Power, Money and Politics
A 230kV high voltage transmission line proposed by Florida Power and Light (FPL) to run from Cutler Bay through Pinecrest, South Miami and Coral Grove to a substation in Coconut Grove, has been generating significant opposition from residents and businesses (Tampa Bay Times). As well, three 500kV transmission lines proposed to run through Everglades National Park have angered conservationists. The high voltage lines are part of a larger proposal by FPL to also build 2 new nuclear power generators.
The cities have argued that, if FPL thinks it needs the high voltage lines, they should be built underground to protect property values and avoid negative effects on economic development. Cities have estimated 8,000 jobs would be lost and property values would drop by 10% because of the negative aesthetics (e.g., visual impacts) of the proposed massive towers. And, the cities of Coral Grove and Pinecrest have filed a lawsuit claiming the project violates a 30-year franchise agreement they have with FPL which indicates FPL will build only smaller transmission infrastructure – not the 230kV lines strung on 100-foot towers currently proposed (Miami Herald).
The National Parks Conservation Association, which argues the overhead lines would have a detrimental effect on sensitive wildlife habitats, said the law requires power companies to build transmission lines in places that have the least adverse impacts, whereas, FPL has not been required to identify a transmission corridor that does not cut through the everglades.
Cities have asked Governor Rick Scott and Cabinet, who will sit as the Power Plant Siting Board, to reject FPL’s request. This has become a political hot potato for the Governor and Cabinet members who are being pressured by their electorate to kill the project, but on the other hand FPL has been working hard to try to influence approval of the project. FPL and its parent company NextEra have donated more than $800,000 directly to Governor Scott and his political committee since 2010. The company gave another $50,000 to the political committee of Attorney General and Cabinet member Pam Bondi, more than $700,000 to the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) this election cycle, more than $1 million to the RPOF in 2012 and another $1.1 million in 2010. The party then gave all but one-third of the more than $3 million it collected this cycle back to the political committee of the Governor and Cabinet.
Power companies (generation and transmission) in North America are well known for their large political donations to influence decisions on the need for power plants and transmission lines and the routing of transmission lines. As a result, the public interest is often ignored as new plants and power lines are built when they are not needed and in locations where people, economic development and the environment are negatively impacted.