MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Mayors, Activists and Democrats Wednesday accused Governor Rick Scott and the Florida cabinet of bending to monied special interests in approving a controversial network of power poles for Florida Power and Light that will tower over broad, long swaths of Miami-Dade County.
"He's siding with a huge corporation against the people," said Annette Taddeo of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party at a news conference also attended by South Miami Mayor Phillip Stoddard, Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, and members of the activist group, Florida For All.
FPL wants to build two new reactors at its Turkey Point nuclear power plant by the bay in deep South Miami-Dade and needs new transmission lines to haul the new electricity. One line would run West, then North along the border of the Everglades National Park. The second would travel along U.S. 1 - Dixie Highway - from Cutler Bay to Coconut Grove.
"What we heard from the governor and cabinet was a summary dismissal, with absolutely no discussion whatsoever," said a spitting mad Mayor Lerner of Pinecrest. Governor Scott and the cabinet heard hours of testimony - mostly against the power line plan - before approving it.
The new power lines are not at all typical. Most of the 88 miles of poles would rise the equivalent of ten to fifteen stories high with the girth of a big oak tree.
"Economically it's a disaster for the people that live there," said lifetime South Miami resident Cynthia Kucaba. "Can you imaging having a five foot(wide)pole in your front yard a hundred and fifty feet high!"
"Rick Scott has turned his back on South Florida, myself and my constituents in South Miami and Pinecrest and Coral Gables and the city of Miami..who have fought this issue for five years," declared South Miami's Mayor Stoddard.
Tuesday the governor said the cabinet - acting as the siting board - had no choice but to follow the lead of prior rulings by an administrative law judge and state regulators, stumbling a bit with his wording.
"You know, the sitting board has, uh, our siting board, has a variety, I mean has a limited - per - thing that it can accomplish," Scott muttered to a CBS4 News representative.
"That is a pile of baloney!" retorted Mayor Stoddard on Wednesday. "They were perfectly within their rights to remand this back for further study."
Democrats accuse Scott of selling out to special interests.
"FPL gave over 550,000 dollars last year to Rick Scott's campaign," said Taddeo.
The power company has contributed some $3 million to Scott, the Florida GOP and Republican cabinet members since 2010.
FPL'S Chairman, Eric Silagy, hobnobbed with Scott at a function at the governor's mansion in February, and has been known to accompany him on trade missions to destinations including Paris.
Company spokesman, Peter Robbins, declined to comment Wednesday on allegations of special treatment being afforded FPL by the governor or cabinet, but said Tuesday's decision was the result of a "five year-long, transparent process," and that the cabinet had the benefit of 800 pages of testimony. FPL's plans for added nuclear power and the lines to carry it have been approved by an administrative law judge after a series of exhaustive hearings, and with the recommendation of state regulators.
Scott's came has been indignant at the suggestion of favoritism.
Press Secretary John Tupps told The Miami Herald the governor support or opposition to anything cannot be bought.
The sparks are far from finished flying over the power poles. Court challenges continue. The Feds have not yet okayed the new nuclear power plants. Opponents, though, fear FPL may go ahead and put the poles up anyway.
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