A Shady Deal: Vote No on Amendment 1

amendment-1I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year writing about energy issues and detailing the various injustices that consumers in our community have suffered at the hands of Florida Power & Light (FPL). You now have the opportunity to send them a loud message by voting No on the utility backed Amendment 1. This is a company that has known since the 1970s about its leaking reactor cooling canals at Turkey Point. Not knowing to stop digging when its in a hole, FPL continues to recover money from customers for two proposed $20 billion reactors at the same location which it has made no commitment to actually build. With approval from at the so-called Florida Public Service Commission (PSC), they lost $4 billion for customers with a program to hedge natural gas prices. It took the Florida Supreme Court to pull back a decision made by their PSC pals when they allowed FPL to charge customers for a speculative investment in an Oklahoma-based fracking company.
Back here at home, we await a decision on FPL’s recent 24% rate increase request. That request includes an additional $240 million in profit. FPL made over $1.6 billion in profit last year.
As if all that wasn’t enough, now they want to make it even harder for families like yours and businesses to have solar on your roof. Costs for solar panels have dropped 66 percent since 2010 and it’s a threat to their business model.
 So, the state’s four privately owned power companies got together to create a deceitful amendment to our state constitution to help protect their monopoly. They have spent almost $23 million to fool you into voting for something that sounds like it promotes solar but rather will pave the way for more barriers to solar. It’s an obvious question, why would FPL and the others spend tens of millions of dollars to amend the state constitution unless it gives them a leg up? The answer is always money. Follow the money. By killing solar, they kill competition.
Just how would they do that? By crushing your right to connect to the grid and generate your own solar power – a policy called “net metering.” The proposed amendment would place a presumption in the Florida Constitution that solar customers are being subsidized by non-solar customers. This a completely unsupported allegation. But when did the facts matter to FPL?
Studies in 10 states have shown that rooftop solar provides a net benefit to the power company and all customers. Rooftop solar generates energy during times of peak demand reducing the need to build more power plants. FPL doesn’t like that because they maximize their profits by selling more power and building more plants.
Putting Amendment 1 in the Constitution would open the door for the utilities to go to the Legislature or the PSC and have them impose unfair fees and discriminatory penalties on solar customers. That would leave Florida stuck in the dark ages on solar policy. It has no place in our Constitution. In Carl Hiassen’s column last week, he slammed the utilities’ con job declaring, “Let the scum shine.” Hiassen points out that “From its beginning, the secret strategy for selling Amendment 1 was to deceive Floridians into believing it was a populist, pro-solar movement.”
Those who were paying close attention already knew it. Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente called Amendment 1 “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” in her dissent in the 4-3 decision approving the misleading amendment.
But now we have it on tape. Miami Herald Capitol reporter Mary Ellen Klas uncovered what Hiassen called, “ a devastating audiotape “ of a Tallahassee think tank whose Board Chair is a Gulf Power board member bragging that, “Amendment 1 is an incredibly savvy maneuver” that “would completely negate anything they (pro-solar groups) would try to do either legislatively or constitutionally down the road.
Wow! There you have it. Readers: It’s crunch time. We must do what we can to defeat Amendment 1. The scum only shines if we let it.
No matter how you vote in the Presidential election or other races on the ballot, send a message to the power companies on November 8th. It’s rare that citizens can impact something this important. Let’s not squander the opportunity.
Whether you vote by mail, early or on Election Day, tell the utilities to take a hike. Vote “No” on Amendment 1. And then tell your friends, family and strangers on the street to do the same. Check out VoteNoOn1.org for more information or to volunteer on Election Day.

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