Residents from some of South Florida’s most affluent communities gave Florida Power & Light an electrifying jolt of testimony at the second of four public hearings Thursday night at the Coral Gables War Memorial Youth Center.
The utility’s plan to run two major power line corridors through Miami-Dade County brought about 350 residents from Coral Gables, Pinecrest, South Miami, Kendall and Palmetto Bay, along with environmental groups, elected officials and representatives from FPL, to the overflowing Youth Center.
Florida Administrative Law Judge D.R. Alexander presided over the hearing and will write a recommendation to a siting board headed by Gov. Rick Scott and his Cabinet in October. A decision from Tallahassee is expected in December.
“We need the power,” said Gables resident Felix Pardo. “There’s not enough solar power or windmills to provide 2,200-megawatts of power. It doesn’t exist. And anyone who thinks it does should keep reading their comic books.”
But Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, along with mayors from South Miami, Coral Gables and Palmetto Bay, cited a negative impact on economic development and property values if FPL’s plan moves forward.
“We’ve spend hundreds of thousands of dollars . .. especially along the U.S. 1 corridor,” Lerner said. “To have that marred and destroyed by these monstrosities, these industrial strength poles, they have no place along the gateway on U.S. 1.”
Environmental group, Sierra Club, also said the plan would damage Biscayne Bay and opposes nuclear power over safety concerns.
FPL says the new lines are vital to supplying energy to South Florida’s growing population and projects that they could save customers $75 billion in fossil fuel costs over the 40-year life of the project. Nuclear energy, FPL contends, is free of emissions and doesn’t produce greenhouse gases.
The public hearings, which began Monday in Homestead and which will resume Tuesday and Thursday at the Miami Airport Convention Center, are a part of a state certification process. If approved, one set of 230-kilovolt lines on 80- to 100-foot poles would run from Turkey Point up U.S. 1 through Cutler Bay, Pinecrest, South Miami and Coral Gables, to a substation in Coconut Grove. A trio of 500-kilovolt lines on 150-foot poles would run along the border of Everglades National Park.
Earlier this month, Coral Gables filed suit contending the proposal violated its 30-year franchise agreement which expires in 2028. Coral Gables Mayor Jim Cason testified that the lines should go underground and along an existing corridor west of the city. “In addition to the immense size, these power lines will have a sway as large as 15 feet which means they can hang over a lane of Ponce [de Leon Boulevard] affecting property values and will have an averse impact on residents.”
Gables resident Jeannette Martinez agreed. “As residents, we have to abide and comply with the city’s strict zoning codes and FPL should do the same.”
FPL project manager Steve Scroggs said if FPL gets state and federal approval for two new reactors, the earliest date for getting them on-line would be 2022 and 2023. The projects’ cost is at least $18 billion. FPL’s position is that putting the lines underground would raise costs by five to eight times.
South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard said that property values decline between 10- and 12-percent when large power lines stand along residential neighborhoods. “This aesthetic translates into dollars. A 10-percent decline would cost our municipalities $400 million in property values.”
Stoddard also said that his research has shown that power lines can double the risk of Alzheimer’s.
But Jerry Paul, a nuclear engineer and contributing expert with the Sarasota-based Energy Information Center, disputed Stoddard’s claims.
“He suggests that there’s proven data showing leukemia and Alzheimer’s increase under power lines and that is a myth,” Paul said. “It is based on political theory, not a scientific theory.”