Wednesday, September 13, 2017

FPL: If you see something, say something re: power outages.

Just spoke with Florida Power & Light management in South Florida.  Contrary to odd expressed local official reluctance here in St. Augustine, my contact agrees -- be not afraid to call FPL with problems on power restoration.  If you see something, say something.  If a wire's wrapped around a tree, or if service is taking too long to be restored, speak out.

While FPL has some 17,000 workers from 25 states and Canada, working twelve-hour shifts, in bucket trucks, restoring power, don't be afraid to call FPL with questions, or PSC with complaints.  Service on the East coast is expected to be restored by Sunday, September 17th.

But if there's a problem, speak out.

In 2016, after Hurricane Matthew, my friend Scott told me that he and his father had no power when all of their neighbors in World Golf Village had power, yet FPL told them its records said their power was back on.  So I connected Scott with FPL and PSC. Problem solved.

In 2004-2005, I noticed a disturbing pattern here in St. Augustine possibly discriminatory timing in restoration of power, seemingly based on income.  Pelican Reef had its power on within a half day.  Our power nearby took three days (after going to Casa Monica to make pay phone calls three days in a row; remember pay phones?).  Lincolnville (historically African-American and low-income) took a week.  Flagler Estates (lower income) took two weeks.  

Discrimination based on income or epidermal pigmentation?  Not beyond the realm of possibility.  This is, after all, North Florida, traditionally KKK country, or "Kluxed up," as my late mentor, KKK-buster Stetson Kennedy called it.  Those prejudices still afflict too many business decision makers here.

So I requested a Public Service Commission.  Behind the scenes, FPL began better planning for hurricane-related outages.  Invoking the Fourteenth Amendment required PSC to do the right thing (just as it required the City of St. Augustine to fix Riberia Street at once -- ALL of it, not just the white part).

Was there discrimination at one time in restoring power after power outages?   It's not beyond the realm of possibility.

Anecdote: My law school mentor in Memphis once experienced a month-long power outage from Memphis Light, Gas and Water, while Democratic National Committee member and corporate lawyer William Farris, a few blocks away, and his power restored within a couple of days after a massive ice storm.

Lesson: don't be afraid to pick up the telephone.  It's your constitutional right and a reasonable thing to do in dealing with a fabulously wealthy and poorly-regulated electric utility monopoly that pays its CEO $32 million/year.

FPL and the PSC work for you.  Ask questions.  Demand answers. Expect democracy.

If you have any problems, call me.

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