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FPL's same old tricks

This week, Florida should avoid setting a bad precedent. The state should not allow Florida Power & Light to build giant wind turbines on land the state and St. Lucie County bought to preserve.

FPL is trying to rush a state decision at a Thursday hearing in Tallahassee before the Acquisition and Restoration Council, an advisory board. A decision could come on Friday. If the council approves the plan, Gov. Crist and the Florida Cabinet would cast the final vote.

St. Lucie County did not learn of FPL’s push to win state approval until late last week, and hastily set its own hearing and decision for this morning. Both the county and the state should reject FPL’s plan.

The utility wants to build six 400-foot wind turbines, each on a 20-foot platform, on land FPL owns surrounding the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant on Hutchinson Island. That’s not the controversial part. FPL also wants to build three turbines on 6.3 acres in Blind Creek Park, just north of the nuclear plant. The park is oceanfront land bought for preservation with state and county money. St. Lucie County Attorney Dan McIntyre recommends that the county oppose the project because $3.6 million from a voter-approved bond issue went toward the purchase. FPL backed off plans to build the wind turbines at John Brooks and Frederick Douglass beaches, also because they were bought with public money for preservation.

St. Lucie Commissioner Doug Coward opposes allowing the windmills on public land, but FPL has been working on other commissioners. They like the prospect of FPL paying the county millions of dollars to use the property at a time when all local governments in Florida are facing budget cuts. But that short-term lure would mean the loss of a public asset.

This is the second time FPL has played last-minute tricks to get its way in St. Lucie County. In 2005, the utility wanted to build a large coal plant. To get around opposition, FPL offered $13.6 million to help an opponent who had drainage problems, and altered the plant’s boundaries to change the definition of who was considered a “neighbor.”

Those actions caused the county commission, which had been leaning in favor of the plant, to reject it unanimously. This latest tactic, designed to keep residents from making any public comment, is more of the same. Gov. Crist believes in renewable energy. But FPL is flashing the wrong kind of “green power.”

Palm Beach Post Editorial

Palm Beach Post

12 February 2008