Frank Artiles: “They asked me to do it” … “I’ll never forget the loyalty [FPL lobbyist] had to me”

Key Points:

  • “Artiles, the chairman of the Florida Senate’s Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee, used the event to conduct a fundraiser, which he says raised him more than $10,000. Now, Artiles, a Republican from south Miami-Dade County, is returning a favor to Florida’s largest utility.”
  • “In the first meeting of his energy committee since the start of the Legislature’s annual session, Artiles has scheduled two recently filed bills sought by FPL that will address two court rulings that dealt significant blows to the company.”
  • “One bill, SB 1238, by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, would allow utilities to charge customers for exploratory natural gas fracking in other states, overturning a Florida Supreme Court ruling against FPL last year.”
  • “Another bill, SB 1048, by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, would revise state law after the Third District Court of Appeal ruling that found Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet — acting as the state siting board overseeing power plants — failed to consider the city of Miami’s development rules when it signed off on allowing FPL to string 88 miles of line atop towers 80 to 150 feet high.”
  • ‘This bill seems to be a vehicle for utilities to legislate around the recent court decision,’ she said. ‘We hope that the Legislature does not limit the ability of local governments to protect the health, safety and welfare of its residents in future projects and plans put forward by electric companies.'”
  • Environmental groups expressed alarm at Artiles’ decision to fast-track the legislation — the fracking bill was filed Monday, and the bill relating to transmission lines was filed last week. The bills are the only pieces of legislation on the agenda of the Tuesday meeting.”
  • “‘I have nothing to hide,’ he said. ‘I was there for a fundraiser, and I’m not the only one who has done that’” Artiles also defends wearing the jacket of the sponsor. ‘They asked me to do it, and I said it’s no big deal,’ he said.”
  • “Artiles’ political committee, Veterans for Conservative Principles, accepted $2,500 from FPL and another $5,000 from Duke Energy in the competitive race against former Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay. His largest contributions, however, were passed through other political committees and the original sources are impossible to trace.”
  • “Under Bean’s bill, regulated utilities would be allowed to charge customers for the cost of speculative drilling. FPL sought and received approval from the Public Service Commission to charge customers up to $500 million for investment in an Oklahoma-based fracking company but, in May of last year, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the PSC exceeded its authority when it allowed the company to charge customers ‘without the Florida Legislature’s authority.'”
  • “As an investor-owned utility, state law allows FPL to earn a guaranteed profit — return on investment — on its costs attributed to providing energy to customers. By changing the law to allow the company to put some costs of natural gas drilling into its rate base, SB 1238 would help FPL and its parent, NextEra, earn higher profits.
  • “Artiles said he was invited to wave the green flag at the Feb. 24 race, ‘not just because I was the chairman of the committee but because I have known [FPL lobbyist] John Holley for seven years.’ He said that Holley, whose wife used to be a staff director at the Public Service Commission, was one of his earliest supporters ‘and I’ll never forget the loyalty he had to me.‘”
To read the full story from the Miami Herald, please click here.