Miami-Dade County

End of the line for FPL’s appeal of Turkey Point court ruling

The Florida Supreme Court has declined to hear Florida Power and Light’s challenge of a court ruling that overturned state approval of a plan to build two nuclear reactors at Turkey Point and run 89 miles of transmission lines along U.S. 1 and potentially into sensitive wetlands.

The high court’s decision leaves untouched a ruling last April by the Third District Court of Appeal that found Gov. Rick Scott and his cabinet — who sit as Florida’s Siting Board, which oversees power plants — erred in 2014 when they determined the company’s plan wasn’t bound by municipal zoning laws or the county’s East Everglades environmental code, and that it had no power to force the utility company to underground its lines.

The case was brought by Miami-Dade County, Miami, South Miami and Pinecrest, which balked at FPL’s plans to erect power lines in their boundaries on towers as tall as 150 feet. The Third District Court of Appeal took their side, and ordered the governor and his cabinet to reconsider FPL’s application under the proper guidance of the law.

The utility challenged that ruling — which focused on the transmission lines, and did not affect the approval of its new reactors — but the higher court declined Friday to take the case.

“We are disappointed in the court’s decision, and we will be reviewing our options,” FPL spokesman David McDermitt wrote in an email.

It’s not entirely clear how FPL will move forward.

The company could return to the governor’s cabinet for a second hearing, or perhaps even be sent back for further review to an administrative law judge who makes recommendations to the cabinet. It could also start from scratch, however unlikely, or attempt to submit new information.

That last option may be crucial if FPL intends to pursue a backup western transmission line. The Third District Court of Appeal said it had presented no compelling evidence in 2014 that would allow it to pursue that aspect of its plan in the wake of Miami-Dade’s environmental laws regulating the East Everglades.

Miami City Attorney Victoria Méndez on Friday said the ruling was an important win for her office, affecting “issues that are vital to the City of Miami.”

Noting that Toshiba-Westinghouse, the firm tapped to build FPL’s two new reactors, recently announced amid financial turmoil that it’s getting out of the nuclear construction business, South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard said the court’s decision is important at least in that it’s another delay. He said it makes nuclear expansion at Turkey Point that much more difficult.

“I think time is on our side,” he said.

Matt Raffenberg, FPL's environmental services director, talks about how FPL is working on ways to better control water temperature and salinity in the 39 cooling canals at the Turkey Point power plant in 2016