When the power goes out we lose everything – some even lose their sense of decency

Grant Miller

Grant Miller

I take no comfort in criticizing any city or their elected officials. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t say how shameful it is that several municipalities are conveniently placing all the blame for the power outages caused by Hurricane Irma on Florida Power & Light.

Yes, losing power is terrifically aggravating. Just ask anyone who didn’t have electricity for a week or more – but the vast majority of the people living across the county did.

In fact, within a week of the storm, FPL had restored service to 99 percent of customers affected by the storm that swept the entire Florida Peninsula.

I’ve come to learn that Miami-based MSP Recovery Law as well as Dorta Law have filed a class-action lawsuit against FPL for inadequately maintaining its infrastructure and equipment, which allegedly resulted in the loss of power to nearly 4.4 million customers statewide. Here’s the rub: The law firms are seeking between $2 and $3 billion in damages. Yes, that’s Billions with a “B.”

The potential for damage becomes greater in areas with dense vegetation and overambitious programs aimed at increasing the tree canopy.

Potential for damage is greater in areas with overambitious programs aimed at increasing the tree canopy.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the storms of 2004 and 2005 put out the lights for many, many more days. From where I stand, it’s clear to see FPL has improved its hardness to tropical storms and hurricanes tremendously. I can’t say enough good about FPL’s restoration.

Utilities are responsible for girding and protecting their power plants, transmission lines, and poles. And clearly, some damage is unavoidable during severe storms like Irma whose winds exceeded 90 mph.

But the potential for damage becomes exponentially greater in municipal areas featuring dense vegetation and overambitious programs aimed at increasing the tree canopy – apparently at any cost.

In the past, FPL complained that cities really needed to cut back foliage along their tree-lined streets. The utility notes that trees were planted by the city in dangerous locations far too close to power lines. Other trees appear to have been planted too close together, preventing their root systems from being able to grow properly and hold the ground securely in high winds.

And it has also come to the surface that a local elected official is actually employed by one of those firms, MSP Recovery, pointing to possible motivations other than civic virtue for deflecting blame to the utility.

If the attorneys going after FPL for billions in damages prevail, their firms stand to collect millions and millions of dollars, while we ratepayers potentially end up getting hit with higher bills for years as the utility recovers the costs of the suit. Who wins? The greedy law firms do.

When the power goes out, we lose everything – but some even lose their sense of decency.


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16 Comments on "When the power goes out we lose everything – some even lose their sense of decency"

  1. Peter Myrtetus | October 9, 2017 at 1:17 pm | Reply

    I agree 100%. Not saying that FPL has no blame, but if Homeowners and Cities are going to plant trees under wires or to close to wires, and then not manage the growth of those trees(let alone allowing them to grow through or around the wires), then it’s the Homeowner’s or City’s problem/fault.
    Manage the issue/problem that you created, then start pointing fingers.

  2. I agree. It is disturbing that anyone would even consider filing a lawsuit because of the storm. After Andrew, I was without power for 3 weeks and it never entered my mind to sue FPL. And people wonder WHY FPL wants a rate hike!

  3. Frank Kowalski | October 9, 2017 at 4:24 pm | Reply

    Well put Grant and Peter. There needs to be a measure of responsibility for everyone who’s vegetation encroaches on FPL’s easement. I was without power for 10 days because several property owner between my house and the main line allowed their vegetation to grow out of control. The part I fault FPL for is a total neglect of their easement. Over ten years ago I was told by an FPL vegetation control team that I had a potentially dangerous situation created by 3 coconut palms planted by the original owner under the power line. They offered to remove them; and frankly I shouldn’t even been given a choice in the matter, but they were gone that same day. I read some where that FPL’s policy for vegetation control is trimming once every 5 years. In my opinion it should be revisited annually. I’d rather see more money spent on vegetation control than one more ad on TV extolling the virtues of how great FPL is. FPL is good, but could better

  4. I TOTALLY AGREE WE HAVE A BUNCH OF UNETHICAL OR MORONS INDIVIDUALS IN OUR CORAL GABLES GOVERMENT THAT NEEDS TO GO !! AND THE FACT THAT OUR MAYOR ALLOWS THE LAW FIRM OF ONE OF OUR COMMISIONERS NEEDS FEDERAL INVESTIGATION !!

  5. Horace G. Feliu | October 9, 2017 at 5:59 pm | Reply

    As we have seen time and time again…Lawyers are the only winners. Too often politicians fail to negotiate the best deal for their city during the franchise agreement renewal process only to cry and play the blame game later.
    Leadership is about prevention and negotiating the best deal which should include semi annual tree trimming, burial of power lines wherever possible and replacement of conventional street lamps with solar powered LED street light which do not required power lines.

  6. I agree with your comment about FPL trying to do the best they can and for our city to have all electric services restored within a week is something to be thankful for. How sad that there’s always someone who wants to profit from natural disasters instead of appreciating the endless hours of work that a lot of people put in to bring others back to their comfort zone.

  7. Bullshit. this wasn’t cat 4 in Miami. I went 7 days with zero power. Sign me up for the class action against FLorida Plunder & Loot.

