Over eight years ago I went to speak as a citizen before the Public Service Commission in support of two nuclear power plants as opposed to the alternative two fossil burning plants. To fully understand my position, one must need to recall the backdrop. Our country had just waged a war against Iraq which was clearly motivated by oil interests, as well as, the few so called Americans who would enrich themselves at the expense of American lives and American taxpayers. I also knew that downtown Miami would eventually undergo an increase in density, as well it should (I am against urban sprawl) and therefore an increase in demand for power would be required. As an engineer, I also knew that the close to 40-year-old existing nuclear plants were outdated and soon would reach the end of their useful life.
The transmission lines however, were not a part of the hearings nor even discussed.
A couple of years later, as Mayor of South Miami, I voted consistently in favor of the alternate routes which would take the proposed power lines away from US1 and down Flagler Street or SW Eighth Street. However, anyone with a little common sense could easily see that given the small widths coupled with the high density of residential homes and schools on SW Eighth Street or Flagler that the logical route would be up US-1.
It was then that I spoke with FPL representatives to work out a solution that would be beneficial to the citizens of South Miami. The good people of South Miami which are my neighbors, friends and constituents deserved the best outcome of what I saw was inevitable. The solution as I explained almost 5 years ago at my State of The City Address (See State of the City Address 2009 available at SM City Clerk’s Office) was to bury the transmission lines.
My proposed mechanism would be to increase the FPL franchise fee and leverage the increment through a low interest bond to cover the expense of burying the lines along our approximately one mile area of US-1. If every city did the same, the lines would be buried along most of the US-1 corridor.
Another proposal I had was to lobby our state legislators to create an impact fee for the largest consumers of electricity which would benefit the most. These large consumers which include those in Broward county and further north would be commercial businesses, condominiums in downtown and hotels. They would pay on a sliding scale where the largest consumers would pay a higher impact fee. After the full payment of the burial of the transmission lines along US-1 is achieved the “impact fee” would disappear.
These solutions however require leadership as opposed to the demagoguery and sleazy politics we have seen by short sighted politicians. If you check campaign coffers you will find there are also a handful of lawyers that benefit from continuous litigation which are funding their campaigns.
Unfortunately, the citizens of South Miami, Pinecrest, and only up to recently, the citizens of Coral Gables are dishing out thousands of their tax dollars to fund their gouging of the public trough. I applaud the elected officials of Coral Gables for being astute and signing an agreement with FPL, refusing to waste taxpayer dollars on litigation over what is clearly the inevitable.
Sure, my position was not politically expedient but I was not going to beat my chest like Tarzan and proclaim a doomsday scenario (politicians with nothing to offer act this way) when the solution was to simply bury the lines. After all, regardless if the power plants built are propane, oil, or nuclear, new transmission lines which provide greater power to meet future demand would have to be built. Again, this is only common sense.
Those who think that solar, wind or hydro is the solution are living in la-la land and have no clue as to the land mass required or the cost. Should every property owner be required to install solar panels? Who will pay for the solar panels, wiring and physical alterations that will be required to accommodate the solar panels or wind turbines on buildings? What about the lack of aesthetics and the eyesore?
If the so called leaders in the fight against nuclear energy and transmission lines wish to put their money where their mouths are and create a strictly solar, wind or hydro power company that can provide cheaper rates per Kilo-watt than what FPL is charging, I for one would buy my electricity from them in a heartbeat.
Unfortunately it is advantageous to score political points by making empty promises and criticizing than it is to come up with solutions.
Real leaders use common sense to resolve problems as opposed to beating their chests like Neanderthals.
Horace Feliu can be reached by email at email@example.com.