FPL Gets To Charge Customers $130 Million To Clean Up Its Environmental Damage

Dec 16, 2017 No Comments by

Mention the cooling canals at Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station around a local environmentalist, and you’ll likely get to watch that activist’s face turn all shades of red and purple.

Florida Power & Light owns the plant in South Miami-Dade, and evidence strongly suggests FPL has known for decades that the plant’s canals were leaking saltwater into the Biscayne Aquifer, Miami’s largest source of drinking water.

Yet despite clear evidence suggesting that FPL waited for decades to even begin fixing a massive, leaking canal system, the power company just won the right to charge customers a reported $130 million to “recover” costs associated with cleaning up the plume. The ruling came from the Public Service Commission, the body tasked with regulating FPL — but which critics have long said is too cozy with the power industry.

 

“After a thorough review of the record, the PSC concluded that FPL was prudent in its actions and expenditures for the historic operation of Turkey Point’s Cooling Canal Monitoring Plan,” the PSC commission announced today in a news release. “FPL’s monitoring plan is prudent and part of a government-mandated regulation and, therefore, the plan’s costs are appropriate for recovery.”

According to the Sun Sentinel, the PSC voted to let FPL increase customer bills by $132 million, costing the typical customer about $1.59 extra per month. The commission voted unanimously to approve the request, despite the fact that environmental groups, including the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and the PSC’s Office of Public Counsel, a state body that advocates on behalf of Floridians, protested that customers shouldn’t be on the hook for an environmental catastrophe caused by FPL‘s own equipment.

In a news release sent out today, SACE, FPL‘s loudest critic, said documents and evidence show that FPL “knew or should have known since 1978, or at least by 1992, that the pollution plume was growing and that the Turkey Point cooling canals were causing it” and that more than 800 FPL customers had sent the PSC letters demanding the state body nix the company’s latest rate hike.

 

“FPL customers should not have to pay for FPL’s legacy of negligence and mistakes in the operation of the failed cooling canal system at its Turkey Point plant,” SACE Director Stephen A. Smith said in the release today. “It is obscene that FPL will be rewarded for their screw-ups and even make a profit off a portion of the proposed $200 million clean-up operation all paid by hardworking Florida families. This is the very definition of ‘pollute and loot.'”

The cooling-canal system at Turkey Point is unique. No other nuclear power plant uses it, perhaps for good reason: The canals for years have been labeled an environmental hazard.

In addition to SACE, Florida Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress and the powerful company’s loudest opponent in Tallahassee, issued a statement calling the decision a travesty.

 

“Today, the Public Service Commission is rewarding FPL by allowing it to profit from decades of environmental damage they caused to Biscayne Bay,” Rodriguez said. “This is outrageous. At best, FPL looked the other way for decades, and now that they’ve been forced to clean up their mess, the PSC has allowed them to put the $133 million cost on to us. With every anti-consumer and anti-environmental decision from the PSC, it becomes more and more clear that the for-profit monopoly system we have benefits no one but utility shareholders.”

Last month, FPL spokesperson Bianca Cruz simply accused SACE of “cooking up outlandish theories that are designed to mislead the public and regulators.” FPL has previously referred to SACE, a group that has fought for renewable energy usage and natural-resource protection since 1985, as an “anti-nuclear, anti-utility” extremist group.

According to state law, utility companies such as FPL are only allowed to recover costs for environmental disasters if the companies can prove they acted “prudently” to prevent or stop any damage. Multiple groups seemed to present a pretty good case that FPL didn’t hold up its end of the bargain regarding the cooling canals, but those arguments did not persuade the PSC, which has long been accused of acting as a lapdog for FPL and the state’s other major power companies. Environmentalists have criticized state “cost-recovery” measures as state-sponsored corporate welfare: FPL made a $1.7 billion profit in 2016, and groups such as SACE question why the state helps protect the company’s profit margin for shareholders at the expense of everyday consumers.

In previous legal briefs filed with the PSC, SACE and the Office of Public Counsel (OPC) both noted that FPL consultants warned in 1978, 1990, and 1992 that saltwater was leaking from the cooling-canal system toward the Biscayne Aquifer. In 2009, FPL witness Mike Sole admitted that Turkey Point “may have a problem” and that the saltwater plume was “causing or contributing to impairment of adjacent waters.”

SACE, however, said nothing was done to stop the leak from growing worse until the state intervened in 2013. SACE and the OPC also said FPL failed to submit proper monitoring reports to state regulators from 2005 through 2007.

 

“The most troubling of FPL’s imprudent actions is that it misled regulators,” SACE wrote last month. The regulators, however, said today they were unfazed.

 

Source: Miami New Times

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