Scott-O-Meter

Reform PSC for more energy production

"Reform PSC (Public Services Commission) processes to allow reasonable energy production and expansion."


Updates

Traditional power saw gains during Scott's tenure

As part of Rick Scott's 2010 campaign promise to reduce "unnecessary costs" on Florida businesses, he called for reform of the state utilities regulator "to allow reasonable energy production and expansion."

The five-member Public Service Commission oversees investor-owned utilities based on state law set by the Legislature and governor.

Separately, Scott promised to address Florida's relatively expensive electricity costs, and to expand the use of nuclear and alternative fuels, both of which we rated as a Promise Compromise during his first term.

But this particular promise is more difficult to evaluate, because it was unclear what type of reform he had in mind. We previously rated his efforts Stalled in 2012 when we found no such progress.

Now that Scott has nearly completed his term, we can look back at what changed on the energy front during his tenure.

Early on, Scott named an energy adviser, Mary Bane, to produce a state energy plan. But that plan never came to fruition.

When asked about progress toward this promise, commission spokeswoman Cindy Muir said renewable energy generation has doubled over the past decade, and investor-owned utility accounts also grew — all while the state population stretched by about two million.

But Florida still lags behind the southeast in the use of solar energy.

While solar has grown during Scott's tenure, it still represents a "miniscule amount" of power generation in Florida, said Susan Glickman, Florida's director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

During Scott's tenure, it was traditional power that saw gains, as the state approved natural gas plants.

After Scott's re-election in 2014, the Public Service Commission voted in support of gutting energy efficiency goals, backing the proposals of Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric and Florida Power & Light.

Florida Power & Light got the go-ahead to construct an $888 million Dania Beach plant.

Construction of the Sabal Trail pipeline, a joint venture of Spectra Energy Partners, NextEra Energy, Inc. and Duke Energy, has drawn criticism from environmentalists, but the state fast-tracked it. Scott and his wife have a blind trust that has shares in NextEra Energy Partners and Spectra Energy Partners, which are affiliated with the pipeline, the New York Times reported.

Critics of the Public Service Commission had hoped for a different type of reform: reducing its ties to the industry it is supposed to regulate.

Florida's four largest energy companies contributed more than $43 million to state level candidates, political parties and political committees in the 2014 and 2016 election cycles, Integrity Florida found.

Scott promised to reform the Public Services Commission processes to allow reasonable energy production and expansion. "Reform" and "reasonable" are in the eye of the beholder. During Scott's tenure, the state took actions friendly to utilities and saw some growth in energy production. We rate this promise Compromise.

Sources:

Integrity Florida, "Power Play: Political Influence of Florida's Top Energy Corporations," May 17, 2018

Tampa Bay Times, "PSC pick is linked to utilities," Oct. 2, 2017

Tampa Bay Times, "Big bucks generate utilities' capitol power," May 17, 2018

Tampa Bay Times, "Florida regulators approve plan to gut energy efficiency goals, end solar power rebates," Nov. 25, 2018

New York Times, "To avoid conflicts, Rick Scott created a trust blind in name only," Oct. 17, 2018

Interview, Daniel Tait, Energy and Policy Institute spokesman, Dec. 7, 2018

Interview, Cindy Muir, Public Service Commission spokeswoman, Dec. 7, 2018

Interview, Susan Glickman, Florida director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Dec. 10, 2018

No changes to Public Service Commission in first year

Rick Scott proposed during his campaign to reduce "unnecessary costs" on Florida businesses.

That would create jobs, his plan said — as many as 240,000 new jobs over seven years.

One plank of that regulatory reform strategy took aim at energy production. (Separately, he promised to "address Florida's relatively expensive electricity costs," and to expand the use of nuclear and alternative fuels, which we're also tracking.)

Scott would reform processes at the state Public Service Commission to "allow reasonable energy production and expansion," his plan said.

What did he mean by that?

"Gov. Scott's concern was that state policy and regulation should result in predictability of process and enforcement to encourage needed investment in energy infrastructure," his communications office explained in a written response to our request for an update in December 2011. "Investment in our energy infrastructure should be a top priority and is essential for the security and reliability of our energy supplies."

What's been Scott's record on "reform" at the PSC?

In Florida, the five-member Public Service Commission regulates investor-owned utilities based on state law set by the Legislature and governor. The governor appoints commissioners, who are confirmed by the Senate. A governor might also lead through legislative proposals.

Here's what the governor has done so far:

• He reappointed four commissioners: Art Graham, Ronald Brise, Eduardo Balbis and Julie Brown.

• He named an energy adviser, Mary Bane, to produce a state energy plan. It was projected to be done by late summer 2011, but such a policy is still in the works, according to the Governor's Office. So it's hard to say what, if any, reforms the governor might propose for the Public Service Commission.

Meanwhile, the Governor's Office says that "the current Public Service Commission seems to recognize the importance of a stable and record-based regulatory process."

In essence, the office is saying no reform is currently needed.

Scott promised to "reform PSC processes." If he now feels the same commission that was in place when he ran for office doesn't require reform, we rate that promise Stalled.

Sources:

Gov. Rick Scott's Communications Office, written responses to PolitiFact's questions about the Scott-O-Meter, Dec. 28, 2011

E-mail interview with Jackie Schutz, spokeswoman for Governor's Office, Dec. 9-19, 2011

PolitiFact Florida Scott-O-Meter, "Lower electricity costs," updated Dec. 20, 2011

Interview with Susan Glickman, clean energy lobbyist, Dec. 16, 2011

E-mail interview with Scott Hempling, Georgetown law professor, former executive director of the National Regulatory Research Institute, Dec. 17, 2011

Florida Current, "2012 Session Outlook: Utilities and Energy," Dec. 28, 2011

Florida Public Service Commission, "Florida Public Service Commissioner History," accessed Dec. 16, 2011

Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog, "Scott to weigh in on energy policy with less conservation, more renewables," June 23, 2011