PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — A prominent Pensacola law firm wants the Florida Public Service Commission to reconsider its approval of a utility rate increase for Florida Power & Light customers in Northwest Florida.
Mike Papantonio from the Levin Papantonio Rafferty Law Firm said he sent a letter to the Commission Tuesday, Feb. 1 with the goal of getting it to at least review the rate hike or find a way to lower it.
A merger between Gulf Power and Florida Power & Light (FPL) effective Jan. 1 has doubled or tripled the cost of power bills for some.
“We are being covered up with folks in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties who want us to sue (Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis) and the Public Service Commission Board for the unconscionable rate increases residents in Northwest Florida are now experiencing,” the letter reads. “My end goal is to engage in discovery where that discovery is made public about how the Public Service Commission and the Governor allowed these energy corporation bandits to pillage North Florida.”
Papantonio admits that suing DeSantis or the Public Service Commission would be an uphill battle. But, he said Tuesday he’s willing to put pressure on the commission to rethink the rate increases with public campaigns and TV advertisements explaining to customers why they’re experiencing higher bills.
“All we’re trying to say to them is we’re not going to go away. We’re going to dig and talk to people that might have information that helps us make us a case for reopening,” said Papantonio. “Open your doors again. Take another look at this. There’s no shame in a mistake. There’s no shame in that. We all make mistakes. This is a major mistake. It has to be fixed.”
FPL said it has a four-year plan that will eventually lead to lower utility bills. Many say they can’t wait that long.
Ashlie Burdette is a single mother with five children and has one more on the way. Burdette said her utility bill has increased recently from about $200 to more than $400.
“I thought it was outrageous,” she said. “I didn’t understand how exactly the bill could have gotten that high because I haven’t done anything different. Actually, I’ve run my heat less because we’ve had a lot of warmer days.”
Papantonio said he plans to spend time, energy and “a lot of money” fighting against the utility bill spike.
“There’s a reason we need to get involved right now,” he said. “We’re going to push back.”
FPL said qualifying customers having a hard time affording their utility bill can reach out to the company for extensions or payment plans.