Gov. Rick Scott and the state Cabinet supported plans Tuesday for two new nuclear reactors at Florida Power & Light's Turkey Point complex, with an accompanying 88 miles of power lines running through Miami-Dade County.
The unanimous decision was an important state step for FPL, which continues to work on gaining Nuclear Regulatory Commission approvals for the location, construction and operation of the two 1,100-megawatt reactors expected to cost about $24 billion.
While it could be a decade before FPL starts generating electricity from the new reactors, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said the planned expansion by the Juno Beach-based energy giant will help the long-range energy needs of the growing population in Florida.
"Twenty-two hundred megawatts is a huge project, and that's the type of thing that we're going to have to have, as part of what I think we have to have, as an overall, all-of-the-above energy strategy," Putnam said. "We're not exactly diverse in our energy portfolio."
The Cabinet decision supported December findings from state Administrative Law Judge D.R. Alexander, whose 332-page recommendation included accompanying electrical transmission lines and corridors that drew the most fire from South Florida officials on Tuesday.
Victoria Mdez, city attorney for Miami, said after the Cabinet meeting that the city intends to appeal to the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami.
Mdez claimed the judge failed to properly follow local land-use and zoning rules when setting the power line routes.
"Hopefully there will be much more justice there, because there wasn't here," Mdez said.
Alexander's decision followed eight weeks of testimony last summer, with much of the focus on the power lines.
A potential western corridor for lines has attracted more environmental concerns, while an eastern corridor route presents more economic issues as it is located along U.S.1 from Miami to Coral Gables and Pinecrest.
Several local officials said FPL should be made to pay for all or a large part of placing the lines underground, which has been estimated at nine times the cost of above-ground installation.
Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner expects her village to legally contest the lines if they are allowed to go up without the reactors gaining federal approval.
She added that if the 230-kilovolt lines remain above ground, atop 80- to 150-foot-poles, they will "instantaneously transform" an economically vibrant commercial corridor into "an industrial wasteland."
Sara Fain, executive director of the Everglades Law Center, said the problems with the western route range from putting lines across wetlands and endangered wood-stork nesting habitat to using 7 miles of land now in Everglades National Park.
"This isn't just any national park," Fain told the Cabinet. "This is wetlands of international importance. And as you know very well, it is also the site of the most ambitious ecological restoration plan ever undertaken in the world of which Florida is a critical partner."
Peter Robbins, FPL spokesman, said the project will create temporary and long-term jobs, produce clean, reliable electricity, and save customers more than $170 billion in fossil fuel costs over its 60-year life.
The action comes as the utility has asked the Florida Public Service Commission to be able to collect $15.7 million in nuclear-project costs next year, which translates to 16 cents a month for a residential customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. That would be down about 30 cents a month from this year, according to a filing.
The bulk of the money would go toward licensing the reactors at the Turkey Point complex.
The request comes under a controversial 2006 law that allows utilities to pass along costs for nuclear projects that might not be built for years, if ever. The Public Service Commission will hold a hearing later this year to determine whether to approve the request.