Tampa City Council asked to fight TECO rate increase

10/02/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Tampa Electric Co. will soon go before state regulators to request a combined 31 percent rate increase, 22 percent of which is designed to cover higher fuel costs.

Responding to citizens concerns, the Tampa City Council got involved today. Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena said THAN, the group representing all of Tampa’s neighborhood associations, has written to the mayor and the City Council asking that they lobby the Public Service Commission to prevent such a rate increase from happening.

Saul-Sena said she had already prepared a letter to be sent to the PSC, the state agency that will ultimately decide on the validity of the rate request. She said that legally, the City Council’s request would have no binding effect, but it would be a powerful symbolic request to stand up for its citizens.

Councilman John Dingfelder said he lacked the knowledge to form an opinion on the matter so he said he welcomed having members of the community, as well as TECO representatives, come before the Council to explain their reasons for the rate hike.

But City Councilman Charlie Miranda was hesitant, saying he assumed the Public Service Commission already knows what it’s doing.

Saul-Sena said she wanted to give the public and TECO 10 minutes each to present their sides on the issue at an upcoming Council meeting.

But Councilman Thomas Scott said he didn’t understand the need for the hearing when the Council could not act to reduce rates.

Dingfelder disagreed, saying as TECO’s biggest customer, the Council could be influential.

Councilmember Joseph Catano said it would be fruitless for the Council to intervene.

But Dingfelder said that for 15 years he lobbied on behalf of the Hillsborough County Commission in front of the PSC for Plant City residents to get local phone service.

The Council then voted on Saul-Sena’s request to approve a resolution asking that the PSC reject TECO’s rate request until an independent analysis could be undertaken to view TECO’s future plans including their conservation and energy efficiency programs and adoption of renewable energy sources.

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