It was a curious performance by the county commission. One observer noted, "First, three or four commissioners call in saying they will not attend. Then it takes until 10:15 AM before Barbara Jordan shows up so they have a quorum of seven. Then, nobody noticed that the acting chair disappeared about 11:00AM so they no longer had a quorum. Finally, when they were down to about four, they realized they did not have a quorum and postponed the meeting. And this was not a zoning meeting about some one's fence or tool shed; this was about billions of dollars of nuclear energy at Turkey Point."
Yesterday I wrote that citizen objectors to zoning by the county commission never participate in the back room dealing that points to predetermined outcomes. A bare quorum of the county commission indicated that nothing would happen at the meeting of substance. That is exactly what happened when FPL made its forty five minute presentation and a few commissioners vanished from the dais when citizens began to testify.
Having lost the quorum, the meeting was adjourned with a milk-toast apology by Commissioner Bovo to the objectors who sat, absorbing what had just happened. It is not a pretty picture.
Paying attention, you can read between the lines. This is a "quasi-judicial" proceeding, meaning that FPL is not supposed to talk directly with elected officials, and elected officials, of course, are not supposed to talk among themselves. FPL has spent a lot of time with county staff, and county staff act as intermediaries with the elected officials.
Just listening to the presentations: FPL is trying to ram permits through the county, for a water re-use plant, to provide cooling water for the new nukes, in high quality wetlands. That is an industrial use that violates the Dade County master plan. FPL is also trying to get the county to approve a scheme for back up water supply for the new nukes.
Over the past six years, FPL has muscled its plan for new nuclear forward, not just with county staff, but also with the state and Nuclear Regulatory Commission. By yesterday, the deal had not yet been cooked with the county.
The county commission was not ready to roll over for FPL, and if it managed to irritate the environmentalists by dragging them to county hall then refusing them the chance to offer their testimony, then the commission was killing two birds with one stone. Some day the environmentalists will sue: they are already locking procedural horns with FPL. Either way, it was no skin off FPL's back.
To be sure, the cost of assorted consultants and payroll to FPL was expensive: an exercise is building pension portfolios for the assorted lawyers, consultants and experts.
So what are we to do? We adore the electricity the utility provides. Can't live without it. Talk about hiding in the tall weeds of complexity. We are all uniquely compromised by our dependencies. The grand bargain confers unreasonable power to corporate executives who themselves are causing massive harm to the public through the unique forms of bipolar disorder connecting corporate mandates for profit to the implacable realities of global warming.
It was mildly entertaining to listen to the FPL attorney and consultants insist, in relation to the so-called radial collector wells -- the backup water supply -- that state authority pre-empts Miami-Dade County. When it is convenient, FPL routinely insists that county has the right to its jurisdiction, never mind what the state does. After all, as the attorneys pointed out: in 2007 the county commission "approved" the new nuclear reactors. At the same time, FPL has frustrated the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) with incomplete information, data, and submittals.
State environmental agencies continue to turn a blind eye to legal, binding agreements made with FPL decades ago that require the company to prevent the intrusion of hyper saline water, inland in south from its existing, two nuclear reactors. The salt water intrusion issue in South Dade is a cluster-fuck of enormous proportions. (If those wellfields turn to salt, it serves South Dade right; all those bankers, farmers and commissioners who made tossed salad of environmental concerns over the years and decades will have earned the result.)
In other words, FPL puts light to the struggle between states rights and federal interests, and issues of county jurisdiction. It is great fodder for political gridlock, but it is disinformation of the nation's most powerful utilities.
That said, I have a certain feeling for The Leviathan. Yes, it sounds perverse. The Leviathan has a planning horizon of decades, and know we do not have decades before our economic stability is eroded by rising seas. There is a role for nuclear -- in my opinion -- because of global warming. Just not at sea level and not in South Florida. This dance with the nuclear devil is a disgrace, but climate change is over-running our capacity to adapt.
What FPL is attempting at Turkey Point is wrong. Very smart people are being paid a small fortune to carry out bad plans and decisions of executives at the top.
We do have an energy policy crisis at the national level. If you think that FPL is intractable; try out the fossil fuel industries for size and comparison. Trying to offer a clear picture is a form of pleading: the nation's utilities are part of the problem, and there is no solution without them.
The struggle over the new nuclear reactors at Turkey Point is a waste of precious time, talent and money. Early cost recovery -- approved by the GOP legislature -- allows everyone involved (except the environmentalists, of course) to feather their nests while the years drag us along.
In my opinion, there is zero chance new nuclear reactors will be built at Turkey Point, but this will take years to become clear. Adversaries who might better cooperate to address the realities of retreating from coastlines while providing safe passage for the economy are like hamsters on a wheel. And if new reactors are built there is a high likelihood that the costs will triple when they will have to be decommissioned because of rising seas during their service lifetimes.
That won't stop the Miami-Dade county commission from rolling over, when the coast is clear. (That could be in early January, when the commission is scheduled to meet again and allow testimony from those who wasted their time, yesterday.) It won't stop the state of Florida from rolling over, either.
So what will stop the reactors? It could be extreme weather. It could be extreme flooding and storms. It could be the will of Congress. It could be federal lawsuits by environmentalists. But what it should be, is the nation's utilities coming together to demand a sea change to their own profit models.
There are plenty of top utility executives who understand the status quo that makes them rich is unsustainable. If they have a shred of integrity they will use the attached video as a preamble to a conference where they apply human capital, based on their own need for survival, to come up with a sustainable energy portfolio for the nation that makes economic sense and gradually reduces carbon emissions to zero.
Also read: For citizen objectors, what it is like to testify at a county commission zoning hearing.