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Florida regulators reject request for oral arguments in rate increase cases


(The Center Square) — Florida regulators denied a request for oral arguments on Tuesday in two petitions by utilities seeking electricity rate hikes.

On April 2, Tampa Electric Company and Duke Energy Florida filed petitions to the Public Service Commission requesting rate increases beginning in January 2025 if the commission approves.

The Office of the Public Counsel disagreed with the rate increases. It argued that a hearing about the rate hikes scheduled for August 2024 did not allow enough time for intervenors to prepare testimony and further unfairly prejudiced the OPC’s ability to properly represent Tampa Electric and Duke Energy ratepayers.

The OPC further believed that the utilities are “not entitled” to a rate hike beginning January 2025, again citing the lack of time needed to prepare their case properly and said that the statutory timeline may need to be delayed.

In response, Tampa Electric said in late April that the OPC’s motion and request for oral argument should be denied because the OPC has not identified any new information and cannot justify a reconsideration.

Similarly, Duke Energy filed its own response in opposition to the OPC’s motion and request for oral argument, stating that the OPC does not have any new information to add to the case and asked for the request to be denied.

According to the PSC staff analysis, staff recommended that the OPC’s requests for reconsiderations should be denied, as there is no statutory requirement to allow them. They further added that the evidence that has already been presented to the Commission in previous hearings is sufficient for the PSC to make a decision.

The PSC staff said that the OPC should not be granted a continuance of this proceeding because it failed to provide adequate evidence, points of fact, or law that were missed during the case’s prehearing.

Commissioner Art Graham said during the PSC meeting on Tuesday that the pre-hearing officer did a phenomenal job and did not see the need to hear any oral arguments from OPC. The OPC was denied its request for oral argument and its reconsideration request.

Tampa Electric covers a 2,000-square-mile service area, providing electricity to over 800,000 customers in Hillsborough, Polk, Pasco, and Pinellas counties. Meanwhile, Duke Energy Florida serves approximately 2 million customers across the state of Florida.