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AARP Urges Florida Supreme Court to Overturn Utility Board’s OK
for FP&L to Spend Florida Customers’ Money on Fracking in Oklahoma
Tallahassee, Fla. -- AARP has supported the state’s utility consumer advocate in asking the state Supreme Court to stop Florida Power & Light Inc. from entering into a fracking project in Oklahoma, and to direct the state Public Service Commission to reconsider its approval for the plan.
“For the first time, Florida utility regulators have required our state’s consumers to pay millions, in advance, for an electric utility company to join in a natural-gas exploration project in Oklahoma that may never return the anticipated benefit to Florida utility ratepayers,” said Jeff Johnson, AARP’s Florida state director. “We’re asking the state’s highest court to call a halt to this flawed decision. The Florida Public Service Commission should focus on fair, just and reasonable utility rates, not on allowing electric utility companies to shift the risk of speculative business ventures from themselves to consumers.”
In a friend-of-the-court brief filed Thursday afternoon, AARP argued that the Public Service Commission (PSC) should set rates allowing utility companies like FPL to recover their costs only for assets that are actually being used to produce power.
In the Oklahoma fracking case, the Public Service Commission has given FPL the power to make its customers finance its energy speculation, rather than its investors – and whether the natural-gas fracking project succeeds or fails in producing gas reserves, FPL still can earn a return on the overall investment. “The role of utilities regulators is to make sure that the utility is as careful with the ratepayers’ money as it is when its own wallet is on the line,” AARP argued.
AARP also rejected FPL’s argument that the Oklahoma fracking project would help protect consumers’ interests by providing access to lower-cost natural gas reserves decades in the future. “It is impossible to know what the cost of the natural gas will be until it is actually being produced. In fact, it is entirely speculative whether the investment will ever produce fuel that can be used to generate electricity for FPL’s ratepayers,” AARP argued.
AARP also raised the possibility that if the PSC ruling is allowed to stand, it may create a precedent for other utilities companies. In its brief, AARP argued that “unsurprisingly, other Florida utilities welcome the prospect that they too will be able to take advantage of advance cost recovery that will shift risk onto the ratepayers.” AARP also noted that Oklahoma-based companies have abandoned similar ventures, even as FPL is pressing ahead.
Johnson noted that AARP seeks to overturn the PSC’s ruling not on environmental grounds regarding fracking, but because the decision shifts risks from investors to consumers with no certain benefit to consumers.
The Florida Public Counsel, the state’s official utilities consumer advocate, is challenging the PSC’s January 2015 ruling approving FPL’s $190-million “Woodford Project,” a joint venture to drill for and develop natural-gas reserves through hydraulic fracturing in Oklahoma.
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of nearly 38 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services. A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world's largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin; www.aarp.org; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. The AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at www.aarp.org.