Tag Archives: florida power and light

Protect Florida panther habitat, stop another massive FPL power plant in the Everglades

21 Nov

The following are excerpts from a message sent by Matt Schwartz, Executive Director of South Florida Wildlands Association:

Until Friday, November 25th, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is accepting comments on a plan to expand the National Wildlife Refuge System in south Florida. The proposed “Headwaters of the Everglades National Wildlife Refuge” would protect 150,000 acres of still to be identified ranch lands north of Lake Okeechobee at a price tag of 700 million dollars. The patchwork quilt of properties created would include 50,000 acres purchased outright while a conservation easement would be placed on 100,000 additional acres to prevent development. Cattle ranching would continue on 2/3 of the new refuge. Although an occasional male panther finds his way to this area, females are not as adventurous. With no breeding opportunities, the males seldom stick around. The entire proposal can be found here.

While South Florida Wildlands Association (SFWA) certainly supports the idea of protecting habitat which could someday be turned into more of the suburban sprawl for which our region has become famous, we believe there is a better and more strategic way to spend at least some of massive amounts of money the American people are being asked to invest. Last May, readers… were shocked to learn that Florida Power and Light (FPL) was considering the purchase of approximately 3000 acres of primary Florida panther habitat in the Big Cypress basin on a piece of land known as “McDaniel’s Ranch”. The property would be home to the “Hendry Next Generation Clean Energy Center” – the largest fossil fuel plant in the country. An article [here] describes the project.

FPL’s “West County Energy Center” in Loxahatchee, a virtual twin of the proposed Hendry County plant, gives an idea of what the new "Clean Energy Center" would look like.

In spite of mountains of evidence showing that this land is of the highest important for the critically endangered Florida panther and numerous other plant and animal species which share its habitat (e.g. wood storks, crested caracara, black bears, wild turkey, eastern indigo snakes, fox squirrels), FPL ultimately decided to spend $40 million dollars to purchase this property – while giving the previous owner, Eddie Garcia, a $25 million dollar profit on the $15 million dollars he invested in 2005. Vacant land prices in a state with some of the highest foreclosure rates in the country have hardly moved upwards since 2005. We have to assume that the enormous price FPL was willing to pay for this property reflected the rezoning Mr. Garcia successfully accomplished through the Hendry County Commission—converting (so far only on paper) a completely rural piece of south Florida into one of the largest industrial projects in the country.

Green areas on the map represent the network of already acquired public lands which would surround this monster sized project – the Big Cypress National Preserve to the south; Holeyland and

Map of collared male panthers in the vicinity of the proposed power plant from a recent Florida panther annual report produced by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Rotenberger Wildlife Management Areas and Storm Water Treatment Areas 3, 4, 5 and 6 to the east; the Dinner Island Wildlife Management Area and the Okaloacoochee State Forest to the north and west. In addition to direct loss of habitat, a plant of this size would also dramatically increase traffic and open up the entire area to sprawl, road building, and habitat fragmentation.

While SFWA is willing to expend its limited resources aggressively fighting this project as it winds its way through the vast and complex state and federal permitting process (e.g. South Florida Water Management District, Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), there is another solution which would benefit all parties concerned—including the panther. In 2001, the Florida Forever program was established by the state legislature in order to protect dwindling wildlife habitat statewide. As stated in the Florida Forever Act of 1999:

“The continued alteration and development of Florida’s natural areas to accommodate the state’s rapidly growing population have contributed to the degradation of water resources, the fragmentation and destruction of wildlife habitats, the loss of outdoor recreation space, and the diminishment of wetlands, forests, and public beaches.”

The purpose of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to: “administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.”

The marriage between state, federal, and private interests which would be accomplished by incorporating Panther Glades (including the newly acquired FPL property) into the new Headwaters of the Everglades National Wildlife Refuge could not be better. Panther Glades has already been extensively studied for its wildlife and habitat importance. It is also a key part of the northern watershed of Big Cypress National Preserve which provides fresh, clean water to much of Everglades National Park and other public lands further south. As of May of this year, Panther Glades was ranked highest in importance of all Florida Forever “Critical Natural Lands Projects” in south Florida. In the state’s current fiscal conditions, however, Florida Forever has received zero dollars in funding from the Florida legislature. See complete report on the Panther Glades property here.

