Thursday, April 12, 2018

Florida Power and Light Turkey Point Nuclear and Its Cooling Canals Polluting Biscayne National Park ... by gimleteye

(UPDATED: 3:00PM) So what happened at the county commission on Tuesday, with the "joint power agreement" between county taxpayers -- represented by the county commission -- and FPL, represented by former Scott environmental chief Mike Sole and Steve Scroggs?

It is hard to say. From the vantage point of county TV, it wasn't clear that anyone on the dais was on the same page. And that includes the county attorney who should be helpfully parsing dialogue from commissioners and matching it to the legislation and amendments under consideration.

Yesterday (the morning after the meeting), Chairman Esteban Bovo muddied the waters even further when he tweeted:

Solar power charging stations were not "making history". They weren't the main event by a long shot.

FPL's Turkey Point facility is authorized by the state of Florida to use nearly as much fresh water per day as all the visitors and residents of Miami-Dade combined. The key purpose of the joint participation agreement, which was not settled at the end of the day (when FPL normally gets its way -- and that might truly be historic) -- was to sequence approvals, investments, and monitoring requirements that the county could impose on FPL in the event that the county's wastewater is piped down to South Dade, subsequently treated then used as coolant in one gas-fired reactor and as a "contribution" to solving the crisis of its law-breaking cooling canal system. Oh, and FPL's need to get Miami-Dade on board with a 20 year renewal license for two of its reactors, among the oldest in the nation.

Somewhat less than .5% of electricity users in Miami-Dade have a clue about the controversies surrounding FPL's fortress-like, nuclear power plant in South Dade, at the shoreline of America's degraded Biscayne National Park. Brief explanation.

At Turkey Point, hidden behind security cameras and gates, the owner of a massive polluting industrial facility is dictating to taxpayers the terms of its pollution, its monitoring, and the costs of cleaning up what should never have occurred in the first place.

Miami-Dade county has been a compliant partner of FPL for decades. In exchange for reliably supplying low cost energy (FPL reminds us), the county willingly ceded local authority without giving its critics an inch.

That began to change a few years ago, when it became clear that the nuclear reactors were spreading a toxic, underground plume of water from the cooling canal system (required by law to be self-contained) toward south Dade drinking water wells and God knows where else, because FPL had throttled the expansion of monitoring stations into Biscayne National Park. (Generally speaking, it is not a good idea to be caught dumping toxic waste into Florida waters or a national park even if you are FPL.)

So here is the meat of the matter at the county commission that didn't remotely make it into Bovo's tweet. Commissioner Rebeca Sosa offered an amendment to the joint power agreement, which no one had time to preview from the outside but appeared to reflect a torrent of criticism (from the Miami Herald to this blog) about the wild and costly experiment FPL is undertaking at the nuclear power plant to stop and to reverse its pollution. Efforts which, by the way, avoid what its critics want: conventional cooling towers, close the cooling canal system, and clean up the damage FPL caused and should be required to pay.

To make a long story short, when faced with the Sosa amendment and an important clarifying amendment from Daniella Levine Cava to close trap doors that would have further frittered away county leverage -- FPL did its level best to steer the outcome its way.

Commissioner Levine Cava attempted to amend Sosa' language to include: "The approval of the JPA for the advanced reclaimed water project shall not be considered as an endorsement of Florida Power & Light Company’s request for license renewal of nuclear power units 3 and 4."

FPL's goal is to dictate both the terms and the expenses (funded by you and me, ratepayers!) to clean up pollution that would not have happened in the first place but for the willingness of state environmental regulators (thank you, Gov. Rick Scott and the South Florida Water Management District!) to turn a blind eye.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez was the one who let FPL off the hook.  He had brought the matter to the dais. As for the commissioners' long-standing request for a report on wastewater reuse, Mayor Gimenez staff dropped the 400 page report -- requested exactly a year earlier -- the night before the meeting.

The way it happened (and again, there was so much dust in the air at that point in County Hall, you needed a flashlight to see your hand): an agreement was made by the county commission to proceed with the FPL agreement, including provisions that continue to push the county to align with FPL on the failing cooling canal system and polluting facility while postponing to some indeterminate date -- (after more brutal negotiations between county staff and FPL) -- on the specific accountability for water quality involving treated wastewater.

