MAC: Mines and Communities

A Mega Environmental Eisaster In The Making?

Published by MAC on 2007-02-03
Source: Miami Sun Post

A Mega Environmental Disaster in the Making?

Miami Sun Post

3rd February 2007

Will FPL's Future Coal Plant Speed Up Global Warning? Protestors Think So

The amount of carbon dioxide emissions would be more than any new power plant in the country, she says.

By Cynthia Archbold

"Imagine the Ritz under 10 feet of water!" That's what one sign, held by those protesting coal plants and global warming, said. Another sign warned that "Coal Kills."

It's not every day that international protestors take to the streets of Key Biscayne to warn about new threats of global warming coming from plans to build coal power plants.

But that's what happened Wednesday in front of the Ritz-Carlton.

About a dozen environmentalists came to protest the Coaltrans Convention, a meeting of top coal industry leaders to discuss building more coal power plants in the United States and Latin America.

"The pressure needs to be on FPL [Florida Power & Light]," says Scott Perry, a Glades County resident who came to Key Biscayne to protest.

He says pollution from Lake Okeechobee turns the Caloosahatchee River into an opaque pea soup every spring, and a coal power plant would make the Everglades a toxic wasteland.

He and other environmentalists say coal power is outdated and devastating to the environment.

But FPL's slogan is coal is "the right choice for right now," and according to its Web site, is cheaper and easier to obtain than natural gas.

Moreover, Florida's largest utility company also claims that coal power technology "has undergone dramatic improvements in efficiency and pollution control in the last 30 years."

Not enough, however, to satisfy environmentalists who oppose FPL's plans to build a coal-fired power plant about 125 miles north of Miami on Lake Okeechobee near Moore Haven in Glades County.

FPL wants to build the plant right on top of the Everglades, just as the national park is about to undergo the biggest environmental cleanup in the nation, according to Susan Glickman, consultant for the Natural Resources Defense and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

FPL's huge, 1,960-megawatt coal-fired power plant, providing electricity to 650,000 homes, would be the kiss of death for the Everglades, Glickman says. The coal power plant will spew colossal amounts of mercury and toxic carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases that increase global warming, according to Glickman.

The amount of carbon dioxide emissions, 16 million tons each year, would be more than any new power plant in the country, she says.

Why haven't we heard much about it? Glickman answers: "FPL went to Glades County and essentially held secret meetings and negotiations there." She says FPL officials met with that county's Community Development Department, without public notice, promising $21 million to the county in annual property taxes, and lots of new jobs.

On Sept. 12, 2006, the Glades County Commission passed a resolution to support FPL's site plan application.

"I can understand why this would be very appealing to people in Glades County," Glickman says. "Twenty-one million dollars in tax revenues is more than their annual budget. It's a very small county, 11,000 residents, with few resources."

Glades County Manager Wendell Taylor says FPL's power plant proposal is "the first of its kind in the world." He says, "If information comes out that it's bad for the community, that it's dirty, we won't support it."

Taylor says there will be a year-long process of public hearings, beginning on Feb. 20, where the public will be able to speak out and hear from environmentalists before the plant can be approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Two years ago, FPL's efforts to build a similar plant in St. Lucie County so outraged citizens that they persuaded their County Commission to vote against it.

Now St. Lucie commissioners are urging their counterparts in Glades to do the same.

Glickman says conservationists will fight FPL every step of the way, if need be all the way to the governor's office.

"And I believe Governor Crist and his cabinet will find that a giant old-style coal plant is not in the interests of the people of Florida."


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