Your support for this simple request will help move this issue forward. It could even be the catalyst which drives FPL and the USFWS to hammer out a deal. With only about 100 panthers left in south Florida on habitat which continues to shrink all the time, this is an opportunity we do not want to miss. Please send an email to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before the November 25th deadline and ask them to take whatever steps are necessary to include the complete “Panther Glades” property in their new refuge.

Support for South Florida Wildlands Association can be sent here:
P.O. Box 30211
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33303

Or made online here.

Find SFWA on Facebook here

Tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to finish the job started by Florida Forever over 10 years ago. Protect lands needed by the Florida panther by acquiring all of “Panther Glades” now. Submit comments by email here: EvergladesHeadwatersProposal@fws.gov

FPL Power Plant Proposal Aims for the Heart of Panther Habitat

13 May

Map of "Panther Focus Area" surrounding Hendry County power plant proposal.

By Panagioti Tsolkas, Earth First! Journal

According to a letter sent on May 2, 2011 by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, a new power plant proposal has begun the permitting process for a site located in Hendry County—primary habitat of Florida panther, considered to be one of the most endangered mammals in the world.

This proposal exemplifies, once again, the need to protect the critical habitat of remaining panthers, which has been listed as endangered for over 40 years. In February 2010, US Fish & Wildlife Service, the same agency reviewing the Hendry County power plant proposal, denied a petition seeking to designate critical habitat for the cats. A judge upheld the denial on April 6, 2011. On April 20, the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation group filed an Appeal to the 11th Circuit Court to overturn a judge’s denial of critical habitat status. In the meantime, if projects like this power plant move forward, the point will be moot.

The details for the Hendry County plant are still trickling out, but the facility is rumored to be a massive fossil fuel power plant which would emit millions of tons in emissions and suck billions of gallons of water from the aquifer and regional wetlands. Yet, in this age of greenwash, it is of course masquerading as a solar project (as FPL has also done recently at their Barley Barber facility across Lake Okeechobee, near Indiantown, Florida).

To quote the Hendry County Planning & Zoning Department, who approved the zoning change for the development on May 11 of this week, “The applicant intends to develop the site in association with Florida Power & Light Company [FPL].” The rezone is approved for “utility uses, specifically a ‘Clean Energy Center’ which would include, but is not limited to natural gas and solar energy.” FPL already operates the two largest fossil fuel power plants in the US, all in the Everglades watershed, both within 70 miles of this site.

But the specific details of this industrial project are irrelevant, as nothing of an industrial scale is appropriate in this area. Along with panther habitat, the immediate area surrounding the site is also home to Audubon’s crested caracara, Eastern indigo snake, and Wood Stork, all federally protected endangered species. The area also provides resting, feeding, and nesting sites for a variety of migratory bird species which FWS notes “must be taken into consideration during project planning and design.”

The proposed power plant site sits on the border of the Big Cypress Reservation of the Seminole Tribe. The tribe has not yet entered comments on the project.

Click here for FWS report, including the map above.

Groups successful in raising concerns with proposed FPL new nuclear reactors in Florida: Federal licensing board admits arguments

16 Mar

Florida Power & Light's Turkey Point Nuke Plant near Everglades

Miami, Fla. – The future of new nuclear reactors in Florida hit another stumbling block as concerned citizens and public interest organizations in Florida had a significant, initial victory in their legal effort to prevent two more costly new nuclear reactors from being built at Florida Power & Light’s existing Turkey Point plant adjacent to Biscayne Bay, Biscayne National Park and the Everglades, about 25 miles from Miami. There is a state-managed aquatic preserve, an expansive wetlands habitat preserve, two national parks and one national wildlife refuge within six miles of the proposed site. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s three-judge panel recently admitted some of the groups’ arguments but rejected many other serious environmental and public health issues the expansion poses.

