Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Cabinet face what may be the most controversial and politically delicate decision of their term Tuesday, when they will decide whether to give Florida Power & Light permission to build two new nuclear power generators and 88 miles of new transmission lines in South Florida.
The proposed high-voltage lines, which would be hoisted on towers which could rise as high as 150 feet, have generated opposition in the cities in Miami Dade County through which the lines would traverse — a region of the state that Gov. Rick Scott has deemed crucial to his re-election bid.
While cities from Miami to Coral Gables and the Village of Pinecrest have questioned the need for the power plants, their main objection has been on where to locate the 230-kilovolt lines on 80- to 100-foot poles.
The lines are projected to run from Cutler Bay through Pinecrest, South Miami and Coral Gables to a substation in Coconut Grove. The towers would be built alongside Metrorail and down U.S. 1, past Cadillac show rooms, Porsche dealers, retail malls and through miles of concentrated development.
On the west, three 500-kilovolt transmission lines on 150-foot poles would run through the edge of Everglades National Park, a prospect that conservation groups say could have a detrimental effect on sensitive wildlife habitats.
FPL says the new lines are essential to supplying energy to South Florida’s growing population and, over the 40-year life of the project, predicts that customers will save $64 billion in fossil fuel costs, down from the $75 billion in savings the utility projected last year. Any further delay, the company argues, will be expensive for customers, said Peter Robbins, an FPL spokesman.
FPL began seeking approval for two new 1,100 megawatt nuclear generators, known as Turkey Point 6 and 7, in 2006. Since then, the state’s Public Service Commission determined in 2008 that there was a need for the project. The Florida Department of Environmental Regulation signed off on the proposal and, in this past November, after an eight-week administrative hearing, Judge D.R. Alexander sided with FPL on nearly every disputed claim.
The cities argue that if FPL needs the high-voltage wires, they should be built underground to protect property values and avoid the negative effects on economic development. They are asking the governor and Cabinet to reject the request, or defer a decision until more information can be obtained.
“This item is of extreme importance to our city and Miami Dade as a whole,” said Miami City Attorney Victoria Méndez at a meeting of Cabinet aides last week. “There are 450,000 residents in the city of Miami and 2 million residents in Miami Dade County — 1.2 million of which are voters — something to keep in mind.”
The political implications have not been lost on FPL either. The project is the largest the utility has proposed in 40 years and, in anticipation of the public opposition, the company has been actively working to influence both local governments and the governor and Cabinet, who will sit as the Power Plant Siting Board. More here.
Photo: Gov. Rick Scott shares a light moment with FP&L Chairman Eric Silagy at a Florida Chamber of Commerce event at the Governor's Mansion. Steve Bousquet, Tampa Bay Times.