A battle is playing out at the state Supreme Court about whether customers of Florida Power & Light should pay for an environmental clean-up project in Miami-Dade County.
The Florida Public Service Commission filed a brief Monday urging the Supreme Court to uphold a decision that allows FPL to recover money from customers to deal with a saltwater plume that moved from a 6,000-acre power-plant complex into nearby groundwater.
The state Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers in utility issues, took the issue to the Supreme Court, arguing that FPL customers should not get hit with the costs, which a court filing says could total $206 million over 10 years. That cost would be spread out among all of FPL’s 4.9 million customers across half of Florida, including all of Flagler County, where FPL provides power to some 54,000 customers.
In the brief Monday, the Public Service Commission said its decision to allow FPL to recover the costs is “reasonable and commonsensical.” It pointed to part of state law that allows electric utilities to pass along costs to consumers for expenses related to environmental regulations — a part of state law known in the utility industry as the environmental cost recovery clause.
The project stems from saltwater moving from a cooling-canal system totaling 168 miles of canals at FPL’s Turkey Point complex into groundwater. FPL in recent years, after acknowledging that it broke the law, entered into agreements with the county and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to fix the problem, and the Public Service Commission brief said the utility should be able to recover the costs because it is complying with environmental regulations.
“The consent actions (agreements with Miami-Dade County and the Department of Environmental Protection) impose specific new requirements that apply to FPL in relation to its function as an electric utility, including the abatement or remediation of the hypersaline plume,” Monday’s brief said. “The consent actions are environmental regulations pursuant to (the environmental costs recovery law.)
But in a brief filed in May, the Office of Public Counsel described the December decision as requiring customers to “bail out FPL for the decades that the company allowed the hypersaline plume to spread and build up.”
“The money at issue will not pay for ‘compliance’ with laws or regulations designed to protect the environment, but instead will explicitly pay for FPL’s noncompliance because the costs are paying for cleaning up the effects of decades of FPL’s past, unlawful pollution,” the Office of Public Counsel argued.
The brief also stated that the cost-recovery law at hand “authorizes environmental cost recovery by investor-owned electric utilities from customers, and limits recovery to only those costs incurred to comply with environmental laws or regulations. The statute restricts the definition of environmental laws or regulations to provisions which are ‘designed to protect the environment.’ The plain meaning of the term ‘protect’ is to prevent harm or to preserve from injury. As such, the statute generally applies to prospective,
preventive measures, but not to measures taken to reverse or correct illegal environmental harm after a violation has been issued and effectively conceded.”
The Office of Public Counsel is asking the court to order FPL to refund to customers any amounts recovered to date for the Aquifer Repair Project and order customer rates to be reduced accordingly.
The Public Service Commission, which each year considers environmental costs for utilities, voted unanimously Dec. 12 to allow FPL to collect the saltwater-related costs through customer bills. The Office of Public Counsel filed a notice in February that it would appeal to the Supreme Court, which has not indicated when it could hear the case.
In the brief Monday, the commission sought to rebut the arguments by the Office of Public Counsel, saying there “is ample record evidence showing that FPL fully cooperated with its environmental regulators.”
FPL’s website describes the canal system, saying the “5,900-acre manmade cooling canal system offers ideal nesting conditions for the American crocodile. The shy reptiles comfortably settle into numerous small ‘island-like’ land formations known as berms located throughout the system, which offer ideal nesting conditions and a vast supply of food. The canals, located near the crocodiles’ natural coastal habitats, also provide first-rate shelter for the animals.”
The case is Florida Office of Public Counsel v. Public Service Commission, Case Number: SC18-213.
–FlaglerLive and News Service of Florida
John Dolan esq. says
FPL should be paying us to tolerate service that is below what I am willing to accept for a guaranteed profit public utility service. The infrastructure is similar to Bagdad under sadaam.Failure to get service back quickly without the same excuses. No public communication but stonewall and lie. One of the worst outfits in America!
Way to courts,just suck it from customers,
Not their profits
Regardless the outcome of the court case.
Where would FP&L get $206,000,000 from.
Linzey Chaffin says
From their profits and cut the big wheels salary
No we should NOT pay, but we will in the end as the payment will be hidden in the smoke and mirrors of the utility cooperate business.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
We don’t have a Public Service Commission – we have a Public Dis-service Commission! The members of this commission should be elected by the PEOPLE they serve not chosen by their personal pals; and, lobbying should be illegal.
It seems that ‘sovereign immunity’ now automatically applies to all entities- public and private who now can do whatever they want, with our money and answer only to their pals.If we the people don’t put our feet down and take the time to fight for our rights I am afraid this raiding of our piggy banks will only get worse and worse.
Let’s hope the Supreme Court still remembers who they represent.
Is always the same the almighty rich corporations or individuals bleeding our pockets with the approval of those appointed to defend our interest going stabbing us in the back. Public (Dis) Service Commission looks and sounds as ridiculous as the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission giving out licenses to kill mother bears and their cubs.
Dear Capt- You are certainly “right on” with your comment. It’s more and more likely that even the “good ole boys” in Florida Supreme Court will say that we consumers will have to pay for FLP’s criminal acts, but either way we’ll all pay. That is the “real” cost of moving vital utilities into the “for profit” private sector.
We “should” be keeping “utilities” under control of our government, but that will never happen.
Let’s see, FPL admitted that THEY broke the law BUT the consumer has to pay the fine. Will FPL go to prison for me if I were to break the law? I doubt it!
Fire the public service commission. Anyone got their names and addresses lets go protest outside their doors
Here you go guys
is meant to complain about the utility companies, but everyone should go in there and file a complaint, but state in the complaint description that you are complaining against the PSC itself and their corrupt decisions.
Tell them to resign. Someone should pull a permit to assemble and protest and lets march on their headquarters.
And one last note :) heres why they don’t act in our best interests.
Michael Cocchiola says
This is why we need to elect Ryan Torrens Florida’s attorney general. He’s a consumer advocate and lawyer. He stands for the consumer. something Pam Bondi would never do and has never done.
Vote for Ryan Torrens on August 28 in the primary and on November 6 in the general election. It’s your money and don’t let Florida Power/Duke Energy take it.
There goes my $3.00 credit on my bill.
Stranger in a strange land says
Per RP and Michael C. , don’t just vent here in Flagler L.! Vote for candidates that will represent consumer’s interests, not industries that lobby and make big political contributions. Also, rattle your cage by venting/complaining to the Public Service Commission, your state legislators and other elected officials. If they don’t know voters are watching and upset, nothing will change. I wouldn’t mind paying for environmental projects to comply or even exceed regulations. I am outraged that we may have to pay for the misdeeds of FPL that damaged our environment!. If this is allowed what will defer future misdeeds? Let the stockholders who benefited from this over the years pay the price of skirting the law by FPL management. Maybe then stockholders would demand resignations of those responsible. REAL CONSEQUENCES! Thanks Flagler Live for bringing this to our attention!