Republicans see Irma as an opportunity to review energy regulations - Florida Politics

Republicans see Irma as an opportunity to review energy regulations

House leaders see the recovery from Hurricane Irma as an opportunity to investigate whether state regulations are getting in the way.

The issue came up Wednesday during hearings before the Energy & Utilities Subcommittee.

“Are there any regulations, whether laws that we’ve passed or administrative procedures the PSC might have put in place, that might be slowing down the recovery time or restoration time?” Republican Jason Fischer asked Florida Power & Light’s Bryan Olnick.

“And if there are, could you identify what some of those might be? I’d be willing to work with you to pull some of those back.”

Olnick thought not.

“Right now, I really don’t think that there are necessarily any rules or regulations I would say are a major hindrance when it comes to restoration strategy, restoration philosophy, prioritizing how we restore. I wouldn’t really say there are any major roadblocks,” Olnick said.

Speaker Richard Corcoran’s new Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness definitely will look into the state’s regulatory climate, said Panama City Republican Jay Trumbull, chairman of the energy panel and a member of the select committee.

“We are absolutely going to be looking at those things in that select committee, as well,” Trumbill said.

That Florida has recovered as well as it has is largely due to regulations the Legislature ordered the Public Service Commission to write after Hurricane Andrew and the storms of 2004 and 2005. That’s judging by testimony from PSC officials and executives of three investor-owned utilities before Trumbull’s committee, and before a Senate panel on Tuesday.

The House committee also heard from a representative of the Florida Electric Cooperatives Association.

“This committee is going to focus on how we can get power to folks in Florida at the lowest price possible, and looking at the way policy is driven in the state,” Trumbull said of his subcommittee. “The select committee is going to focus on specific issues relating to hurricanes. And a lot of those things are going to flow from that committee to us. Because the majority of those things probably had to do with power.”

Trumbull, in his inaugural hearing as chairman of the energy panel, said he wants to see how well the existing regulations helped.

“Did all those things work? Did they stand up to Irma’s power? And how can we fix those things in the future?” he said.

It’s too early to know what regulatory reforms might be called for, Trumbull said, but a review would be in line with the Republican Party’s philosophical attachment to smaller government.

“We’re going to allow the select committee to really drill down on some things, and them absorb them as they come out,” he said.

The select committee was scheduled to meet for the first time Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.
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