Nuclear reactors at Turkey Point continue to threaten this community’s primary source for drinking water while our area’s monopoly utility, Florida Power & Light (FPL) continues to deflect blame for the problems with leaking cooling canals.
I warned in my column in April, “Turkey Point operations conflict with goals for Biscayne Bay and the contamination coming from FPL’s aging Turkey Point nuclear reactors via the problematic cooling canal system that is polluting Biscayne National Park and the Biscayne Aquifer upon which three million Miami-Dade residents rely on for drinking water.”
As concern grows, thankfully FPL has seen closer scrutiny than ever before, given the scope and duration of this pollution. And with the increasing pressure, the untility has been dealt some serious legal blows with more likely to come.
Recently, in Homestead, two Florida Senate committees held a workshop to discuss Turkey Point’s cooling canals. FPL also has been been called to task by a variety of municipalities and elected officials such as State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner and South Miami Mayor Phillip Stoddard who reached out to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to intercede where the Florida Department of Environmental Protection won’t, due to FPL’s political influence.
FPL appeared twice before the Miami-Dade County Commission and then the Monroe County Commission. Officials and the public in attendance want more immediate action to be taken by the utility to stop this pollution, clean up the mess that’s been created and prevent further degradation.
In the Monroe County Commission meeting, former Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole — who now works for FPL — was grilled by the mayor and commissioners and challenged afterward in presentations by Laura Reynolds, former Tropical Audubon director and now a consultant to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Ed Swakon, an engineer speaking on behalf of ACI, the local rock mining company.
Also at the meeting, a resolution from the Everglades Coalition, comprised of 61 member organizations committed to the full protection and restoration of America’s Everglades, was shared. It contained several important requests for government agencies and regulators to protect local surface and groundwater.
What’s more, FPL, which has proposed building two more nuclear reactors at Turkey Point, saw a Florida appeals court rule that the state power plant siting board, comprised of Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and CFO Jeff Atwater ignored local rules when, in 2014, they approved two massive transmission lines that would impact some of Miami-Dade County’s most fragile wetlands as well as heavily populated neighborhoods.
If you’re wondering why the Florida Cabinet would do that, the Miami Herald reported, “The politically powerful utility has spent $17 million in campaign contributions to influence politicians and the political process in the last six years. Of that, $3.9 million went to political committees for Associated Industries and Florida Chamber of Commerce, which then transferred FPL money to the political committees of Scott, Atwater, Bondi and Putnam. FPL also has given $805,000 directly to Scott’s Let’s Get to Work political committee and $50,000 to Bondi’s Justice for All political committee.”
During the same week FPL was blasted by Miami-Dade and Monroe County officials, they also got an unfavorable ruling from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board which accepted the Everglades Law Center’s argument that there may be a migration of pollutants into groundwater from FPL’s proposed convoluted back-up cooling system for the proposed new reactors.
The writing is on the wall. FPL, if you can’t manage the existing nuclear reactors, why should you be allowed to put our community’s water source at risk or do further damage in this sensitive ecological area with two more reactors? It risks the lifeblood of our economy while socking consumers with a $20 billion price tag. That’s a one-two punch.
“Even more important than the cost is the threat to our precious water resources. Let’s not forget that FPL uses 2.78 billion gallons per day to operate Turkey Point. About half of that will draw from alternative water sources but the other half is coming from our aquifer,” explained Laura Reynolds, consultant for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “FPL is already one of the largest users of water in the state. Miami-Dade and Monroe counties are capped from further withdrawals from the Biscayne Aquifer, but FPL gets away with no real permitted limits.”
What we should be doing is to expand solar power and implement cost-effective energy efficiency programs to meet our power needs rather than further jeopardize our drinking supply with water-intensive power plants. It’s clear the antiquated cooling canal system must be replaced with new, efficient cooling technologies.
One thing is for certain — the spotlight needs to stay on FPL and the public, local and elected officials and the media need to keep paying attention, asking questions and demanding action.