FPL Pollutes and Loots at Turkey Point

You make a mess, you clean it up.

That’s a basic lesson that’s taught to us by our parents at an early age.  Yet, executives at Florida Power & Light (FPL), the state’s biggest power company, have apparently forgotten that lesson over time.  It wants its customers to pay more than $200 million over the next ten years for cleaning up a mess – created on its watch – at its Turkey Point plant in south Florida.

Polluting                        

The company operates a ten square mile cooling canal system for its aging Turkey Point plant 3 & 4 reactors. FPL is the only utility in the country to use this system for cooling water for power generation. The miles of canals are unlined, and due to the porous geology of south Florida, water from canals has leached underground to form a plume of hyper-saline and contaminated water spreading westward in the Biscayne Aquifer towards drinking water wells and eastward into Biscayne National Park. The Biscayne Aquifer is the sole drinking water source for Miami-Dade County and the Keys.

Last year, FPL entered into a “consent order” with the FL Dept. of Environmental Protection for a plan to clean up it’s mess. An expert say that this plan won’t even solve the problem (more on that later). Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) filed a Clean Water Act lawsuit last year asking a federal judge to find that FPL violated its environmental discharge permit and require a remedy that stops the source of the pollution.  A hearing is scheduled for next year.

Looting             

There’s more. FPL has filed a request with the Florida Public Service Commission to recover more than $100 million from its customers next year for alleged clean-up expenses and investments that it has already racked up. It will seek to ultimately recover over $200 million dollars from families and businesses in its territory. Yes, it wants its customer to pay. Let that sink in for a moment. This request is especially shameless given that FPL earned record profits last year – taking home $1.7 Billion.

A Commission hearing in the Environmental Cost Recovery Docket is scheduled for October 25th in Tallahassee to determine whether these costs were “prudently” incurred. If not, FPL will have to cover the costs to clean up its own mess.

A history of negligence at Turkey Point

Expert testimony, filed in the docket by  the Office of Public Counsel, establishes a historical trail of FPL negligence and concludes that the Company’s clean-up plan – the one for which it wants customers to pay – won’t achieve its goal. FPL knew, or should have known, about the spreading pollution since 1978 – but failed to act on it for decades. Is FPL’s  inaction in the face of a spreading pollution prudent?  The expert specifically found:

-       There are data & studies from 1978 that showed impacts to groundwater from the cooling canals;

-       FPL should have known by 1978, but certainly by 1992, that it had a growing problem on its hands;

-       FPL appears to claim that 2013 is the first time it discovered the plume was expanding;

-       FPL and its consultants either ignored or turned a blind eye to data showing a growing problem.

The evidence of FPL’s failure to address the pollution mess over decades at Turkey Point is compelling, but FPL has oversized influence in Tallahassee and disputes the claims. That’s why Florida Public Service Commission needs to hear from FPL customers. Expect the legal fireworks to fly at the October 25th Commission hearing. SACE, along with other consumer parties, will be opposing FPL’s attempt to loot customers.

After all, families and businesses served by FPL shouldn’t have to pay for the Company’s negligence. FPL should clean up its own mess.

 

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