Impact of FPLs clean coal plant may foul future

Impact of FPLs clean coal plant may foul future

An official for the Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks said Tuesday that Florida Power & Light Co. must address how its proposed “clean” coal plant in Glades County will affect the parks’ air quality before it moves ahead with the project.

“You can’t impact a Class 1 airshed, and they have to address that,” said spokeswoman Linda Friar, referring to the Clean Air Act’s requirement that the parks must have the highest air quality level.

“Will it stop it? No, not at this point, unless there’s some information that arises that we don’t know about,” she said.

But an environmentalist said FPL is going to have “nearly an impossible time” convincing agencies charged with protecting the Everglades that the plant can go up in nearby Glades County.

A letter dated Jan. 18 from Park Superintendent Dan Kimball asking FPL for more information on how the plant could affect the air quality should be the first clue, said Stephen Smith, executive director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, based in Knoxville, Tenn.

“I think it’s very serious when the National Park Service as a federal land manager takes a position that a company has not provided enough information,” Smith said Tuesday. “Federal land managers and the National Park Service, they really do have a lot of power.”

Friar acknowledged that the letter is procedural but said FPL can’t go forward until it provides more information on how the air quality is going to be affected and the parks’ experts in Denver review it.

FPL, a division of Juno Beach-based FPL Group Inc. (NYSE: FPL, $55.21), wants to build the plant on 4,900 acres of sugar cane land near Moore Haven. It would have two 980-megawatt units, one opening in 2012 and the other in 2013.

Moore Haven residents have said they would welcome the plant because it would increase job opportunities and the tax base. But as lawmakers increasingly toss around ways to lessen greenhouse gas emissions, some people are pushing for FPL to build a different kind of clean-coal plant.

Gasified coal plants chemically strip pollutants such as carbon dioxide and mercury. An advanced supercritical pulverized coal plant, such as FPL wants to build, burns coal at extremely high temperatures, crushes it and sends it through additional filtering processes to reduce mercury and other emissions.

John Capece, a member of the Glades County Economic Development Council, said he would prefer FPL build a gasification plant instead.

“As long as they do gasification, with some other actually legitimate carbon-capture design, I think, personally, it’s OK,” Capece said.

Gasified coal plants are more expensive to build than other coal plants, and FPL argues that the technology is not reliable enough to use on a scale large enough to support the utility’s needs.

The utility would set aside space to add equipment that would separate and remove carbon, spokeswoman Rachel Scott said.

“If technologies become available, we will be able to modify our plant to incorporate them,” Scott said. “The reality is … it doesn’t exist today.”

The state’s Division of Administrative Hearings will have a series of formal meetings on FPL’s plant in September and October.

The Glades County Commission approved a resolution supporting the plant, but one new commissioner said she has questions and concerns she hopes will be addressed at a meeting Feb. 20.

Residents are concerned about the plant’s emissions and having major transmission lines running through the area, Commissioner Donna Storter Long said.

“I believe the people are very serious in their concerns,” Long said. ” I believe it is not all emotional rhetoric.”


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