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Penalties for electric violations ‘confidential’

(Week of April 14, 2011)

Because the regulator of Vero Beach’s electric system is a non-profit corporation rather than a government entity, the public has no right to know the details of 15 violation penalties the utility now faces.

“We are self-regulatory. We are delegated our compliance authority by the North American Electric Regulatory Corporation,” said Florida Reliability Coordinating Council, Inc., (FRCC) Vice President and Executive Director of Standards and Compliance Linda Campbell.

When asked if she could shed any light on the nature of the violations, now that the city is facing penalties, Campbell said, “I can’t share any of that with you; it’s confidential.”

Campbell’s organization FRCC regulates electric utilities according to standards set forth by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).

And despite that FRCC is supported through taxpayer dollars in member dues and fees from municipal utilities, its records of things like violations are not public.

On April 27, Vero Beach city staffers will be in Tampa to negotiate penalties for 15 regulatory violations found in the city’s electric transmission and distribution system.

Those violations and the potential penalties the city faces are a big secret, despite that Vero customers will pay the penalties through electric bills.

In fact, this impending liability of the utility has been mentioned by city officials as one reason why the staff hesitated in reducing rates to $109 for 1,000 kilowatt hours. A rate reduction had been scheduled for meter readings after May 1.

No information about the customary penalties issued for different types of violations is available to the public -- that’s also confidential.

On March 4, Electric T & D Director Randall McCamish was notified that Vero officials would be required to attend an eight hour “settlement discussion” at FRCC’s Tampa office. The letter asks the city to say who is coming to the meeting and who of the attendees is authorized to negotiate on behalf of the city.

McCamish replied saying he would attend, along with Compliance Specialist Robert Doty and NERC Compliance Coordinator Nancy Fulston.

“None of these individuals are (sic) authorized to negotiate on behalf of Vero.

“I will inform the interim city manager of the proposed penalty. If the dollar amount of the proposed penalty is more than $50,000, the interim city manager is required to present the information to the city council for review and approval,” McCamish wrote.