Friday, December 14, 2012

FPL Nuclear and Bipolar Disorder: what happened yesterday at the county commission ... by gimleteye

Miami-Dade environmentalists turned out at the county commission yesterday to object to two "unusual use permits" sought by FPL for its $20 billion new nuclear reactors. They never got the chance.

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.


Anonymous said...

Here are the big turkeys who did not show up:
Xavier Suarez - District 7
Sally Heyman - District 4
Rebeca Sosa - District 6
Pepe Diaz (came too late) - District 12

Why did they stay away?
Voters in their districts hate the Turkey Point expansion, but FPL puts big money into elections. Safest vote is no vote, constituents be damned.

For more details, read Curtis Morgan's story in the Herald:

Anonymous said...

Oops, missed a no-show turkey and two who walked out breaking quorum:

No show:
Javier Souto - District 10

Walk outs:
Barbara Jordan - District 1
Audrey Edmondson - District 3.

Anonymous said...

Suarez has huge problems with both the Mayor of South Miami & Pinecrest appearing yesterday. Edmunson wanted this to go away before the hearing because she just wanted a deferral due to the time it was taking to get one, and low and behold, she was on of the people who broke quorum. It would have been interesting to see where Moss & Bell would have went with their votes. I'd literally bet my house Bell will approve this and make a long hillbilly, unintelligible speech like Diaz to justify her vote.

It was all disgusting to watch and probably one of the most transparent moves I've personally witnessed in a very long time, and there have been some real doozy's in our recent history with the BCC.

To your article, even though I'm a card carrying "R" I agree with the sea level issue and the problems you point out with this "Turkey" in the middle of one of the most environmentally sensitive areas down here!

Your articles the past few days should be high school reading unto themselves! We, as citizens cannot let this kind of stuff continue with both FPL and our BCC.

Bravo to another great piece of writing!

Mayor Philip Stoddard said...


Thanks for your graphically accurate description of the angst of public testimony.

In your recent post you clearly explain how the County Commission is dodging THE most important issue of our lifetime, planning for climate change and sea level rise.

Finally, you give a clear picture of the outrageous disrespect shown to our citizens by those members of the County Commission who abdicated their last chance to cast a vote on the construction of FPL's nuclear plants.

While the Herald buried Morgan's story on page 5B, you and Genius keep it front and center. Keep on blogging, friends.


I was there representing South Miami and saw the amazing show of disrespect to the voters of Miami-Dade County and those who took their time to attempt to testify for our protection.

So that you may govern your own votes accordingly, here's the list:

Barbara Jordan - District 1 - walked out
Jean Monestime - District 2 - stayed
Audrey Edmondson - District 3 - walked out
Sally Heyman - District 4 - no show
Bruno Barreiro - District 5 - stayed
Rebeca Sosa - District 6 - no show
Xavier Suarez - District 7 - no show
Lynda Bell - District 8 - stayed
Dennis Moss - District 9 - stayed
Javier Souto - District 10 - no show
Juan Zapata - District 11 - stayed
Jose "Pepe" Diaz - District 12 - came late
Esteban Bovo, Jr. - District 13 - stayed

Barry J. White said...

Well said Gimleteye. Yesterdays insulting non-performance by our
illustrious County Commission really
points up the sorry excuse for leadership we have in this County.
Kudos to those commissioners who came
on time and stayed for the whole aborted hearing: Monestime, Barreiro,Bell,Moss, Zapata, Bovo.

Fifteen people signed up to speak against the proposal; more attended
to bear witness. Judging by the actions of a majority of our elected
officials, their time is worth less
than the offial's time, not to mention the demeaned value of their opinions, knowledge and information.

The truth is, the matters discussed
yesterday, and now postponed until Jan 10, are far to complex and technical for commissioners to understand at such a meeting. A workshop should be held, open to public participation, to present
the implications of the changes being proposed and even of the whole
Turkey Point 6 & 7 licensing. Should
we even be producing energy at a
Fukushima look-a-like setting? Could you really evacuate Homestead in a hour? No way. Jelly with that
toast, Madam? Could you really get
Potassium Iodide from Tropical Park
to Homestead in time to do any good? The workshop should be held
before the next consideration of the FPL request and attendance should be mandatory for a commissioner to vote on the matter.
Please hold the workshop in February.

Anonymous said...

Why anyone would think this immature show of so-called power at the Miami-Dade Commission is unusual is beyond me. Don’t you realize these commissioners do not care? The minute they get elected they think they have this omnipotent power to do as they please.

For a voter to even get to first base with them, we are required to show up at their amateur meetings with hat in hand, bowing and scraping to make them feel as though they know what they’re doing and then shuffle back to our seat praying that you may get at least a pittance of help from them. Yet, they are voted in year after year because the voters are worse than them, some might even say more stupid than them.

I dutifully go to the polls on every Election Day and vote. Where are the rest of you? If you think these useless people are indeed useless, why do you allow them to stay in office, playing you like a violin time and time again, provoking the voters who pay their salaries and the fancy offices they have, not to mention huge staff salaries. Ask just one of these people where they got their public policy training and they cannot answer. There is no leadership sitting on the dais of this dysfunctional group. Yet they sit there making public policy that affects every one of us and you do nothing but complain?

Most of them are in with the FPL anyway…a quick investigation would show that they all have certain contacts with FPL which means they are FPL all the way. Believe it or not, this sort of blatant display of ignorance from the 13-member Board of Miami-Dade County Commissioners are the most discombobulated group of policy-makers I have ever seen and I have seen a lot!

Why don’t we the voters simply “buy” these officials? It doesn’t take much, just give them each $500.00 a year and you will have them in your pocket. Isn’t that easier than fretting about them?

Anonymous said...

Well this does not make us like these BCC members any more endeared to us. Lets pay attention to the District 8 Commissioner Missy Bell. Is it true that her daughter works for Florida Power and Light:another daughter works in Pepe's police department. That is a sure voter for FPL. Now what other favors have the BCC given to FPL. This is very suspicious no shows, walking out and coming late. They can run but they cannot hide. Thanks to the people and leadership for being engaged. They did not expect this.

Anonymous said...

"There is a role for nuclear -- in my opinion -- because of global warming"
The technology being used and planned for Turkey Point is ancient, expensive and proven unsafe. There is a far better technology called Laser Fusion that could bring the annual cost of energy DOWN to $6 per capita if proper funding is done. If 2% of the Bail Out moneys paid to banks in the past five years were put in research, then really cheap and really safe energy would have been a reality in another five years. And of course oil interest would just have to concentrate on the petrochemical side of their business.

Anonymous said...

The “top utility executives” don’t have a shred of integrity, Gimlet. They remind me of a very low-class advertising campaign for a Cuban furniture store, many years ago, with the slogan, “Lo que importa es el cash!” [What matters is “the” cash]. They are only concerned with the status quo that makes them very, very rich. And about the Public Service Commission, how about renaming it the Public Disservice Commission?

Anonymous said...

Great post. Thanks. Citizens attempting to provide facts and commonsense to BCC commissioners are met with disdain and scorn.