“One would be hard pressed to find a less compatible and more ecologically sensitive location in which to expand a nuclear power plant than at Turkey Point,” said Jason Totoiu, the Everglades Law Center’s General Counsel. “We are pleased the Board agreed with some of our arguments but their decision unfortunately overlooks the very real potential that a number of significant environmental impacts could result from this project.”

The Everglades Law Center and Emory University School of Law’s Turner Environmental Law Clinic filed the petition in August 2010 on behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and private citizens from Miami. The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) held a hearing in November in Homestead, Florida to hear the groups’ arguments.

At the November hearing, attorneys raised concerns about the impact the construction and operation of the proposed reactors could have on these imperiled places and communities located near the Turkey Point plant. The proposed use of millions of gallons of reclaimed water per day, that would otherwise be used for Everglades restoration, would come from the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department serving as the primary source of cooling water for the proposed new reactors. After use, FPL plans to discharge some of the reclaimed wastewater into the groundwater via underground injection wells. The ASLB admitted the organizations’ argument that Florida Power & Light’s (FPL) Environmental Report failed to adequately address the impacts that underground injection of various chemical contaminants would have on groundwater supplies.

“We are very concerned about the injected wastewater laced with chemical and radioactive contaminants getting into our precious and limited drinking water supplies,” said Mark Oncavage, a resident of Miami and intervenor. “FPL’s proposal could be disastrous for the area.”

“The Boards ruling clearly recognizes that expanding Turkey Point would threaten the health of our citizens and national treasure Biscayne National Park,” said Kahlil Kettering, Biscayne Restoration Program Analyst for the National Parks Conservation Association and intervenor. “Biscayne already suffers from reduced freshwater flows and adjacent land development, adding an expanded nuclear power plant to the mix could send the park over the tipping point.”

The Board rejected other arguments, including FPL’s cursory treatment of the potential cumulative impacts of the project and FPL’s proposed plans to use radial collector wells underneath Biscayne Bay that could withdraw much needed fresh water from the system. Also rejected were concerns over the loss of several hundreds of acres of wetlands to accommodate miles of new transmission lines. FPL’s failure to fully evaluate other viable energy alternatives including energy efficiency and conservation along with renewable energy options and lack of planning for future potential sea level rise that would adversely impact the operations of the facility were also rejected.

“The Board really got it wrong regarding climate change and sea level rise,” said Captain Dan Kipnis, resident of Miami Beach and intervenor. “With scientists predicting up to three feet of water rise during the plant’s operating life, the whole premise of FPL’s site location appears shaky at best. This is an unbelievably bad idea and bad location to build more nuclear reactors that have a $20 billion price tag.”

Given the recent devastating impacts caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the damage to several nuclear reactors, this proposal reinforces concerns expressed by the organizations about the health risks and potential hazards that would be associated with expanding Turkey Point.

“The reality is that clean, safe energy options are available that won’t pose these serious risks to the community and the pocketbooks of hard-working Floridians,” said Sara Barczak, high risk energy choices program director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “FPL has a long, long way to go, especially now in light of the disaster unfolding in Japan, and would serve their customers well by moving away from such a flawed proposal.”

Citizens Allied for Safe Energy, Inc. (CASE, Inc.) and the Village of Pinecrest filed separate petitions. The Board granted legal standing for both parties and accepted part of two contentions submitted by CASE, Inc. that deal with the storage and management on-site of so-called low level radioactive waste.

For more information on the intervening organizations and legal counsel, visit:

Everglades Law Center, http://www.evergladeslaw.org * National Parks Conservation Association- Sun Coast Regional Office, http://www.npca.org/southflorida * Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, http://www.cleanenergy.org * Emory University School of Law’s Turner Environmental Law Clinic, http://www.law.emory.edu/academics/academic-programs/environmental-law/turner-clinic.html

Download the August 17, 2010 petition at http://www.cleanenergy.org/index.php?/Testimony.html and the recent ASLB decision at http://www.cleanenergy.org/images/testimony/2011-02-28_TP_ASLBOrderContentionAdmissibility.pdf.