Earthjustice’s strategy of stopping new coal plant construction in order to make room for renewable energy got its most important validation to date. On April 15 Florida Power and Light, the major electric utility company in south Florida, announced they would build the world’s biggest solar energy facility near where a huge coal plant, successfully blocked by Earthjustice, would have been. The energy company said they’d sink $300 million to build the 75 megawatt facility.
Florida is finally becoming the ‘Sunshine State’ for real," said Earthjustice attorney David Guest.
The Florida announcement is the latest and most dramatic example of power company officials replacing plans to build highly polluting coal power plants with more environmentally benign alternatives.
Two other proposed coal plants have also reversed course in the face of legal opposition from Earthjustice and now plan to build natural gas fired facilities. One is the Highwood plant in Montana, the other the Kalama plant in Washington state. Natural gas power plants emit only about half as much global warming pollution.
Two years ago Earthjustice successfully opposed Florida Power and Light’s proposal to build America’s largest coal-fired power plant in Glades County, near the Everglades. The Florida Public Service Commission rejected FPL’s plan, and for the first time, cited concerns about cost-effectiveness in the face of looming global warming regulation as its reason. The planned solar facility will service part of the same area that would have been serviced by the polluting coal plant.
"Florida Power and Light’s plan to now invest in solar energy instead of dirty coal energy is proof that litigation can bring outcomes which are far more favorable to the public’s health, the environment and our economic future," Guest said. "Our litigation to stop new coal plants is really a tool intended to enable new renewable, sustainable energy for all Americans."
Earthjustice attorneys are currently working to stop other proposed coal plants in Florida, New Mexico and Kansas and see them replaced with cleaner alternatives.
"We urge the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to continue to move toward cleaner energy sources, and in particular, stop vigorously defending its decision to permit a coal-fired Seminole Power Plant in Palatka," said David Guest.
"The Seminole project would be the first new coal plant built in Florida in well over a decade." Guest said. "The DEP’s continued defense of this coal plant in northeast Florida stands in stark contrast to FPL’s decision to move away from outdated energy technologies."