Commissioner Sosa refused Levine Cava's amendment. A spokesman for Levine Cava explained: "Commissioner Levine Cava was seeking to add stronger water quality language to the agreement, so was initially very supportive of the edits offered by Commissioner Sosa, until the language was softened to permit it (ie. water quality) to be a negotiation point." Her vote was an objection to the surrender of leverage by the county and the willingness to let FPL kick the can down the road on water quality standards until an indeterminate date in the future. (Civic activists, who painfully waited the entire day for a chance to speak, were denied the chance at speaker's podium by Chairman Bovo.)

A press release by the Southern Alliance For Clean Energy after the meeting offered the following:
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), a clean energy advocacy group, shared serious concerns numerous times about the agreement with the Commission. SACE argued that using reuse water lacking stringent water quality standards without a commitment to also close Turkey Point’s antiquated canal system and upgrade the cooling technology to cooling towers would substantially delay the cleanup at Turkey Point, resulting in long-term impacts on the region’s drinking water resource and the health of Biscayne Bay. SACE joined local organizations before Tuesday’s vote in demanding the inadequate agreement be strengthened before the County approves to prevent additional nutrients being flushed into the aquifer and the Bay.

“We appreciate the Commission’s attempt to strengthen the agreement with FPL, but the devil is in the details and we believe FPL was ultimately given yet another pass despite their track record of failure at Turkey Point. We remain concerned that a comprehensive solution to clean up the aquifer groundwater and Biscayne Bay from pollution caused by the FPL’s facility using the best technology was not approved,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of SACE. “Moving forward, especially as FPL seeks approval to extend the nuclear plant’s operating life for another 20 years, we implore the Commission to remain vigilant holding FPL’s feet to the fire. Commissioner Cava’s amendment would make it clear that the County is not tacitly supporting the relicensing of Turkey Point and that is step in the right direction.”

SACE contends that if the Joint Partnership Agreement was approved without a commitment to closing the cooling canals and installing cooling towers, the pollution plume will be exacerbated by the daily addition of tens of millions of gallons of treated municipal wastewater to Turkey Point’s canal system.

Dr. William Nuttle, a leading expert on coastal hydrology and ecosystem restoration, with over 25 years of experience working on projects in South Florida, said in a statement last week that the cleanup process could succeed in a much shorter time frame if key modifications are made. Dr. Nuttle’s analysis, which was shared with the Commission, demonstrated that if the canals were replaced by cooling towers, the timeframe for successful remediation will decrease by many decades. Without any changes, it will take over 60 years for FPL to completely retract the plume using recovery wells, while the utility claims 10 years. The cooling towers would use reclaimed reuse water, also providing a solution for the County’s mandate to stop dumping treated wastewater into the ocean by 2025. Dilution was not the solution FPL has committed to through the consent agreement and consent order.
FPL -- one of Florida's biggest suppliers of electricity -- does not freely disclosure science and fact to anyone, including the mayor and county commissioners. In addition to downplaying its pollution of Florida waters and Biscayne Bay, it has seriously impeded the monitoring of pollution eastward.

The company has tangled on its plan to site new power lines in Everglades National Park and down the US 1 corridor with a number of municipalities, including the City of Miami. It has funded through third parties; nasty, dirty political tricks against perceived opponents (cf. South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard). It exerts huge pressure on the state utility commission, where its petitions for rate increases -- like those to design two new nuclear reactors for more than $20 billion of ratepayer moneys -- have been rubber stamped. It has supported anti-citizen ballot initiatives including one to tighten its grip on the state's solar power future by making it harder for consumers and busineses to adopt home solar panels. According to Politico on April 10, "An accountant hired by the state Office of Public Counsel is calling for a $70.4 million reduction in Florida Power & Light Co.'s request for Hurricane Matthew's expenses. FPL on Feb. 20 filed an updated damage cost estimate of $316.7 million. But Helmuth W. Schultz III of the Larkin & Associates accounting firm in Livonia, Mich. says the FPL failed to justify $24 million in charges to replenish the utility's storm reserve." And ratepayers are already paying hundreds of millions of dollars to fund the engineering and design for new nuclear reactors in a market area defined by low lying topography whose chosen supplier, Westinghouse, is struggling to emerge from bankruptcy.

FPL could do so much better. Spend the money for the conventional cooling towers. Fix the pollution that should never had occurred in the first place and for which FPL should have been penalized from the start. Get on the side of ratepayers and taxpayers. If FPL won't listen to reason, maybe NextEra -- the parent company and its board of directors -- will.

