Progressive Bernie-crat Tim Canova, best known for his primary run against disgraced Debbie Wasserman Schultz, recently published an op-ed about the Sabal Trail Pipeline. It’s a project very similar to the Dakota Access Pipeline, with widespread local protests, police brutality and unjust arrests.
In a plea to stop the pipeline’s completion, Canova goes into detail about Florida’s unique ecological vulnerabilities, and calls out the dirty money and campaign contributions surrounding the project.
The little-known Sabal Trail Pipeline is, “an approximately 515-mile interstate natural gas pipeline to provide transportation services for power generation needs,” according to their website.
It spans from Alabama through Georgia, into Central Florida. It could’ve expanded further, but six Florida counties voted to reject construction.
The pipeline is nearing completion and elected officials, including Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, are ignoring cries for construction to end. Nelson happily accepted hefty campaign contributions (see below) from the parent companies of the pipeline, but is currently ignoring over 100,000 signatures on a petition to halt construction immediately.
A company called NextEra is fueling the Sabal Trail pipeline, along with two other utility giants, Duke Energy and Spectra Energy. NextEra is the parent company of Florida Power & Light (FPL), the state’s largest utility powerhouse.
FPL has donated millions of dollars to political candidates all around the country over the years, and has paid off a good portion of elected officials in the state of Florida. They’re also notorious for shady activity, misleading and taking advantage of their consumers. FPL is truly terrified of the potential (and inevitable) success of solar energy in the Sunshine State, and will seemingly stop at nothing to keep their monopoly.
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FPL funded $8 million towards anti-solar Amendment 1, which Floridians voted on last November. The language was cleverly disguised as a pro-solar bill to get Floridians to vote in favor of it, as they realize that Floridians (no matter their political affiliation) are leaning towards more environmentally-friendly legislation. Luckily, thanks to grassroots organizers and environmentalists, it failed to pass.
Now FPL has directly drafted parts of anti-solar legislation by influencing Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero. His bill uses the popular Amendment 4, intended to provide tax breaks to solar users as an incentive, and adds restrictive language to it.
According to the Miami Herald, a staff attorney warned Rodrigues that the language of the bill “establishes extensive requirements before a solar electric equipment [SEE] can be installed.”
To no one’s surprise, his political committee received $15,000 in contributions from FPL and $2,000 from a Tampa-based utility company just before drafting legislation. He received an email with a proposal from NextEra’s senior legal assistant, Barbara Washington, that included the specific restrictions FPL wanted.
Public record shows an email chain between Washington and Rodrigues, exposing that he didn’t just read FPL’s proposal and act as their puppet, but his legislation literally includes their language, verbatim. An FPL spokesman denied having anything to do with the legislation, of course.
Rodrigues, the representative in charge of the new anti-solar legislation, is the same person who spearheaded pro-fracking legislation that was shot down last year.
FPL became the first company ever to be allowed to charge consumers for “fracking speculation,” but the Florida Supreme Court reversed that decision. It briefly allowed FPL to charge customers for oil and gas exploration in Oklahoma—not even in Florida.
The Florida Supreme Court doesn’t intimidate FPL, however. Two new bills were introduced in early March so FPL can once again charge customers for speculation. According to the Palm Beach Post, “if approved, [they] would allow utilities which have at least 65 percent natural gas-fueled generation to charge customers for its “prudent” investments in gas reserves and associated expenses.” FPL is the only electric utility in Florida that uses that much natural gas, and therefore the only company that would benefit from the bills.
Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach and Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, are the sponsors of those pro-fracking bills. They’re clearly not playing along with the other Florida Republicans who recognize that fracking will be environmentally disastrous and wildly unpopular. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that they received a combined total of $7,000 in campaign contributions from NextEra and FPL.
Attempts to destroy the environment in order to protect their bottom line does not stop there, unfortunately. FPL just received permission to store radioactive waste from two new nuclear power plants above the vulnerable Florida aquifer. FPL also has another pipeline in the works— the Florida Southeast Connection. According to FPL’s website, “Florida Southeast Connection is constructing a separate, 126-mile pipeline from Sabal Trail’s Central Florida Hub to FPL’s Martin Clean Energy Center in Indiantown, Fla.”
Both pipelines are nearing completion and will be pumping natural gas by mid-2017. Florida residents are feeling helpless, as their elected officials are enjoying payoffs instead of looking out for their constituents.
It’s not just the Republicans, either—not by a long shot. Democrats are enjoying campaign contributions from companies like FPL while pretending to be champions of environmental issues, making them hypocrites as well as puppets.
NextEra and FPL are just examples of how companies buy and pay for legislation that impacts your daily lives—other companies are participating in similarly shady schemes, and Americans need to pay much more attention to campaign contributions during elections.
This is how much NextEra Energy spent on Florida Politicians in 2016:
Do any of these names look familiar to you? Check if they’re your elected official by putting in your zip code here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ If they are, click on their name and follow the pages until you find a phone number to call. Give them a call and explain to them what the fuck climate change is, and remind them that they are working for YOU, not NextEra or FPL, despite the money they take from them.