The amicus curiae is a group of small and rural local governments consisting of the City of Belle Glade, Village of Indiantown, the City of Chipley, and the City of Vernon (the “Small Local Governments”) and the Lake Okeechobee Regional Economic Alliance of Palm Beach County, Inc. (“LORE”). The Small Local Governments and LORE are located in rural areas of the state. We represent citizens of Florida who rely on electrical power, just like the other citizens of Florida, but whose location and income make them a less desirable customer for electrical power providers whose rates are not regulated by the State, but instead are driven purely by the desire to make the most profit.
The communities represented by the Small Local Governments will be disproportionately impacted by the proposed amendment, because we are located in areas that are less developed and less population-dense, providing less incentive for an unregulated purely profit-driven electrical provider to supply power. Additionally, our smaller and less developed communities rely significantly on taxes and fees provided by existing electrical utilities, and the proposed amendment jeopardizes many of these taxes and fees. The likely results of the passage of the proposed amendment, as detailed below, give rise to our interest in this case.
LORE’s mission is to further the economic and general well-being of the people of the “Glades” region in western Palm Beach County. LORE is focused on diversifying the economy of the region by recruiting new business and industries to locate in the Glades. LORE was founded in 2006 arising from meetings among county, municipal, business and civic leaders about the need for a Glades-wide representative body to foster, in a coordinated way, economic development in the region. LORE is not a governmental body, but its board includes the city managers from the region and it partners with the local governments in its efforts.
While the Small Local Governments and LORE agree that the ballot title and summary are misleading and the proposed amendment violates the single-subject rule as argued by the primary parties opposing the proposed amendment, we seek to inform the Court on issues unique to our communities.
The Proposed Amendment will eliminate the existing requirements that consumers must be treated fairly and charged only a fair and reasonable rate for power. Assuming the Proposed Amendment results in lower prices through competition, these lower prices will likely be unevenly distributed, with consumers in large cities or businesses with high-power usage receiving reduced rates, while consumers in small and more isolated communities can expect higher rates, assuming any of the deregulated entities even attempt to sell power to these communities.
Under existing law, electrical utilities are required to furnish electricity to “each person applying therefor reasonably sufficient, adequate, and efficient service upon terms as required by the commission.”
The Proposed Amendment will nullify these laws, allowing new electrical providers to charge as much as they wish, or deny service to whomever they choose. While competition may limit the price in urban areas or for large businesses with large power needs, in the small and rural communities represented by the Small Local Governments and LORE, it is unlikely such competition will exist, and the citizens of these communities will be forced to pay whatever amount the electrical provider chooses to charge, however high. One need only look to the results of competition in the Florida telecommunications and broadband market to see proof that applying competition to the provision of essential services ultimately has markedly different impacts on rural areas as compared to more attractive urban markets. Small and rural communities have fewer service options and slower internet speeds than those of their larger, urban neighbors.
Read their full legal brief filed with the Florida Supreme Court here.