County moves toward using wastewater in FPL canals, but won’t set water standards yet

April 10, 2018 09:18 PM
Updated April 10, 2018 09:53 PM
A plan to use treated wastewater to freshen Florida Power & Light’s troubled nuclear cooling canals will move forward, for now, without meeting strict water standards set for nearby Biscayne Bay.

On Tuesday, Miami-Dade commissioners authorized the county staff to negotiate the deal, but put off setting the standards.

Instead, terms of the costly treatment will be ironed out as the utility and the county staff work out details. Any project will ultimately come back to commissioners for final approval. But by then, critics worry it may be too late.

“Once we build a reuse treatment plant, we’re not building it again,” said Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, the only commissioner to vote against the plan. “That’s why we have to think about the future.”

Mayor Carlos Gimenez pitched the deal in January as a simple solution to two thorny problems: meeting a state deadline to reuse up to 60 percent of the county’s wastewater and cleaning up the aging canals. On Thursday he said including standards now would complicate the process.

“We need to put the right water in the right place and the right quality in the right place,” he said. “Right now it would be premature to put any standard in it.”

Cooling canals at Turkey Point that cover nearly 6,000 acres have been fueling an underground saltwater plume threatening drinking water wellfields and leaking into Biscayne Bay.

Environmentalists have also objected, warning that putting wastewater into the leaky canals could worsen pollution in the bay.

Two years ago, after years of mounting evidence that the salty canals were helping fuel a massive underground saltwater plume, county environmental regulators confirmed canal water had begun leaking into the bay. Evaporation combined with rising temperatures in the canals had caused water to become increasingly salty and sink, creating the plume. The utility is now in the midst of a $200 million cleanup.

The utility is also struggling with an uncertain future for the power plant. Two new reactors were shelved amid mounting construction costs last year. FPL instead plans on applying to extend the operating license of the two existing units, which are nearly 50 years old, by another 20 years.

At Tuesday’s meeting Cava tried to make it clear that the county did not support the continued use of the canals. Last year, the commission voted to urge staff to retire them.

But it now appears the reuse plan will help support extension.

“For us to move forward with the project, the … license renewal will have to occur,” FPL vice president Mike Sole said. “Otherwise we can’t make an investment on what will be a very short term for that project.”

Commissioner Rebeca Sosa also proposed including stricter water standards, but Sole objected, citing the expense.

“It would truly be like using boutique water to water your plants,” Sole said.

Sosa also insisted that the county report back on the status of the canals in a year to ensure progress is made.

Any water entering Biscayne Bay, part of a national park, must meet strict standards developed specifically for the bay because of its low tolerance for pollution.
Biscayne National Park

Cava also pointed out that 16 months ago, she asked the county staff to come up with a more thorough plan for reusing wastewater that addressed efforts to help revive coastal wetlands. Reusing wastewater was originally part of a 2000 Everglades Restoration plan that shared the cost with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Cava finally received a plan of 400-plus pages late Monday.

“It was four months late, but that’s not so bad,” she quipped. “The idea of working with FPL to reuse water has great promise, but it’s not enough.”

The proposed new facility would be able to treat up to 60 million gallons of wastewater a day, enough to generate 45 million gallons a day of usable water. Up to 15 million gallons would be used daily to cool the natural gas unit and 30 million gallons for the canals. Sole said meeting strict water quality standards could make the project too expensive.

“We understand it is more expensive, but there are also opportunities,” Cava said. ‘We would rather have water that would be really good for our environment, and not just the cooling canals.”


Anonymous said...

Please stop citing the Miami Herald as some kind of arbiter of truth. Villoch, Marques and Hirsch are running that formerly so-so publication into the depths of despair.

I agree that the county should have put some teeth into their bite regarding FPL but remember this is a government run by special interests and has been since the industrial revolution. You do realize the Herald does not have to accept FPL's full page and half page ad buys promoting their bullshit, right?

Unknown said...

I wish this were unbleivable rather than predictable. FPL has done a very good job of promoting themselves so while people may complain about bills, they still think of the company as a giver of light rather than a producer of pollution that threatens our bay and our drinking water. It will take a major effort to get the word out to enough people to put enough pressure on elected officals to stop them from simply rolling over. Maybe we need a whole bunch of high school "nerds" to rescue us. In the mean time -- keep education us and thanks.