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Vote near on plan to build two new power plants in Everglades Agricultural Area

FPL complex proposed for sensitive lands

Sun-Sentinel - 12/17/2006 12:00:00 AM
by Joel Hood

Gov. Bush and three members of the state cabinet are expected to vote Tuesday on state certification for a proposal to build two natural gas-fired power plants in the environmentally sensitive Everglades Agricultural Area east of 20-mile Bend.

The cabinet meeting in Tallahassee is the final step in a two-year process launched by Florida Power & Light Co. to keep up with rising power demands in South Florida.

A power company official said the planned West County Energy Center Project would generate 2,400 megawatts of power, enough to service 550,000 customers.

But given the sensitivity of the region, FPL had to incorporate more stringent controls on emissions, said FPL spokeswoman Rachel Scott.

Immediately surrounding the proposed complex will be rock-mining plants and sugar cane farms.

But the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and the J.W.

Corbett Wildlife Management Area are also in the vicinity.

"This will be one of the cleanest burning plants of its type in the county,"

Scott said. "It's really setting a new standard for this type of plant."

Environmental agencies have already reviewed and approved the power plants, including the state's Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District.

Still, the proposal was widely criticized by other environmentalists, including the citizen's Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition.

In September, a group rallied against the FPL proposal, telling an administrative law judge in Wellington that the plants would encourage growth and could potentially harm wildlife in western Palm Beach County.

But Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Sarah Williams said FPL had satisfied her agency's concerns.

"With every plant that's proposed we review it to make sure it won't negatively impact wildlife," Williams said. "This one went through a very thorough process over the past year."

Scott said FPL had projected the new power plants opening by summer 2009.

They're modeled after similar plants under construction near Homestead and already in use in Indiantown and Parrish in Manatee County, she said.

Joel Hood can be reached at jhood@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6611.