Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sierra Club fighting massive FPL power plant to be built on panther habitat

Panther kitten,
courtesy of Mark Lotz, FWC
On May 24, 2011, Hendry County commissioners unanimously voted to rezone 3,127 acres near the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation from general agricultural to utility uses, allowing Florida Power and Light (FPL) to build a natural gas and solar energy power center capable of generating more than 3,750 megawatts of electricity.

The Seminole Tribe,  the Sierra Club, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and the South Florida Wildlands Association spoke out in opposition to the power plant which would be built on habitat for the endangered Florida panther, crested caracara, eastern indigo snake and wood stork. The groups also raised concerns about the impacts of the power plant on air quality and water consumption.  According to FPL’s 10 Year Power Plant Site Plan for 2011-2020,  the natural gas plant would use up to 7.5 million gallons of water per day to cool each of the 3 units. 

The Seminole Tribe and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida also scolded Hendry County Commissioners for rezoning prematurely without sufficient information.  They pointed out that the completion of the power plant would be contingent on the outcome of a lawsuit over ownership of other land needed for the project. 

Last night’s vote was only the first of many approvals required from state and federal agencies. A  much smaller 75 megawatt solar energy plant in Lee and Charlotte Counties on the property of Babcock Ranch has been in the works since Spring 2009, but that project is still awaiting a final commitment by FPL to build it

Sierra Club will continue to fight this proposed power plant and any other urban or industrial project in the vicinity which would threaten the Florida panther's remaining habitat, so critically needed for its survival.

 Submitted by Marti Daltry, organizer, Sierra Club Ft. Myers Office