Utilities and Amendment 1 – the industry fleecing of Florida can be stopped November 8

By Michael Rivera (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Michael Rivera (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Amendment 1 on the November 8 ballot is perhaps the single biggest farce ever proposed to be placed in the Florida Constitution. Given the long history of bizarre ballot efforts, that is saying a great deal. But this is perhaps the first time an entire industry that has bought its way to creating anti-consumer monopolies in this state has felt so threatened that they have bankrolled this effort to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.

Every major newspaper in Florida has called out Amendment 1 as a sham – it is after all, a carefully crafted industry attempt to thwart Floridians from tapping into our most readily abundant resource – the sun and instead continuing reliance on power companies.  The utilities industry has spent over $35 million according to The Miami Herald  to limit solar in the state including promoting the (anti) “solar” amendment. The leading contributors to this campaign have been according to the newspaper, Florida Power & Light (FPL), Duke Energy and Tampa Electric Company (TECO).

These utility companies are at this point in time behind the sugar industry perhaps the single biggest sinister contributor to legislative campaigns in this state (though the telecommunications industry which has developed a similar government-backed monopoly is a close third) and have for all intents and purposes placed the Public Service Commission (PSC) in their hip pockets.

Florida’s greatest resources are our water and sunlight. Harvesting solar energy should have been a priority for this state’s policy makers since the 1990’s. However the Republican takeover of the legislature in the mid 1990’s coupled with Jeb Bush’s election as Governor in 1998 put development of a solar program squarely on the back-burner. As the GOP got more entrenched in power and Democrats began playing ball with them in earnest during the 2000’s, the utilities companies gained an incredible amount of power over the regulatory process.

Today the regulatory process of power companies is almost non-existent as the PSC has been culled of politically independent members in favor of industry stooges. This has given the utilities virtual free reign over rates and allowed them to control the political process.

One of the industry culprits, Duke Energy is a company we have called out time and again here at The Florida Squeeze. Duke Energy gave generously to Attorney General Pam Bondi’s campaign for reelection at the very same time as they were raising rates on consumers in the Tampa Bay area. Bondi’s alliance with the utilities industry gave her a major fundraising boost and almost certainly impacted her office’s regulation of the industry.  Duke Energy also donated aggressively to state legislative candidates during that period including Darren Soto who is the current Democratic nominee in CD-9.  This cycle according to The Herald, Duke Energy has spent $13.3 million on political campaigns in Florida, including about half of that going to support Amendment 1.

The “coalition” pushing the (anti) solar amendment has several Democratic operatives that have been essentially bought by the utilities companies front and center in the propaganda promoting this dangerous effort.

The campaign to inform the public about the harms of Amendment 1 has been effective in progressive circles throughout the state and on social media. On Tuesday, former US Senator and Florida Governor Bob Graham joined the chorus of responsible Floridians in opposition to the amendment.

“I’m discouraged as a citizen how far we have slipped and see Amendment 1 as a means of accelerating that decline in solar in Florida,” Graham said.

In speaking with reporters, Senator Graham also used the terms “deceptive” and “harmful” to describe Amendment 1. 

The amendment which made the ballot thanks to a 4-3 vote of the Florida Supreme Court received a powerful dissent from Justice Barbara Pariente.

“Masquerading as a pro-solar energy initiative, this proposed constitutional amendment, supported by some of Florida’s major investor-owned electric utility companies, actually seeks to constitutionalize the status quo,” Pariente wrote.

However, it seems as if the fight to educate voters about the dangers of Amendment 1 might be facing the difficulty that so many efforts do on the left – a lack of money when faced with industry might, deceptive language and the willingness of some Democrats to be bought off by the utilities companies.

A quick reminder of what Amendment 1 really does:

  • Amendment 1 is a utility conceived and funded  “solar” amendment.
  • Amendment 1 will maintain the status quo of how energy is regulated in Florida – that means the PSC with its political cronyism and corruption will continue to “regulate” the power companies.
  • Amendment 1 will allow continued monopolies for utility companies.
  • Amendment 1 will stop homeowners from selling excess power to utilities and will essentially stop the harvest of solar power for personal use.

The most powerful testimonial against the (anti) solar amendment may have come from former Vice President Al Gore who said in Miami three weeks ago:

“The things they claim protect solar are protections you already have, “But they are trying to fool you into amending your state Constitution in a way that gives them the authority to shut down net metering and do in Florida what they did in Nevada and just kill the solar industry.”

Throughout 2016, it should be admitted that passage of Amendment 1 appeared to be a fait accompli thanks to the misleading language of the question on the ballot, the largess of the utilities industry and the willingness of many Democrats to sell their souls on this issue. But the excellent work of journalists throughout the state and the infrastructure on the left that has fought this farcical effort has made passage with the required 60% of the vote now highly questionable. If the (anti) solar amendment passes it will indeed be a dark day for Florida. Let’s hope recent interest in this issue creates enough momentum to kill the industry’s attack on solar.

 

Disclaimer: Kartik Krishnaiyer served as the Deputy Campaign Manager in 2014  for Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Democratic opponent, George Sheldon

One comment

  1. […] executives at utilities companies in this state have even gone to great lengths to concoct a sham of constitutional amendment which would prevent younger generations committed to saving the planet from doing so in this […]

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