Properly pulling the plug

Published June 9, 2007

Florida's Public Service Commission recently did something it had not done since 1992: It rejected the construction of a power plant.

In a 4-0 vote, the commission, the regulatory agency that oversees utilities, denied Florida Power & Light, the state's largest utility, the go- ahead to build a $5.7-billion coal-fired power plant in Glades County that would have been 70 miles from Everglades National Park and 40 miles north of Big Cypress National Preserve.

Environmental groups, including Save It Now, Glades, hail the PSC's denial as being a major milestone for Florida and the nation in initial efforts to deal with pollution, carbon emissions in particular, that causes global warming. For the first time, in fact, the PSC used the threat of global warming as a factor in making a decision on a new power plant.

In the past, the commission has bowed to the utilities' argument that they needed new plants to make up for the rising costs of doing business and to accommodate the state's population growth. Commissioners also considered costs to customers. They feared that a coal-fired plant would face new regulations to limit carbon emissions and that higher electric rates would result if Congress started to tax carbon emissions to halt climate change.

Although FPL and some conservative lawmakers in Tallahassee are crying foul, the PSC made the right call. If the PSC erred, it erred on the side of responsible environmental management and consumer protection - a refreshing change for an agency that traditionally gives the utilities most of what they ask for.