees and the PSC Nominating Council in June refused to interview Skop and Commission Chairman Nancy Argenziano for reappointment to their seats. Their terms will expire in January.

Skop’s order was in response to a Sept. 2 motion filed by FPL. The utility contends Skop, a former employee of FPL’s parent company who was laid off in 2002, has become increasingly hostile towards the company and blamed FPL after the nominating council refused to interview him.

In his order, Skop noted that FPL had failed to file the motion prior to the start of the hearing as required. State law should not be “misused to relieve a party’s discomfort when the going gets tough during an agency proceeding,” Skop wrote.

“Such an untethered, free-roaming threat of recusal would seriously impair the ability of the commission to carry out its important responsibilities in an effective manner by chilling the asking of hard questions,” he wrote.

He also noted that FPL said in its motion said that it is the only utility that has been singled out by him. He said that statement created a contradictory position by FPL given that Progress Energy had not made a similar argument during a recent nuclear cost recovery hearing. In media interviews in June, Skop said he was not being reappointed as political payback for the PSC not approving rate hike requests by both FPL and Progress Energy.

Skop’s ruling applies to 12 FPL cases pending before the PSC. He previously refused to remove himself from the nuclear cost recovery case. The utility last week appealed Skop’s refusal in the nuclear case to the First District Court of Appeal, and Skop provided a response Friday in that case.

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