Tuesday, December 02, 2014

FPL and new/old nuclear … by gimleteye

Taken as a whole, the results of the 2014 election were a mandate for coal and oil, the main drivers of fossil fuel combustion that is making the planet uninhabitable for intelligent life. The point is: politics is about energy, energy is about people, and climate change threatens to take down everything in a whirlpool of destruction that will make current intractable conflicts seem like walks in the park.

The danger is that intelligent life in corporate boardrooms will wake up to the threats to their airies too late to save themselves. For better or worse, the scenario for "doing anything about it" is a mix of decentralized power production, energy conservation, and new nuclear.

So long as climate change is incremental (that is to say, imperceptible as the line delineating rain from snow in the high Sierras) or in someone else's backyard (mass migration and desertification in subsaharan Africa not in Juno Beach, Florida where Florida Power and Light is based) top shareholders and investors will require money to be made the old fashioned way -- more coal, more oil, more centralized energy -- while planning for a future -- more security cameras and militarized police departments -- that is only dystopian in Hollywood sci-fi films (ie. Hunger Games).

We are in the climate change phase of TV news' nuanced discomfort at extreme weather events, not yet applause at pets saving people balanced by a new Adam and Eve colonizing Mars.

Seen from the perspective of energy producers, the 2014 election was a competition between the certainty of growth and the threat of collapse. The collapse is not yet about the natural systems that sustain us -- food and water -- but about the collapse of order in the corporate hierarchy of energy production and distribution. For evidence, look no further than Republicans who are the new US Senate majority leader and the new chairman of the powerful Senate committee on the environment. Mitch McConnell; a creation of fossil fuel industries, and James Inhofe. Neither mountain removal in Kentucky nor man-made earthquakes in Oklahoma will keep these two from their appointed rounds.

This is the prism through which to view last week's decision of the Florida Public Service Commission, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott who once again opened his centimillionaire fortune to secure victory in one of the nation's most electorally important states, to support electric utilities in their request to further marginalize solar energy production in the Sunshine State. Scott outspent his challenger, Charlie Crist by $33 million in the most expensive governor's race in US political history and won by scarcely 1 percent. In the meantime, FPL places a banner ad in a primary Florida news aggregator website: "Did you know: FPL's power plant system is among the cleanest in the U.S."

According to the website, ThinkProgress, "The PSC voted 3-2 to cut the energy efficiency goals of the state’s utility companies by more than 90 percent, a move that was based off of proposals from Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric, and Florida Power & Light. The commission also voted to allow a statewide solar rebate program to expire at the end of next year, and agreed to hold a workshop before 2015 ends to try to determine how Florida could implement cost-effective solar programs. PSC Commissioner Lisa Edgar said that reducing utilities’ energy efficiency targets was "not the direction I want to go in,” and that she was “uncomfortable going to the reduced goals."

That is, in a word, bullshit. Yesterday, FPL petitioned the Public Service Commission to get into a new business line in Oklahoma: hydraulic fracking. According to the Miami Herald, "At a hearing on Monday, the state’s largest utility asked regulators for permission to charge customers up to $750 million a year to form a partnership with an Oklahoma oil and gas company because, it argues, the investment would help FPL stabilize fuel prices and save customers money."

In the most favorable atmosphere for regulatory decapitation ever, FPL executives are steadfast in their quest to obtain NRC approval for two nuclear reactors at Turkey Point, in one of the most vulnerable regions of the nation to sea level rise. They are new reactors designed with old technology.

At the same time its two ancient, existing reactors fail legally binding agreements to protect the underlying drinking water aquifer from contamination by salt water intrusion, FPL has generated hundreds of millions in revenue from a provision in state law, regularly renewed by the Republican legislature, for "early cost recovery". By charging rate payers in advance, FPL can mobilize the collective energy of lobbyists, marketers, lawyers and planners for the new/old reactors.

The corporation has not only managed to by-pass severe environmental problems caused by its existing reactors, it has marginalized and segregated opposition: from those opposing high voltage power lines in suburban neighborhoods and commercial districts, to those opposing the same power lines in Everglades National Park or through other public lands, from those opposing the surrender of local control and zoning that could have but did not deter the corporation from advancing its plan through the final state legal threshold: siting.

The siting permit had been the locus of a bitter, multi-year court battle that was decided in the corporation's favor by a state administrative court.  In an October meeting of the Florida governor and cabinet in Tallahassee, the last one before the November election, the major agenda item was whether or not to approve FPL's request to site the two new/old nuclear reactors -- estimated to cost nearly $20 billion -- at nearly sea level at Turkey Point. In scarcely two minutes, the agenda item was approved. Adam Putnam, the state's agriculture secretary, and Pam Bondi, the state attorney general, uttered a few perfunctory, scripted sentences. Gov. Scott -- whose campaign substantially benefited from contributions by FPL -- made no sound at all, other than voicing his vote: yes.

By the time FPL makes its final push for licensing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the corporation will have spent over half a billion dollars in rate payer money for the wrong technology in the wrong place.


Anonymous said...

While FPL continues the fiction of planning to build two new nuclear power plants at Turkey point just so that they can fleece their customers charging additional subsidies through the Early Cost recovery, they also want to build those monster transmission lines along US 1 and through the environmentally sensitive parts of the Everglades,(if they ever get the license), and perhaps most important and harmful of all, use up our drinking water to keep the cooling canals cooled, and continue it all making a good return for their investors. at what point are they no longer seen as a good corporate partner( wink,wink) in Sourh Florida, and instead as the poisonous corporate invader they have always been.

Anonymous said...

Honey Boo Boo Bell sez: It's New-cue-lur, y'all!