Thursday, July 14, 2016

FPL Sued Over Turkey Point Crisis By Environmental Groups In Federal Clean Water Act Lawsuit ... by gimleteye

Yesterday environmental groups -- Southern Alliance For Clean Energy, Tropical Audubon Society, and Friends of the Everglades -- filed a Clean Water Act lawsuit against FPL in federal court. The company responded predictably, calling the lawsuit a "publicity stunt".

In fact, fresh water resources belonging to the people of Florida are being drained from the Biscayne aquifer in emergency steps to cool FPL's nuclear reactors. FPL claims it will spend $50 million this year to remediate the problem, but the steps it proposes are speculative, risky, and unproven.

A lot of ratepayer money goes into newspaper and television ads painting Florida Power and Light as a good citizen. In contrast, FPL has been covering up escalating problems in the operation of two aged nuclear reactors for many years; specifically, its open cooling canal system -- a massive loop of unlined canals dug into coral bedrock. The state should have required the corporation to make costly changes to Turkey Point's operation long ago.

Miami-Dade elected officials, county commissioners and mayor, could have rejected local zoning changes until FPL was forthcoming on science and data about its pollution to the east and west of its boundaries. Never happened.

The problems extend beyond the boundaries of FPL Turkey Point. An additional 20,000 acres of lands adjacent to FPL Turkey Point should be filtering clean, fresh water to restore the Everglades ecosystem and Biscayne National Park. This area, called the Model Lands, is being desert-ified by FPL cooling needs for the nuclear reactors.

FPL has played outside the lines of its binding legal commitments to protect our waters, including a national park, critical to South Florida. For years, the westward march of aquifer contamination has been traced by the radioactive isotope, tritium. FPL lobbyists obstructed, blocked, and frustrated all efforts to hold the company accountable. Now, the eastward migration of a contamination plume is also being traced as though it was "new information".

The federal lawsuit by environmental groups is a result of FPL's mismanagement, which should be obvious to agencies like the Florida DEP except that it has been captured by FPL. The agency's former top official, Michael Sole, is now a FPL executive. (Sole is also on the board of the Everglades Foundation which has also downplayed the crisis.)

At a recent, hastily called field hearing in Homestead, suddenly "concerned" state legislators heard Mr. Sole talked about "freshening" the cooling canal system as if its problems were cosmetic. The fact is that so long as the cooling canal system is used -- instead of cooling towers like every other nuclear facility in the world -- pollution will continue to claim South Dade and resources treasured by Keys communities like Ocean Reef as FPL's sacrifice zone.

This crisis should have been addressed long ago. If FPL had followed its binding legal agreements, Clean Water Act litigation would not be necessary. But it is necessary, and so is public support for the groups standing up.

Southern Alliance For Clean Energy

Friends of the Everglades
Tropical Audubon Society


Beth Kibler said...

Thank you for covering this. We are all so clueless about how this leak is being "cleaned up" and how we are being set up to pay for this company's negligence.

Anonymous said...

This Virginia case could be relevant.

Dominion coal ash suit could have nationwide disposal consequences
By Robert Walton, July 14, 2016, Utility Dive: Demand Response Newsletter
Dive Brief:
• A federal judge in Virginia is deliberating in a case focused on Dominion Virginia Power's plan to close coal ash basins in the state, which is first of its kind, and experts believe an appeal is likely and a trip to the U.S. Supreme Court may be in the cards, the Associated Press reports.
• The Sierra Club has sued Dominion for discharges of arsenic and other toxic substances into groundwater from 3 million tons of coal ash it has stored along the Elizabeth River in Chesapeake. At issue in the case is the scope of the Clean Water Act and how it applies to contaminated groundwater; the rule as it stands doesn't directly address groundwater protection.
• The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has supported a "cap in place" plan for dealing with the waste, but environmental advocates want the ash moved in order to prevent it leeching into waterways.
Dive Insight:
The case could have broad implications for similar coal ash cleanups around the country and the status of groundwater protection under the Clean Water Act. Currently, the national spotlight has been on the Southeast, particularly focusing on North Carolina's ongoing issues with coal ash disposal after the 2014 leakage of coal ash waste by one of Duke Energy's coal ash storage facilities into the Dan River.
Following almost a week's worth of complicated testimony, the AP reports there is no indication when Judge James A. Gibney Jr. will rule on the Dominion coal ash case. But whatever the outcome, experts interviewed by the news outlet expect an appeal and a possible trip to the U.S. Supreme Court to determine issues focused on the Clean Water Act.
“It’s always been a real gray area the extent you need a Clean Water Act permit for situations where there’s leeching of toxics materials into groundwater,” Robert Percival, director of the environmental law program at the University of Maryland, told the AP.
While the utility claims its coal waste can be safely stored in place, with liners that would avoid rainwater leeching and contamination of nearby waterways, environmental advocates want the ash moved to a lined landfill.
In a brief filed last month, Dominion said that it had 73 samples of surface water taken near the site over the past 13 years which maintained arsenic concentrations below state and federal standards.
Scientists at Duke University last month released the results of a study finding leakages from coal ash ponds were contaminating groundwater at fifteen sites in five Southeastern states, including Virginia.
The Southern Environmental Law Center, which funded that study, is representing the Sierra Club in the case against Dominion Virginia Power. The groups say the utility discharged toxic substances from millions of tons of coal ash into groundwater, thus violating the Clean Water Act.

David said...

When FPL decided to get into the nuclear game, they initially wanted to suction and discharge lines directly into the bay with the discharge pipe as long as necessary to ensure proper disbursement of the warm discharge water into the ocean. This plan was mixed. The next proposal was for cooling tower ("like every other nuclear plant"), but that plan was nixed by environmentalists. The cooling canal system was the last option. If stretched out, the system would be 186 miles long. It is visible from space. It is also the largest American crocodile habitat in the US. I don't know if he still works for FPL, but Joe Wasilewski, who has been featured in animal programming on The National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, etc., was the man who worked diligently with the alligators & crocks. Shame on FPL, Miami-Dade County, the State of Florida and the NRC for not requiring the canals to be lines. I don't know how long it would take, but that's what need to be done now. Both reactors would have to be shut down for the duration which will be a heavy hit for replacement power & loss of revenue. In addition, Turkey Point is also important for grid stability at the extreme south end of their territory.In the meantime, a study should be conducted to determine if the canal system can absorp the heat load with two additional nuclear units. I suspect it will not.

Alexandria said...

FPL knew this plant was a disaster since Andrew. The problems were mentioned regularly at the SFWMD board meetings and were always glossed over. When they asked for and got 100 MILLION GALLONS of extra water per day 2 years ago the administrative employees said it was great idea. SFWMD lead weasels said yes without batting an eye. Everyone involved with this fiasco deserves to be in prison. The NRC, DEP, PSC,& SFWMD need to be gone. They were all well aware and even some so called environmentalists kept quite while excepting donations from FPL. Anyone interested can go get the info. Eric Draper was a poster boy for FPL. FPL has been violating the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act for several decades. Hopefully the Changing the Current FPL campaign will backfire and the meaning will be FPL gets shut down. They are one of the biggest polluters of Florida's water and air none of their plants are clean it is just one big lie. The fraud of FPL involves many I can only hope we can save Florida from the greed before its to late.

Anonymous said...

Wanna do something constructive? Send a contribution to Southern Alliance for Clean Energy to support the suit.