FPL has had its way with the Miami Dade county commission on permitting issues requiring local approval. But that was before $40 billion in damages from Superstorm Sandy. That was before new evidence of sea level rise: US A1A washing away in Fort Lauderdale, Alton Road flooding on ordinary high tides, and extreme weather events across the nation. In other words: we know what is coming because climate change is here and now.
For a lay person, it is not hard to understand the consequences. Sea level rise isn't "disputed". It is not a matter of "what if's". Or even a question of "when". (For those interested in details, read yesterday's post and watch the PBS Frontline "Climate of Denial".)
To date, despite millions invested by the county in reports, science and data, not much has percolated through to elected representatives in planning and protecting public health and welfare, not to mention taxpayers and property owners, from sea level rise.
A recent Miami Herald editorial -- commenting on the importance of the multi-billion dollar settlement between the EPA and the county on its wastewater treatment upgrade -- planted its flag firmly on the side of science and evidence that seas are rising. There couldn't be a clearer time to take a stand.
On Thursday morning, the commission serving Florida's most populous and politically influential county has a new chance to prove its capacity to adapt to changing circumstances. In a quasi-judicial hearing, the commissioners will decide whether to approve "an unusual use permit" for a major sewage treatment plant to provide "clean" water to cool the new nuclear reactors -- in the middle of high quality wetlands -- and for a back up cooling system that would draw water from under Biscayne National Park.
This is the time for the county commission to block $20 billion in infrastructure at sea level -- the projected FPL cost.
FPL's calculation of sea level rise by the end of the century is roughly half of accepted science estimates. But recent reports are dashing earlier models. The rate of change in the climate is occurring far faster than predicted only a few years ago. Estimates of "only" 3 feet by the end of the century, or the one and a half feet predicted by FPL's planning scenario, will likely fall by the wayside. Dr. Harold Wanless, chairman of the Department of Geologic Sciences at the University of Miami, states that the rate of change is going to be closer to six feet than three feet in earlier IPCC modeling.
Whether three or six feet, FPL's Turkey Point will be stranded. The rate base will have to retreat from low lands that define South Florida's landscapes.
If ever there was a time to take a second look at new nuclear at Turkey Point by the county commission: this is it.
News about the $40 billion cost of Superstorm Sandy is now superceded by reports that agencies, for nearly two decades, had warned elected officials of exactly the scenario that unfolded in New York and New Jersey.
Obviously the political will could not rise to the challenge, then. Miami-Dade County government officials are in the same boat.
Less than ten years ago, local commissioners ordered the most far reaching study of county-scale watersheds ever conducted in the United States and promptly shelved the findings when they irritated special interests, concerned about the effects on development. Things change, or do they? Not even the housing bust has dashed the hopes of the status quo for new growth in wetlands.
We can't keep kicking the can down the road on climate change, when our roads are being washed away by high tides. We can't stick our heads in the sand, when the beaches are washing way, too.
Conservationists in Miami-Dade have been frustrated by the FPL planning onslaught, where time after time, elected officials have closed their eyes, shut their ears, and covered their mouths. Kudos, that they keep trying. It is time for the Herald and the public to weigh in, against new nuclear reactors at Turkey Point.
FPL's Turkey Point is not just the wrong place, it is the worst place in the United States to put new nuclear.
Unfortunately, early cost recovery, approved by state government and elected officials, keeps FPL staff and executives on the boil. They are literally programmed by profits to do the wrong thing.
The county commission, on Thursday morning, could take a big, big step forward by denying FPL's request.