When I read the following OPED recently printed in a Hawaii newspaper, I was seriously confused. Either Florida Audubon and the Everglades Foundation were punk'd -- in which case the OPED represents a serious ethical breach for which an immediate disclaimer should be published -- or if the OPED was penned by Florida Audubon and Everglades Foundation, then it sets a record in groveling to special interests; in this particular case, the state's largest electric utility -- Florida Power and Light.
In Hawaii, FPL's parent company -- NextEra Energy, Inc. -- is pushing hard to complete an acquisition of that state's primary electric utility. The point of the editorial appears to be to alleviate the concern of Hawaiians by demonstrating a close -- even loving -- relationship between environmentalists and FPL. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. That's the reason my first inclination was to read the OPED as a prank.
I am board president of Friends of the Everglades, founded by Marjory Stonemason Douglas in 1969. Our members and leadership were deeply involved with FPL when it sought licensing from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for two nuclear reactors in the 1970's in one of the most flood prone and low-lying areas of the state, Homestead Florida. In particular, we advocated for a massive, 168 mile long cooling canal system to ensure what was to become a national park -- Biscayne National Park -- and thousands of acres of high quality wetlands would be protected. Without the cooling canal system, FPL would have turned its super-hot cooling water -- tens of millions of gallons per day -- directly into Biscayne National Park.
Decades later and the results are in: the FPL cooling canal system has failed. Audubon and the Everglades Foundation know the facts perfectly well: super saline water that FPL promised would be contained within the cooling system has not only turned vast expanses of the area surrounding FPL's Turkey Point into a wasteland, impacting the national park, it has also infiltrated the drinking water aquifer, jeopardizing drinking water supplies.
The historical record is clear: FPL has not been a good corporate citizen. It violated every consent agreement it made at Turkey Point -- memorialized in binding, legal compacts with the state of Florida -- with respect to protecting water quality and habitats around that nuclear facility. Data shows that FPL's stewardship of an endangered species, the American crocodile, that used the cooling canals for breeding has also failed. In 2015, the state of Florida literally walked away from its iron-clad commitments.
Moreover -- right now! -- FPL is spending millions of dollars to defeat a state ballot referendum sought by pro-solar activists who have spent many years fighting the utility at the Public Service Commission where rules and regulations have been distorted to protect the industry's interest in centralized power distribution. As a result, Florida is a laggard in the nation on solar installed at the consumer level despite marketing itself as "The Sunshine State".
Furthermore, FPL is seeking licenses from the NRC for two additional nuclear reactors, an effort speeded by "early cost recovery" through which FPL executives have profited despite public opposition. FPL has meddled in local city elections, using the heinous tactics including trying to smear an incumbent elected official, its most effective critic, as a pedophile. Its lobbyists steamrollered the local county commission, over the objection of environmentalists, in laying out its plan for new nuclear at Turkey Point. It has bought influence at the state level with massive political contributions. A quick review of FPL's filings with the SEC show that the words, "climate change" and "global warming" or "sea level rise", appear nowhere in its risk assessments for investors.
So, it is hard to know: did FPL's publicity department punk Florida Audubon and the Everglades Foundation, or, if the greens did surrender, what were its terms and if its terms were accepted, at what price?
Audubon & Everglades Fdn CEO's praise NextEra/FPL in Honolulu Star-Advertiser
NextEra Energy has been a partner in protecting Florida's environment
By Eric Draper and Eric Eikenberg
POSTED: Nov 22, 2015
Electric utility operations require lots of water, and the Everglades and other ecosystems need fresh water. So our organizations go out of the way to make sure that Florida utilities are efficient, thrifty with water and prioritize solar energy.
One utility that always listens to Everglades advocates -- in fact, they seek our guidance -- is NextEra and its subsidiary, Florida Power & Light.
Power plant siting and mitigation, replacing dirty plants with natural gas and solar, and making power lines safer and healthier for birds and pollinators are all areas where we have reached good decisions with NextEra.
When a large utility acquires a local electric company, it's natural to have questions and concerns. We hope sharing some of our experiences will help eliminate some of your concerns.
NextEra gives back to communities across Florida. It has been a leader in the state business community, but at the same time, recognizes that environmental regulations promote both the environment and good jobs.
Unlike many of its peers, NextEra has taken a national leadership role in supporting President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan. We've worked with NextEra Energy to limit and phase out coal-fired power plants and to replace oil-fired plants with natural gas and solar.
And, here is the best part: When it modernizes or builds new plants to serve its customers, it wants our advice on how and where to build the plant -- even the solar energy fields.
Figuring out how to conserve water is a big challenge and one we are especially concerned with. That is why our organizations secured policy that capped new uses of water from the Everglades. Instead of opposing this, NextEra agreed that protecting the Everglades is important and developed a plan to use treated reclaimed wastewater instead.
Florida, like Hawaii, is facing a lot of growth. We are two of the nation's most beautiful and diverse states. You may be known for pineapples, and we may be known for oranges -- and a gulf and an ocean may separate us -- but we share a deep connection with the natural world. Our states are both blessed with beautiful climates, incredible ecology and wild treasures -- from iconic flora and fauna to breath-taking beaches that attract millions of visitors from around the world.
Our recommendation is to make sure you make your priorities clear and keep the communication lines open. A few years ago, we asked NextEra to look into moving the route for a natural gas pipeline to avoid habitat for an endangered sparrow.
"No problem," company executives said.
We also asked them to let us monitor threatened kestrels nesting in boxes on their power poles. Within weeks, our biologists were peeking into the nests. NextEra asked us for a plan to incorporate native species into the landscape for the manatee viewing center.
"Absolutely," we said.
NextEra Energy is a company that doesn't hesitate to tell it like it is. It is good at what it does, and it doesn't settle for shortcuts. It is a company you want on your side because you can count on it, and it will count on you to share your expertise with it.
NextEra Energy has been a valued collaborator and supporter of our organizations for many years. We hope Hawaii has the same experience.