Florida Power & Light ready to lobby against new CWA finding

Florida Power & Light told the Florida Public Service Commission that it wants to spend money over the next few months to convince regulators not to allow a new definition for “Waters of the United States” to impact existing power plants or planned new ones.

FPL on July 10, within an annual environmental cost recovery case, told the commission what it expects to spend on new environmental projects. The only expected spending relates to an April 21 notice from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Federal Register defining the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The proposed rule revises the definition for “Waters of the United States” (WOUS) under federal regulations.

“The proposed changes to the definition of WOUS would result in an increased number of jurisdictional wetland and water body determinations impacting existing facilities and future electric utility projects,” the utility noted. “FPL contends the proposed rule revisions are overreaching and in conflict with previous Supreme Court decisions regarding WOUS. These revisions could result in FPL needing to purchase additional costly mitigation credits for future projects, and increase permitting and operational costs associated with existing and future power plant, transmission, distribution, pipeline and renewable generation related projects. Further, uncertainty about EPA’s intent and the rule language may result in a requirement to install cumbersome and very expensive compliance technologies on the cooling ponds or cooling canal systems at four FPL power plants. FPL proposes to request recovery of costs associated with legal and advocacy support to help limit the compliance cost impact of the proposed revision to the CWA.”

FPL said it believes it is prudent at this time to engage in active legislative and regulatory advocacy to help limit the compliance cost impact of potential revisions to the CWA and encourage various government agencies (both in Florida and at the federal level) to support FPL’s positions concerning potential revisions to the proposed rule.

In order to implement these actions, FPL proposes to contract with various law firms and consultants that would facilitate communication with the targeted authorized agencies and lawmakers, assist in writing comments (both through industry groups and as an individual entity) on any proposed rules, consider proposing necessary legislation and advise/assist in writing comments and briefs in any future court actions.

The initial estimate for funding advocacy activities is $228,500, to be incurred from August 2014 through December 2015.

FPL said it will advocate for an exclusion of cooling ponds and cooling canals at power plants as jurisdictional wetlands. If these ponds and canals were designated as wetlands due to the new rule, effluent treatment systems and aquatic organism impingement/entrainment controls could be required. These controls could cost $25m to $30m in expenditures and approximately $3m to $6m in annual O&M expenses.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.