AARP against FPL rate hike for gas pipeline

Today is the last day to file legal protest against the Sabal Trail pipeline at the Florida PSC. AARP is already protesting FPL’s rate hikes for that pipeline all the way to the Supreme Court, for the health, safety, and financial security of AARP members; concerns that are just as valid along the whole path of that proposed pipeline as they are for FPL ratepayers in Florida.

Dr. Richard Swier wrote for watchdogwire.com 3 May 2013, AARP files brief in the Florida Supreme Court challenging the Florida Public Service Commission: Lawsuit involves FPL rate increase,

Attorney Jack L. McRay — representing the AARP — has filed a brief with the Florida Supreme Court asking the Court to remand the recent decision by the Florida Public Service Commission (Commission) to approval a “secret” settlement agreement between Florida Power & Light (FPL) and three other parties related to FPL’s March 2012 petition filed with the Commission to raise electric rates for some 4.1 million customers.

What are these rate increases for? Let’s go to the horse’s mouth, FPL VP of development and external affairs Pam Rauch, the same who filed PF14-2 at FERC for the connecting pipeline Florida Southeast Connection LLC (FSC), wrote in Florida Voices 29 July 2012, FPL Makes Its Case for Rate Increase,

How do FPL’s investments benefit customers? Here’s an example: FPL’s investments in converting its oil-fired power plants to natural gas facilities have cut our annual use of foreign oil from more than 40 million barrels in 2001, down to a projection of less than 600,000 this year. Every dollar FPL saves on fuel is a dollar that customers don’t have to pay, and these investments have saved our customers $5.5 billion in fuel costs since 2001.

These would be the “modernizations” that Spectra rep Andrea Grover told me in Moultrie were the reason FPL wanted another gas pipeline.

To support our ability to deliver low bills and high reliability in the years ahead, FPL is asking the Florida Public Service Commission to adjust our base rates. We’re asking for an increase of $7.09 a month on a typical residential customer bill, or about 23 cents a day. After adjusting for lower fuel prices, lower fuel usage and other adjustments, the net increase is projected to be $1.41 a month, or about a nickel a day. Even with this increase, FPL expects its bill to remain the lowest in the state and well below the national average.

FPL’s own VP tied FPL’s rate increase to those same “modernizations”.

So what will the increase pay for?

First is a new Clean Energy Center at Cape Canaveral. We will have spent about $1 billion on this facility when it goes into service in June 2013. Over its 30-year operational life, this plant more than pays for itself primarily due to fuel savings estimated at more than $1 billion.

And that Cape Canaveral gas plant is one of the customers for the Sabal Trail pipeline.

It gets richer:

Our request also includes an adjustment to our return on equity, or ROE. Our current rates are based on an authorized ROE midpoint of 10 percent, which is the lowest of Florida’s investor-owned utilities and in the bottom third of the country — despite providing customers with the lowest typical residential bills in the state and reliability that’s among the best in the country.

We are asking for an allowed ROE midpoint of 11.25 percent and a performance incentive of one-quarter of one percent that would be allowed only if we maintain Florida’s lowest typical residential bill. We think having the lowest bill in the state matters to our customers.

An appropriate ROE is crucial to our ability to finance the billions of dollars in improvements that keep reliability high and bills low, and that create thousands of jobs for you and your neighbors.

Translation: FPL wants their guaranteed profits increased from 10% to 11.25% so they can laugh all the way to the bank with the money they suck through a three-foot pipe in a 100-foot gash through your property.

No wonder AARP is fighting Florida PSC’s rate hike for FPL’s gas boondoggles. Here’s the actual AARP filing with the Florida Supreme Court, Case No.: SC13-144 about Florida PSC Docket #120015-EI, BRIEF AMICUS CURIAE OF AARP IN SUPPORT OF APPELLANTS CITIZENS OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA, ETC., including headings

II. A. Failure To Provide Required Notice And An Opportunity To Be Heard Deprives Interested Parties An Opportunity To Intervene To Protect Their Interests And Address Important Policy Issues

and

II. B. Unreasonably High Utility Rates Endanger The Health And Wellbeing Of Older And Low Income Consumers

Here’s the beginning of AARP’s summary:

  1. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. Older consumers in Florida, including AARP members, will be detrimentally impacted by the utility charges at issue in this appeal.
  2. As the leading organization representing the interests of people aged 50 and older, AARP advocates in states nationwide protecting older homeowners and tenants from excessive utility costs, which comprise a substantial portion of their housing expenses. The burden can be severe: even people who own their homes outright may pay over half their limited income for housing, due in large part to the high cost of utilities, and inability to pay utilities ranks as the second most common cause for eviction after inability to pay rent.
  3. Older people may be more sensitive to heat or cold or may suffer from health conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, or heart disease, that make them especially sensitive to heat. High utility costs may also threaten the ability of older people to continue to live independently and may force some into nursing homes prematurely or even into homelessness.
  4. The severe burden of high utility costs on older people makes utility rate advocacy one of AARP’s top priorities.
  5. AARP, therefore, intervenes in utility rate-setting cases and files amicus curiae briefs to protect the interests of older residential utility consumers.

Those issues sound awfully familiar here in the path of the Sabal Trail pipeline Spectra wants to build to FPL.

Why is Florida, the sunshine state, wasting all our resources on this backwards boondoggle while cloudy cold Germany gets on with solar and wind power?

You can still file a legal protest against the Sabal Trail pipeline at Florida PSC. And you can certainly file a protest with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

-jsq