Group to Protest FPL's Electricity Monopoly Today

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Florida Power & Light — the only company legally allowed to give Miamians electricity — has made a series of decisions this year that, at best, have seriously frustrated its customers. It has hiked its rates for no apparent reason, degraded the environment, and actively tried to trick voters into backing a bogus anti-solar amendment.

Though FPL's year of poor decisions will end soon, some scorned customers want to make sure the utility company knows they're upset.

At 4 p.m. tomorrow, dozens say they plan to crowd outside FPL's office at 4200 W. Flagler St. in Coral Gables to protest the fact that FPL's monopoly over energy in the eastern and southern parts of Florida is likely hurting consumers.

The Miami-Dade County chapter of the Green Party is organizing the protests. The group says the demonstration is simply one part of a new biweekly initiative to hold FPL accountable when it's caught harming the environment or Florida residents.

"The Miami-Dade and Broward Green Parties will be holding bi-weekly actions to protest and raise awareness of FPL's unlawful monopoly of Florida's energy resources and its newly approved rate hikes," the Green Party writes online. "We are also demanding that the state's Public Service Commission do their jobs and represent #PeopleOverTraffic instead of rubber-stamping FPL's corporate greed."

At this point, FPL has miles and miles to go before it can smooth out its relationship with the public. At the beginning of 2016, the cooling canals at the company's Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station, just south of Miami, were found to be leaking waste into Biscayne Bay, albeit at a level deemed safe for humans. A public battle with regulators ensued, leading a group of concerned environmentalists to sue the company to force it to clean up the canals.

Now FPL is applying to store new radioactive waste directly under Miami's drinking-water aquifer, a move that environmentalists say could permanently contaminate the city's water supply in the event of a leak.

In the meantime, FPL requested a $1.3 billion rate hike from the state's Public Service Commission, which technically acts as a check on "legalized monopolies" such as FPL. But critics say the governor-appointed commission simply functions as a money-printing scheme for monopolies: Eventually, FPL was granted an $811 million rate hike over the next three years despite turning a $1.6 billion profit last year.

FPL says it needs that money to build a natural-gas-powered backup generator, but environmentalists say the company is just vomiting money at random projects in order to ask for a rate hike instead of concentrating on vital green-energy initiatives such as wind and solar power.

And rather than embrace solar power, FPL this year wasted $8 million backing a fraudulently written amendment designed to trick consumers into giving up some of their rights to solar panels at their homes.

Critics say all of these stories point to a monopoly run amok in the Sunshine State and a severe lack of oversight in Tallahassee, where most of the rules that govern FPL's "regulated monopoly" status are written. A handful of state Democrats, such as Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, have said they plan to push the state to break up FPL-size energy monopolies.

But with the Florida Democratic Party in the midst of a leadership crisis as it continues to lose seats in the state, it appears grassroots protests might be the only pushback FPL receives for the foreseeable future.

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