Wednesday, May 18, 2016

2016 Elections: How FPL Turkey Point became a flash point ... by gimleteye

These days FPL can't get out of its own way. The problems at its Turkey Point nuclear reactors have been building for decades. Two nuclear reactors are creating one of the industry's major headaches in the United States, leaking polluted water into nearby drinking water aquifers and into state waters and Biscayne National Park.

At the same time, FPL has run roughshod over municipalities in South Florida, through the planning process towards two new nuclear reactors at the same facility in Homestead.

FPL's unilateral power and authority over state politics has been on bright display for years at the Public Service Commission and, last year, through the blanket approval for siting the new reactors last year, by Gov. Rick Scott and Ag. Secretary Adam Putnam.

But with Fair Districts, the tectonic plates in Florida politics shifted at roughly the same time the FPL Turkey Point reactors finally surfaced as a major problem for South Florida.

Where politicians like state senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla once felt comfortable representing FPL as a lobbyist and as a state lawmaker at the same time, that is no longer the case.

Sen. President Joe Negron and Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla
at recent FPL Turkey Point field hearing in Homestead FL
At a recent, rare state senate field hearing in Homestead, GOP legislators were unanimously in favor -- articulated by Senator Anitere Flores -- "not looking back" to mistakes of the past, but "looking forward". The issue is so important that Joe Negron, senate president, came to Homestead to give support to two local state senators (Flores and Diaz de la Portilla) who are in jeopardy if voters remember to "look back" at all the South Florida politicians who have fallen all over themselves in support of FPL Turkey Point.

For its part, according to this morning's Miami Herald (see below), FPL has decided to delay planning for the new nuclear reactors, but still wants ratepayers to spend hundreds of millions in addition to what ratepayers have already paid for planning reactors that may never be permitted. To that, add the rate increase FPL is promoting to the Public Service Commission, now.

We are thankful for FPL for delivery reliable and affordable energy -- as its advertisements constantly emphasize when the company is facing public relations obstacles -- but its heavy-handed tactics are winning few friends.

Flash point, indeed.

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla's firm lobbies for FPL in South Miami, which is at odds with...FPL
MIAMI HERALD, May 10, 2012

When South Miami commissioners were readying to take a vote opposing Florida Power & Light's proposed base-rate increase, Mayor Philip Stoddard got an unexpected phone call -- from his state senator.

Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a lawyer and lobbyist, called on behalf of his firm's client: FPL.

"He did ask me to delay it, and I think they wanted me to delay it again," said Stoddard, who pushed back the resolution for unrelated scheduling reasons. "I wouldn't delay it a second time."

It's not the first time that Diaz de la Portilla or any other lawmaker lobbies a city in his or her district. Nothing prohibits them from doing so.

But Diaz de la Portilla, a Coral Gables Republican who works at Becker & Poliakoff, is not a registered lobbyist in South Miami. And South Miami -- along with Coral Gables, Miami and Pinecrest -- is engaged in an ongoing fight against FPL over the company's proposal to build power-transmission lines along U.S. 1.

Diaz de la Portilla called the brouhaha an attempt by "liberal Democrats ... to slander a Republican Senator." He noted his firm's long relationship with FPL and said he never spoke to Stoddard "about the merits of his resolution." Someone else is representing FPL before South Miami, Diaz de la Portilla added.

"I do not currently represent FPL before South Miami or any City within my Senate District," he said in a text message.

His appearance on behalf of FPL at a recent executive board meeting of the Miami-Dade League of Cities outraged Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, a former Democratic state representative. She called Diaz de la Portilla's gig lobbying cities in his district "unconscionable."

"It's got to be a conflict of interest," she said. "It is a breach of his duty as a representative."

May 17, 2016 7:04 PM
FPL will pause Turkey Point expansion but wants to keep charging customers for it

While it deals with an underground saltwater plume, Florida Power & Light says it will delay construction of two new nuclear units

Company wants to charge customers $22 million but seeks waiver from law that says it must first prove project is “feasible”

FPL says it expects to get federal approval for new nuclear license in 2017

The FPL nuclear energy plant at Turkey Point, March 28, 2016. Pictured in the center of the photo are Turkey Point’s two oil/natural gas-fired generation units (Units 1 and 2) and to the right in the photo are the two nuclear Westinghouse pressurized water reactors (Units 3 and 4). Unit 2 is currently in the process of being disassembled. Emily Michot
By Mary Ellen Klas

Florida Power & Light has told state officials that it will put a four-year pause on its construction plans for two proposed nuclear power plants at its troubled Turkey Point site but it wants the state to waive a requirement that it prove the project is still “feasible” in order to charge customers in advance for it.

