The Florida Wildlife Federation, Earthjustice and Environment Florida today urged Florida’s Public Service Commission to deny a request to build the largest new coal plant in the United States at the edge of the Florida Everglades.
“This proposed Florida Power and Light plant would spew mercury and global-warming gasses into one of the most environmentally sensitive places in the United States — a place that taxpayers are spending billions to clean up,” said Earthjustice attorney David Guest.
“Instead of allowing a huge new dirty coal plant, Florida should take the lead from other states that are working to reduce electricity demand through energy efficiency and alternative fuels,” said Manley Fuller, chairman of the Florida Wildlife Federation.
New documents from the PSC show that Florida utilities have done essentially nothing to reduce 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 energy that Floridians do.
Instead of using available technologies to reduce electricity demand, FPL wants regulators to let the company saddle its customers with expensive, outdated, and dirty coal technology. Building an expensive new coal plan will lock in high prices for utility customers, and prices could grow higher if the government begins taxing carbon emissions. As an expert told the PSC last month, FPL customers might have to foot the bill for $120- to $400-million in annual penalties for emitting carbon dioxide from the behemoth Glades plant.
Another chief concern is mercury deposition. Already, the fish, panthers and other creatures that call the Everglades home are dangerously contaminated with mercury. It’s a health risk to fish there – in a place that was once one of the most productive fishing grounds anywhere. The Glades plant would also spew nitrous oxide, which will further degrade the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
“Talk about cross purposes: While we are spending billions to clean up Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, and the rivers, FPL is planning to build a plant that would pollute them even more,” said Holly Binns of Environment Florida.
Florida’s leaders and citizens have finally begun forward movement on the issue of 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.
“We applaud Gov. Charlie Crist’s new direction to reduce global warming pollution and move toward better energy choices. It’s been a long time coming in Florida. The citizens shouldn’t allow FPL to take this expensive step backward to make our pollution problems worse than they already are,” said Fuller.
The Public Service Commission heard testimony from the public on FPL’s dirty coal plan in April. The commission is expected to make a recommendation on June 5.