The commission considered evidence presented by environmentalists concerning global warming, the lack of conservation measures that could reduce electric consumption, and the impact on consumers of future taxes on carbon emissions. Based on that evidence, the commission decided unanimously to deny the request for approval of the new power plant.
"This is a major milestone, both for Florida and the nation, in taking the first steps to deal with pollution that causes global warming," said Earthjustice attorney David Guest. "Coal generates twice as much greenhouse gas as any other fuel. The commission has turned the corner in acknowledging that global warming is a critical issue in Florida."
Gov. Charlie Crist has moved into a crucial leadership role on the issue of global warming. As Crist noted in his inaugural address, low-lying Florida is among the most vulnerable places in the country when it comes to global warming and its associated sea level rise.
Public Service Commission documents show that Florida utilities have done almost nothing to reduce overall electricity demand over the past ten years. FPL spends a tiny fraction of what California's Pacific Gas and Electric spends on conservation and energy efficiency. By using smarter technologies, Californians use less than half the electricity that Floridians do.
Instead of using available technologies to reduce electricity demand, FPL wanted regulators to let the company saddle its customers with expensive, outdated, and dirty coal technology. Building an expensive new coal plant would lock in high prices for utility customers, and prices will grow higher when the government begins taxing carbon emissions. As an expert told the commission at its hearing in April, Florida Power and Light customers might have to foot the bill for $400 million or more in annual penalties for emitting carbon dioxide from the behemoth coal plant.
Floridians are demanding action to reduce the pollution that causes global warming. According to a recent St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9 poll, almost three of four Floridians think state lawmakers should take immediate steps to combat global warming. Seventy-one percent of those polled said they support immediate legislative action to cut green house gas emissions.
Earthjustice represented the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, Florida Wildlife Federation, Save Our Creeks and concerned citizens in the case before the Florida Public Service Commission.