Florida Power & Light customers are suddenly investors in fracking, whether they want to be or not. On Thursday, the state's Public Service Commission, long the lapdogs of utilities, approved the company's request to invest up to $500 million annually in this potentially risky business to capture natural gas.
FPL, a shareholder-owned company, secures a risk-free investment with rate-payers on the hook should the venture not work out. Despite strong opposition from PSC staff and the Office of Public Counsel, which represents power company customers, the commission rubber-stamped this 30-year investment.
At least the PSC ordered a review after five years followed by a renewal vote, a slight nod to consumer protection that may not amount to anything given the commission's history of utility-friendly decisions.
A large number of people object to the highly controversial practice of fracking, which injects chemicals, water and sand deep below ground to crack open rock formations and free natural gas. Those voices got drowned out by FPL's contention the projects will one day bring major cost savings once wells successfully provide a cheaper and steady supply of natural gas.
But today's FPL customers will be investing in a venture that may not provide a return in their lifetimes.
Shareholders or their heirs, on the other hand, will be the risk-free prime beneficiaries should this pan out. If this is such a good deal, why aren't they the ones holding the bag?
Big business beats the little guy again, thanks to enablers like the PSC. Shameful, especially given the forceful objections.