Guest Post: FPL Sued Over Turkey Point Crisis By Environmental Groups In Federal Clean Water Act Lawsuit

Guest Blog | July 18, 2016 | Energy Policy, Nuclear

This is a guest post written by Alan Farago with Friends of the Everglades, who has joined SACE and Tropical Audubon in filing a federal Clean Water Act lawsuit against Florida Power and Light. The original post can be viewed here.

Last week environmental groups — Southern Alliance For Clean Energy, Tropical Audubon Society, and Friends of the Everglades — filed a Clean Water Act lawsuit against FPL in federal court. The company responded predictably, calling the lawsuit a “publicity stunt.”

In fact, fresh water resources belonging to the people of Florida are being drained from the Biscayne aquifer in emergency steps to cool FPL’s nuclear reactors. FPL claims it will spend $50 million this year to remediate the problem, but the steps it proposes are speculative, risky, and unproven.A lot of ratepayer money goes into newspaper and television ads painting Florida Power and Light as a good citizen. In contrast, FPL has been covering up escalating problems in the operation of two aged nuclear reactors for many years; specifically, its open cooling canal system — a massive loop of unlined canals dug into coral bedrock. The state should have required the corporation to make costly changes to Turkey Point’s operation long ago.Miami-Dade elected officials, county commissioners and mayor, could have rejected local zoning changes until FPL was forthcoming on science and data about its pollution to the east and west of its boundaries. Never happened.The problems extend beyond the boundaries of FPL Turkey Point. An additional 20,000 acres of lands adjacent to FPL Turkey Point should be filtering clean, fresh water to restore the Everglades ecosystem and Biscayne National Park. This area, called the Model Lands, is being desert-ified by FPL cooling needs for the nuclear reactors.FPL has played outside the lines of its binding legal commitments to protect our waters, including a national park, critical to South Florida. For years, the westward march of aquifer contamination has been traced by the radioactive isotope, tritium. FPL lobbyists obstructed, blocked, and frustrated all efforts to hold the company accountable. Now, the eastward migration of a contamination plume is also being traced as though it was “new information.”
The federal lawsuit by environmental groups is a result of FPL’s mismanagement, which should be obvious to agencies like the Florida DEP except that it has been captured by FPL. The agency’s former top official, Michael Sole, is now a FPL executive. (Sole is also on the board of the Everglades Foundation which has also downplayed the crisis.)At a recent, hastily called field hearing in Homestead, suddenly “concerned” state legislators heard Mr. Sole talked about “freshening” the cooling canal system as if its problems were cosmetic. The fact is that so long as the cooling canal system is used — instead of cooling towers like every other nuclear facility in the world — pollution will continue to claim South Dade and resources treasured by Keys communities like Ocean Reef as FPL’s sacrifice zone.This crisis should have been addressed long ago. If FPL had followed its binding legal agreements, Clean Water Act litigation would not be necessary. But it is necessary, and so is public support for the groups standing up.

VIDEO: What's polluting Biscayne Bay and Biscayne National Park? Watch this video!
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