The following article appeared in the Palm Beach Post on June 29, 2017.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Sierra Club files appeal of $800 million FPL project approval
The Sierra Club filed an appeal Wednesday in the Florida Supreme Court asking it to overturn the Florida Public Service Commission’s approval of Florida Power & Light Company’s $800 million peaker project.
The Sierra Club said FPL customers are being forced to pay for “the utility’s aggressive expansion of fracked gas infrastructure, despite failing to prove it’s necessary.”
To read the filing, click here.
Last year the PSC approved FPL’s request for $800 million in construction costs to replace power plants that supplied South Florida’s peak demand.
FPL spokeswoman Sarah Gatewood said in a statement Wednesday:
“The Sierra Club is an extreme group that takes extreme positions, so while we are disappointed, we’re not surprised at the actions taken by this Washington-based lobbying group. Apparently they’re more interested in generating headlines and donations than working with the cleanest electric company in Florida and one of the cleanest in the Southeast United States.
“Rather than recognizing our innovative approach to running our business and the resulting significant benefits for all customers, including 1,200 megawatts of cost-effective new solar right here in Florida over the next four years as well as plans to shut down three coal plants by 2019, this out-of-state group is instead moving forward with more frivolous, expensive litigation that will cost all Floridians – not just FPL customers, but all Florida taxpayers,” Gatewood said.
Gatewood said the PSC approved a settlement following a year-long process that included more than 30 witnesses, countless hours of cross examination by attorneys for all parties, including the Sierra Club, and hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence, FPL and the Office of Public Counsel, which represents all customers, as well as other major customer stakeholder groups,unanimously agreed.
The Sierra Club asserts that by Florida law, FPL was supposed to present the PSC—and the public—with substantial evidence to prove these plants were needed and were the least cost option before building them or asking to raise customers’ rates to cover the costs.
The company never obtained pre-construction approval for the new gas plants, even though FPL itself has admitted that solar can supply peak demand cost-effectively, the Sierra Club said.
Not only did FPL fail to analyze alternatives to sinking ratepayers’ money into these gas plants, but the PSC failed to require them to do so—despite knowing the peakers FPL was building could be economically obsolete and superseded by alternate resources as early as 2020, the filing states.
In the appeal, Sierra Club asks the court to reverse the PSC’s approval of the project because it violates the “prudent investment requirement” stated in the law, and because it was not supported by competent substantial evidence.
Sierra Club also asks that the PSC specify what amount of FPL’s last rate increase for customers was attributable to the gas plants project and is now precluded from recovery, and asks that the PSC allow only the recovery of FPL’s expenses that can actually be determined as prudent.
Susannah Randolph, senior representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Florida, said, “Florida already has the worst gas over-reliance problem in the country, yet nearly 70 percent of FPL’s electric generation relies on gas, while only about 1 percent comes from cheap, clean solar power. Making Floridians pay more of their hard-earned money for fracked gas that we don’t need adds insult to injury.
“The PSC is supposed to make sure our communities get services ‘in a safe, reasonable, and reliable manner,’ and should therefore require FPL to maximize safe, cheap renewable energy resources that would protect Florida’s environment and also shield our families and businesses from the volatile fossil fuels market, Randolph said.