Nearly 8,000 Comments and Signatures Against FPL Fracked Gas Burning Plant
Presented to the Public Service Commission and the Governor
Tallahassee — Residents from Broward County’s Dania Beach traveled to Tallahassee Wednesday to deliver a simple community message to state regulars and Florida Power & Light: A fracked gas burning plant is not needed or wanted in Dania Beach.
Four community representatives brought forth nearly 8,000 comments against the proposal to rebuild and expand the current plant – under discussion at today’s Public Service Commission meeting. The collection was the work of citizens partnering with groups like the New Florida Majority (NewFM) to engage Floridians online, at home and at public events since last fall. More than 1,200 signatures were gathered in the last two weeks in Dania Beach alone.
The speakers said they were worried about the health impacts burning gas would have on current and future generations. They also wondered about safety for the surrounding areas and the danger from potential explosions. The lack of community outreach and any institutional role for community residents in the decision-making process was also a top concern.
The Community Must Be Heard
Emmanuel George, the president of the civic group Black Broward, was one of those residents collecting signatures, noting now few of the residents were even aware that the plant was being rebuilt.
Over the last few weeks, I talked to over 250 people and most people didn’t know that this fracking plant was in the works,” said George. “…You can’t move forward with this process without community input. Dania Beach is Broward’s first black community. The fact that these people have lived here for so long and are still getting left out of decisions that will impact them is wrong.”
The current plant straddles the line between the City of Hollywood and Dania Beach, a historically black city and the first municipality in Broward County. The Sierra Club has challenged in court the plan to rebuild and expand the current power plant into a fracked gas facility, saying that there are cleaner, healthier, more cost-effective ways of meeting the area’s energy needs.
24-year old Curtick Evans, a third generation Dania resident and graduate of Boston College, agreed.
“I know that there are other cleaner means of accessing electricity than fracking,” said Evans. “We don’t want contaminated air or the potential to contaminate drinking water. It’s not okay in any community and definitely not in mine.”
23-year old Steven Jones echoed Evans’ words. Jones recalled his great grandmother, a former slave who moved her family to Dania Beach to get a better life and looked to do the same for the next generation.
“It’s time for the people to have a say,” said 23-year old Steven Jones. “We say no to fracked gas. It’s time to invest in renewable energy.”
The speakers followed their morning testimony with a walk to the Capitol, where they delivered the five boxes of signatures and comments to Governor Rick Scott. Also included were letters from supporting civic, labor, and faith-based organizations including, NewFM, the Florida Student Power Network, Women’s March Broward, SMASH, South Miami, the Miami Climate Alliance, 350 South Florida, Food and Water Watch, Progressive Jewish Action, Unitarian Universalist Justice Florida, Faith in Florida, Sustainable Miami, EcoSystems, the Hamra Group, Circle of Brotherhood and Unite Here.
Lifting Up the Voices Who Couldn’t Be There
Reflecting on the day, each speaker agreed that it was important to bring their own personal story as to why they were getting involved in a debate that is often left to scientists and consultants.
Like Evans, John Jones’s entire family is from Dania Beach, with roots stretching back at least two generations. The opportunity to be in the state’s halls of power giving a voice to those who could not be there was not lost on him.
“Yesterday was my first time ever on a plane. I was nervous but I knew that I needed to be here,” said Jones. “At the end of the day, my community is important to me. I want more for my community and I want to impact my community positively long-term.“
Jones implored policymakers to think about the needs of the public and not just the shareholders of FPL.
“You have been appointed to represent the best interest of people, not corporations. If you care about us, you’d listen to the voices of nearly 8,000 people who signed petitions and sent in comments, but couldn’t be here today.”
The effort to lower electric bills and push for a cleaner plant is part of New Florida Majority (NewFM) and the Sierra Club’s Power4All campaign, which looks to train and empower community residents to take a more active role in ensuring that local energy decisions are in the best interest of ratepayers. Events in the next couple of weeks include private meetings with local elected officials and a public community meeting on Feb. 13.