Appeals-court ruling potentially at odds with Florida Supreme Court ruling

By Noell Wolfgram Evans | Mar 3, 2017

MIAMI — Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently asked the Florida Supreme Court to consider a review of the ongoing case involving Florida Power & Light’s desire to utilize nuclear power.

MIAMI — Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently asked the Florida Supreme Court to consider a review of the ongoing case involving Florida Power & Light’s desire to utilize nuclear power.

The case is State of Florida Siting Board et al. v. Miami-Dade County et al.

According to a report by Law 360, Scott and members of his cabinet made this request on Jan. 23 not under the guise of their elected positions, but as members of the Florida Siting Board. The board was created out of the Power Plant Siting Act. The responsibility of the board is to issue certifications, as appropriate, based on the provisions in the act.

Their request is one that has a bit of history attached to it.

In 1991, the state Supreme Court heard Florida Power Corp v. Seminole County. This ruling would have allowed Florida Power & Light to make their recently requested upgrades. The utility has expressed interest in constructing a little fewer than 100 miles of power-transmission systems and cables across Southern Florida. The cables would carry energy created by a new source — nuclear power. Florida Power would like to construct two units to generate nuclear power.

While an approval for the project was in place, a recent ruling by the 3rd District Court of Appeals overturned that approval. That decision prompted the governor’s request.

The Siting Board made their request to the Florida Supreme Court on the basis of three points: the appeals-court decision reduces the rights granted in the 1991 case Florida Power Corp. v. Seminole County ruling, thereby creating a conflict between the appeals court and the Supreme Court; the ruling competes with what the Legislature has implied as its intent; and the appellate-court ruling creates an “impact” on multiple classes of constitutional and/or state officers.

For their part, the Siting Board overlooked a component of the Seminole County case.

“We believe that the jurisdiction of the [PSC] to regulate rates and services of public utilities pre-empts the authority of the city and county to require [Florida Power Corp.] to place its lines underground,” the Supreme Court wrote.

In short, they had the ability to ask Florida Power to install the lines underground.

The case was originally initiated by Miami, South Miami, the village of Pinecrest, and Miami-Dade County. The entities have concerns specifically surrounding the power lines that would be erected across their respective areas. Additional concerns surrounded the impact that the project overall would have to the area of Turkey Point, which often is beset by hurricanes. Its proximity to Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park only heightened those environmental worries.

The municipalities initiated the appeal of the Siting Board's recommendation that the project be allowed to continue with the 3rd District. After hearing the case, and reviewing all evidence, the court reversed the approval on the grounds that not all regulations were considered.

In particular, the court felt that the judge who had initially approved the request had not taken into consideration local regulations. In the court's opinion, this made the initial project application incomplete.

Both sides are reviewing potential next steps.

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