Florida Power & Light’s construction of a natural-gas fired power plant in Broward County was backed Friday by Gov. Rick Scott and the state Cabinet over objections from the Sierra Club, which contends the facility will exacerbate climate-change problems.
The approval of the new facility came after the Sierra Club failed to get Scott, state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam to disqualify themselves from the decision because they received money from Florida Power & Light and its parent company, NextEra Energy Inc., during the recent elections.
Scott and the Cabinet serve as a “siting board” that must sign off on power-plant projects. FPL plans to build the 1,200-megawatt facility to replace two older generating units at what is known as FPL’s Lauderdale site in Dania Beach and Hollywood.
During Friday’s meeting, which was held by conference call, Scott and the Cabinet also voted to support FPL’s application for the certification of the proposed Turkey Point Units 6 & 7 in Miami-Dade County. The units could eventually be an expansion of FPL’s nuclear plant at the Turkey Point complex.
Scott and the Cabinet — Patronis, Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi — voted without comment to back staff recommendations on both projects.
Sierra Club Senior Attorney Julie Kaplan said after the meeting it remains to be determined if the organization will appeal the Broward County decision.
FPL estimates the new Broward plant will create 300 construction jobs and $337 million in savings to customers and said the project will deliver clean, affordable energy. But that is counter to the Sierra Club labeling the project “fracked gas” that will pump 3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions into the air annually.
“Tearing down an aging power plant and replacing it with the highly efficient Dania Beach Clean Energy Center will cut primary air emissions 70 percent, reduce the amount of natural gas we use system-wide and save customers hundreds of millions of dollars over time,” FPL spokesman Chris McGrath said in a statement after the meeting. “Importantly, this project is a continuation of our efforts in recent years to position FPL as one of the cleanest, yet affordable and reliable electric companies in the nation.”
In objecting to the proposal, Sierra Club Senior Campaign Representative Susannah Randolph said the project takes into account climate change causing sea levels to rise, as FPL plans to elevate the new plant by 11.5 feet. But she said the project fails to address impacts to surrounding communities.
“What about the people of Dania Beach, a community made up of many low-income minority residents who struggle to make ends meet under even the best conditions?” Randolph asked Scott and the Cabinet. “Will FPL play for their homes to be elevated? What happens to the families, the children and workers in that community when the tide inevitably washes in? What will you tell them when the last of their personal possessions washes out to sea while the very plant that fuels that tide stands above them?”
The Cabinet action came after Administrative Law Judge Cathy Sellers in July issued a 129-page recommended order that urged certification for the plant.
Despite the Sierra Club claims, Sellers wrote that the new plant would be more efficient than the units it would replace and would help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions across FPL’s broader system.
“(The) competent, credible evidence showed that the operation of (the new plant) will reduce GHG emissions across FPL’s electrical power generating system because it will be operated more often than other, less efficient units, thereby displacing the use of those units across FPL’s electrical power generation system,” Sellers wrote.
The Broward County plan is one of a series of projects FPL has undertaken in recent years to build natural-gas plants and shut down older facilities. That effort has included projects at Cape Canaveral, Riviera Beach, Port Everglades and in Okeechobee County.