The Public Service Commission last year approved Florida Power and Light's plan to go fracking for natural gas in Oklahoma.
Even then, it was clear the utility planned to charge Florida rate payers for the project in another state, and advocates at the Public Counsel's Office filed suit to stop it. The suit is pending, but now the PSC has voted again.
This time -- and against the recommendations of its own staff -- it agreed to let FPL spend $500 million a year for five years with no regulatory oversight. Public Counsel J.R. Kelly, whose job is to represent customers in utility rate cases, says FPL stockholders won't pay or risk a penny.
"The only guarantee that rate payers have is they will pay for 100 percent of the investment, 100 percent of the expenses," Kelly said.
This is familiar territory to former state senator and current Pasco County tax collector Mike Fasano. In the Senate, he railed against PSC decisions that allowed Duke Energy to collect $1 billion from its West Central Florida customers to pay for nuclear power plants that it never built although it kept all the money.
He believes the PSC should be reformed.
"It is my opinion that many of them are setting themselves up for a cushy job down the road lobbying for these utility companies that they are now regulating," he said.
FPL says customers will eventually benefit from its natural gas explorations. It says its temporary freedom from regulation will allow it to move quickly to seize opportunities in a rapidly changing energy landscape.