“The analysis would impose a substantial hardship upon FPL and violate principles of fairness,” FPL wrote in an motion filed April 27 with the Florida Public Service Commission.

This week, the City of Miami, consumer groups, environmental advocates and some of the state’s largest electric power users, urged utility regulators to reject the FPL request for a waiver, saying the company should be required to justify whether it is allowed to continue charging customers for the $20 billion expansion project that may be halted.

“If a project is no longer feasible or practical, then the costs incurred are not prudent,” wrote City of Miami attorney Victoria Mendez in a motion filed with the PSC on Tuesday. Since FPL plans to recover the cost of the project, she said, “while doing no additional work towards the completion of the project, it is imperative that FPL demonstrate the project is still economically feasible and practical.”

The future of FPL’s planned nuclear expansion project has become inevitably tied to the clean-up of an underground saltwater plume that threatens South Florida’s drinking water supply. The plume is suspected to have been caused by the utility company’s 2013 nuclear plant expansion, intended to increase power output by 15 percent, which overheated the canals and increased salinity of the water.

FPL nuclear plant canals leaking into Biscayne Bay, study confirms

The company submitted its proposed 10-year clean-up plan to state and local regulators on Monday.

FPL’s Turkey Point canal cleanup plan faces county review

Meanwhile, FPL has been planning the expansion of two new nuclear power units — Units 6 and 7 — at the Turkey Point site on Biscayne Bay since 2008. Using a “nuclear cost recovery” law it helped to push through the Legislature in 2006, it is allowed to charge customers in advance of the project’s construction — $281 million for the planning and licensing costs so far. This year, it is asking to be able to charge customers another $22 million in 2017.

In 2013, after Duke Energy customers spent more than $1.5 billion financing a failed nuclear project, the Florida Legislature revised the law to require utility companies to prove that a nuclear project is feasible before the Public Service Commission gives the company permission to move into the “preconstruction” phase of the project.

“This annual feasibility analysis serves to safeguard customers from potentially paying millions of dollars over numerous years on a project when the long-term feasibility analysis may show that it is no longer viable going forward, and, accordingly, may be abandoned,” wrote the Florida Office of Public Counsel, which represents the public in rate cases in its motion filed Monday.

In the April 27 waiver letter, FPL did not mention its troubles with the cooling canal system at Turkey Point but said that because it is in the midst of trying to “maintain a license,” for the current plant, requiring the company to finance a feasibility study for the future units is “a substantial hardship.”

Two weeks later, in a May 11 deposition in the PSC case, FPL officials said that the company intends to continue to charge customers for the new nuclear power units while it puts construction plans on hold until 2020.

FPL told senators at a hearing in Miami last month that it expects the cost of the clean-up to be close to $50 million this year and it will ask state utility regulators to let customers pay for the effort.

Customers to foot $50 million bill for FPL cooling canal clean-up

Meanwhile, the PSC will decide at a hearing Aug. 10-12 whether FPL will be allowed to continue to charge customers for the nuclear plant expansion. Another hearing is scheduled later in August to hear FPL’s request for a 23.7 percent increase annual customer rates.

FPL said it expects to be granted its license for the two new nuclear units in 2017 but, once federal officials grant the license, the company “will not move immediately into the ‘preconstruction work’ phase” but instead maintain its “current state.”

Meanwhile, how and who will pay for the clean-up costs of the polluted cooling canals remains a question. FPL has said it will ask the PSC for approval to have customers pay for the clean-up but the company has not yet filed any petition to recover costs, said Cynthia Muir, PSC spokeswoman.

State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, has urged regulators to reject all rate or fee increases sought by FPL until the issues related to the salinity of the cooling canal system is resolved.

He also called on FPL to withdraw the rate case and have its shareholders bear the cost of the contamination, not customers.

“Putting it simply, it is inappropriate to seek higher profits from your customer base at a time when my constituents and all South Florida residents continue to be impacted by these failures at Turkey Point,” Rodriguez wrote in a letter to FPL president Eric Silagy on May 4.

Mary Ellen Klas:, follow on Twitter @MaryEllenKlas

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think Sen. Negron is in trouble if the state correctional employees "look back" when it comes time to vote.