Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

No rush on power lines


OUR OPINION: Gov. Scott, Cabinet should force more debate before green-lighting FPL proposal for U.S. 1

Steam partly obscures Tower 4, right, the newly-upgraded tower at Florida Power & Light's Turkey Point Nuclear Plant in Homestead, on Thursday April 11, 2013. The additional power generated, about 500 megawatts, is enough to power 312,000 residential customers.
Steam partly obscures Tower 4, right, the newly-upgraded tower at Florida Power & Light's Turkey Point Nuclear Plant in Homestead, on Thursday April 11, 2013. The additional power generated, about 500 megawatts, is enough to power 312,000 residential customers.

Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet on Tuesday are scheduled to take up the issue of whether to grant a permit to allow Florida Power & Light to build two new nuclear reactors — No. 6 and No. 7 at Turkey Point.

If approved, the plan could affect the scenery along one of South Florida’s heaviest traveled roads: South Dixie Highway.

The giant utility wants to erect two corridors of 80- to 100-foot high-voltage power lines to deliver electricity to customers. One of them stretches along U.S. 1; a less controversial one is further west.

Residents have pleaded with FPL to bury the power lines and pay for the cost. FPL says that’s not feasible, but cities affected can choose to have the lines buried — at a cost to them of up to $18 million a mile. Some of the cities are challenging that estimate.

What should the governor do? Take his time, and recommend that FPL, the municipalities and consumers themselves, better gauge who is prepared to pay for what. No one can be blamed for not wanting to invest the extra cost.

FPL still needs approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the reactors, and at a time when the GreenLink park planned for the path beneath Metrorail is about to get under way, power lines alongside are regressive, so 1970s, not 21st century.

The governor and the Cabinet have a 330-page report prepared by an administrative judge, who recommends that the project be green-lighted.

To its credit, FPL has sponsored several town halls since the nuclear-reactor project kicked off five years ago, and it should be commended for trying to minimize the impact and alert everyone concerned.

FPL’s forward thinking cannot be dismissed. Yes, our grandchildren will save money on their electric bills. The reactors are expected to represent a savings of $170 billion to Miami-Dade residents in the next 60 years.

But we also can’t ignore those packed town hall meetings where there has been little support for the above-ground power lines towering above the streets.

“Maybe a handful have spoken in favor of FPL’s plan,” Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner told the Editorial Board. Ms. Lerner will be among those traveling to Tallahassee Tuesday.

Ms. Lerner says that her city’s commercial corridor will be ruined by the power lines — “monstrosities” she calls them. She says FPL has painted her constituents with a broad brush. “They say this is just a case of an affluent community not wanting the power lines for aesthetic reasons. That couldn’t be further from the truth.”

State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, told the Board he has also made the case that his opposition is not based on a “put it in someone else’s back yard” mentality. “We say it’s OK to put them in our neighborhood, but bury them — at your cost.”

And that’s at the crux of the issue: The controversy would become moot if FPL agreed to bury the lines and pay for the project — but that’s a costly proposition, just as it would be for municipalities to foot the bill.

“We don’t think burying the lines is necessary,” said Peter Robbins, a spokesman for the Turkey Point project. And FPL has stood firm by that decision. “We are locating the power lines where it makes sense, where there is similar infrastructure.”

Despite years of debate, it’s time for both sides to drill deep, focus on the finances and figure out who has the tolerance to pay for this necessary amenity — and who doesn’t.

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