FPL says customers should pay for its pollution mistakes (+ profit)

George Cavros | November 8, 2017 | Energy Policy, Nuclear

If you see smoke in your home, you are going to check out the source of the smoke, right? If the smoke gets thicker, your are definitely going to call the fire department to limit damage and save your home. You are certainly not going to sit on your hands.                                                              

That’s why its stunning that FPL sat on its hands – for 40 years – after it knew or should have known that it had a problem with an underground contamination plume from its cooling canals at its Turkey Point plant. There was “smoke” everywhere in the way of data, but FPL and its consultants downplayed it and just plain ignored the warning signs.  State regulators in 2016 issued a Notice of Violation to FPL for violating ground water standards meant to protect drinking water. FPL and regulators agreed on a clean up plan.

The clean up will cost over $200 million. FPL wants its customers to pay for it AND the price tag will include a profit for FPL – if the company gets its way at the Florida Public Service Commission.

That’s right, FPL wants families and businesses in its territory to pay for a return on equity (shareholder profit up to 11.55%) on a portion of the recovery well equipment value in addition to paying for the costs to clean up its mess.  A hearing on the company’s request at the Florida Pubic Service Commission wrapped up on October 27th. The Commission will render a final decision December 12th.  Here’s what we learned:

An expert in the case testified that FPL should have known in 1978, but certainly by 1992 that it had a pollution problem on its hands. The 10 square miles of cooling canals had been leaching hyper-saline (super salty) water, and other contaminants, underground forming a plume that has been  impacting the  Biscayne drinking water aquifer.

The graph below from the hearing provides a view of the increasing salinity in the cooling canals over time. See a trend? This is FPL’s own data, yet it  claims that the first time it had an indication that its cooling canals were causing harm was in 2013. Does FPL’s claim sound credible?



FPL could have gone to regulators to get permission to address the growing pollution problem over the last 40 years, but it never did so. It was revealed that the company hired consultants that were rushing to develop clean up strategies in 2010. Yet, FPL never adopted any of the consultant’s recommendations. Meanwhile the problem got worse. Finally, state regulators had to step in.

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, along with Office of Public Council, and the Florida Industrial Users Group are challenging FPL’s request to loot customers for its pollution mistakes. Briefs will be filed by the parties on November 13th. The December 12th Commission meeting is fast approaching. If you’re a FPL customer, don’t miss your opportunity to have your voice heard! After all, FPL customers shouldn’t have to pay for FPL’s mistakes.

Contact the Commission here.

George Cavros
This blog was written by a former staff member of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
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