Pensacola law firm says it will fight increases in FPL utility bills

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — A major Pensacola law firm wants the Florida Public Service Commission to reconsider its approval of a utility rate increase for Florida Power & Light customers in the Northwest from Florida.

Mike Papantonio of the law firm Levin Papantonio Rafferty said he sent a letter to the Commission on Tuesday, Feb. 1, with the goal of getting them to at least reconsider the rate hike or find a way to reduce it.

A merger between Gulf Power and Florida Power & Light (FPL) effective January 1 has doubled or tripled the cost of electricity bills for some.

“We are covered by folks in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties who want us to sue (Florida Governor Ron DeSantis) and the Public Service Commission board for the unconscionable rate increases now being experienced. residents of Northwest Florida,” the letter read. “My end goal is to engage in a discovery where that discovery is made public about how the Public Service Commission and the Governor allowed these bandits from the energy company to plunder North Florida.”

Papantonio admits that suing DeSantis or the Public Service Commission would be an uphill battle. But, he said on Tuesday he was prepared to pressure the commission to rethink rate increases with public campaigns and TV ads telling customers why they are incurring higher bills.

“All we’re trying to tell them is that we’re not going to leave. We will dig in and talk to people who may have information that helps us advocate for reopening,” Papantonio said. “Reopen your doors. Take another look at this. There’s no shame in a mistake. There’s no shame in this. We all make mistakes. This is a major mistake. It takes let it be settled.”

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 mom with five kids and has another one on the way. Burdette said his utility bill recently increased from about $200 to over $400.

“I thought it was outrageous,” she said. “I didn’t understand exactly how the bill could have been so high, because I didn’t do anything different. I actually used my heating less because we had a lot of warmer days.

Papantonio said he plans to spend time, energy and “a lot of money” tackling soaring utility bills.

“There’s a reason we need to get involved right now,” he said. “We will push back.

FPL said eligible customers having trouble paying their utility bill can contact the company for extensions or payment plans.