March 23, 2017

City officials urge legislators to halt the FPL transmission bill being 'bulldozed' through

FPL transmission linesOfficials from several Miami-Dade communities impacted by an 88-mile transmission line sought by Florida Power & Light through the county’s most affluent and environmentally sensitive areas pleaded with a Senate committee Wednesday not to approve legislation to allow the company to build the line without considering local development rules.

The bill, SB 1048 by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, would overturn an April 2016 ruling by a three-judge panel of the Third District Court of Appeal that said the governor and Cabinet failed to consider Miami-Dade County’s environmental rules when they signed off on allowing FPL to string a transmission line through Everglades marshes and fragile wetlands.

Despite their appeals, the Senate Community Affairs Committee passed the bill with only one no vote — that of Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, whose district includes the entire corridor of the transmission line along U.S. 1 from Cutler Bay, through Pinecrest, South Miami and Coral Gables to a substation in Coconut Grove.

“For constituents and local elected leaders who have been very involved in trying to make sure our community is protected from environmental impacts, economic impacts, public safety concerns, this bill confirms our worst fears about how laws are made in Tallahassee,” Rodriguez said. “The sense is that the bigger the checkbook, the easier it is to get laws written.” Story here. 

March 17, 2017

Miami Mayor Regalado to Florida Legislature: Don't let utilities circumvent local regulations

Tomas RegaladoMiami Mayor Tomas Regalado is urging the Florida Legislature to reject two fast-moving bills to allow Florida Power & Light and other electric utilities to circumvent local government regulations when they build transmission lines through local communities. 

The leadership-backed bills, SB 1048 and HB 1055, were each given swift and unanimous approval this week in their first committees with no debate.

The bills are being pushed by FPL to overturn a Florida Third District Court of Appeal ruling that rejected a decision by Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet, sitting as the Power Plant Siting Board, to allow the company to string two massive transmission lines that will cut through some of Miami-Dade County’s most affluent cities and fragile wetlands.

 "The City of Miami and other local governments have joined in the charge to ensure that FPL complies with the land use regulations enacted to protect the health, safety, and welfare of our residents," Regalado said in a statement. "If passed, Senate Bill 1048 and House Bill 1055 will allow electric utility companies throughout Florida to avoid and ignore essential regulations."  Download Mayor_Regalado_s_Letter_to_FL_House_and_Senate_Opposing_SB_1048_and_HB_1...

Sponsors of the bill, Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, and Rep. Clay Ingram, R-Pensacola, argue that the courts changed 40 years of Florida law with their ruling and the bill simply restores the law.

But Regalado countered that in his letter to members of the House and Senate, saying that the purpose of local land use law is to "ensure the health, safety and welfare of our residents."

"The various court decisions were not simply interpretations of the law, but they ensured that utility companies would have to comply with these local land use regulations so that our Florida residents are not adversely affected,'' he wrote. 

Regalado said, if passed, the legislation proposes to "unravel every holding of the Third District Court of Appeal's decision...and change the current state of the law as it relates to right of way corridors, variances for local land use regulations, and give the Florida Public Service Commission the exclusive authority to order utilities to bury transmission lines." 

No lobbyists for the the City of Miami or any other city have spoken up against the bills at the two committee hearings in which they were passed.