  8. James Sullivan | October 10, 2017 at 9:20 am | Reply

    I agree with Horace…..AGAIN, the only ones who win are Attorneys !! This is THE major cause for our homeowners insurance premiums skyrocketing. Shady attorneys and water restoration companies filing lawsuits with insurance carriers without even giving the insurance companies a chance. It’s called AOB ( Assignment of Benefits ) and they’ve figured out a loop hole to jack up the claim causing insurance companies to either raise rates for us all OR leave the state entirely !! It’s disgusting and MUST STOP

  9. Eric Firestone | October 10, 2017 at 9:26 am | Reply

    I disagree. The actual lawsuit aims at a main concern – the concern is that FPL has charged everyone a “STORM SURGE” charge, claiming that the money collected was to be allocated toward protecting the system from such outages. I do not live in one of those areas where vegetation is over abundant. In fact, my area has all of our lines underground, yet I still lost power for several days. Although we tried to eat most food in our fridge, we were still left having to throw away and replenish quite a bit. FEMA provided no remuneration, as we missed the cut off by one day. FPL has provided no remuneration, so I ask – where is all that money going? Did it go to all the outsourced companies that came to assist with our repairs? If so, that’s not maying our structure more sound. Furthermore – I was out power for several days this past month and have had intermittent ac because of the storm, personal issue, but somehow my bill only went down $70. There is an issue when you are a monopoly provider and you fail so many of your customers. Finally, I leave you with another thought – areas that had gas provided by the city, were left uninterrupted because the city had good infrastructure; the water and sewer department was also uniterrupted – good infrastructure; FPL, the only private provider, for profit, failed thousands of customers.

  10. Michael Fleming | October 10, 2017 at 9:35 am | Reply

    I’m sure that FPL and the many out of state contractors that came to help, did the best they could. I agree 100% that suing FPL is totally misguided. Our society tends to be very Egocentric and sue happy. On the other hand, I also totally support growing as many trees as possible, creating as much shade and canopy as possible. The truly wasteful thing is bare lawns and golf courses. The truth is, stuff happens and we all need to help each other afterwards.

  11. Cully Waggoner | October 10, 2017 at 10:24 am | Reply

    I’ll agree with you that sometimes people lose their minds and decency when the power goes out for long periods of time. I think the outrage was mostly from people on the East Coast of Florida that only experienced Tropical Storm conditions and not a full-fledged Hurricane. Hurricane Andrew wiped out buildings, almost nobody griped about being without power because most in South Dade lost everything.

    Hurricane Irma decimated The Keys and Florida’s West Coast. For the most part almost, nobody in Miami had any significant building damage. Sure, there were shingles that came off roofs, fences that fell down and trees a lot of trees that collapsed and fell, some of them taking down power wires when they fell. That’s the heart of the problem and both sides are to blame.

    The cities like their trees and we have a huge number of trees all through South Florida. They are not properly maintained and become a problem. FPL could if they wanted to, put more power wires underground, but they don’t because that would cut into their profits. Like most corporations, FPL puts profits before people. After all, like all public corporations they have Shareholders to answer to.

    FPL spent millions and fought hard against people having Solar Power on their homes. With a big enough system, people could disconnect from FPL’s grid and FPL is not going to lose customers, because then they lose revenue and profits. FPL will allow homeowners to have solar power, but it has to connect to FPL’s grid and they don’t allow batteries to be recharged by the solar panels. There were people in South Florida that had solar panels and were still without power.

    FPL will allow homeowners to have a standby generator. It disconnects the home from FPL’s grid while it runs so it will not back feed power into it for safety reasons. However, FPL knows that running such a generator long term is not economically feasible, it would cost more than what FPL charges for power each month. Unlike solar that would ultimately pay for itself and be free renewable energy.

    So both sides are to blame, the cities, villages and townships for not properly maintaining the trees, because it would cost them money and FPL for not doing more to harden their infrastructure because it would cost them money.

  12. FPL is no longer reliable when we have hurricanes and sometimes we lost power also even when it isn’t raining .The government should allow us to install solar panels sans permits but it should be inspected by the city .Qualified homeowners could install it on their homes so we have power for lights and and small airconditioners when FPL power supply conked out .

  13. Raul Villaverde | October 12, 2017 at 5:45 pm | Reply

    Sorry Mr. Miller, you need to be a little wiser before writing a piece of misinformation like this. The issue is $3.0 billion is surge charges to strengthen the grid that was knock cold with a tropical storm, not the trees that feel down. Where are the concrete poles, better transformers, and reliable grid enhancements? The trees in my area “Sunrise Harbor” were all trimmed significantly, no power lines fell, but we lost power for 7 days.

  14. I would love to hear the facts!

  15. Mr. Miller, did you bother to read the lawsuit in question before writing your editorial? Answer please.

  16. Mr. Miller is writing a story that supports FPL. Nothing wrong with crediting FPL for mobilizing out of state electric companies that were present in Miami before Irma and many more arrived after Irma. A job well done in that area. However, blaming the long days of outage on trees is ridiculous and irresponsible on part of FPL. Let’s look at the very old infrastructure that needs to be upgraded to today’s standard. In the month of August, my neighborhood lost power three times due to whatever failed and neighbors expected to lose power during Irma since it occurs on a regular basis. Due to Irma, my neighborhood lost power for only 11 days, an improvement over the last hurricane by 3 days. How many years have FPL customers been paying a storm surcharge with zero improvement in the infrastructure? Now FPL customers will be paying even more for storm surcharges, what is FPL doing with our $$? I believe installing underground lines in older neighborhoods, high concrete poles, and other newer technology is due to FPL customers at this time. Realizing this is an expensive task, infrastructure improvements will save FPL $$ long term and increase dependability to customers. Don’t blame it on the trees, we need our trees in our hot climate.

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