FPL Plant Deals Dirty on the Race Question, Activists Say

Environmental activists and some Riviera Beach residents are fed up with living with "one of the dirtiest power plants in the entire state of Florida," according to a news release from the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition. The coalition, along with the Riviera Beach Civic Association, will host a public meeting today at 6 p.m. to discuss what to do about their pollution-spewing, oil-fueled Florida Power and Light plant, which sits southwest of the Palm Beach Inlet, and other environmental issues related to Riviera Beach.

At tonight's meeting, environmental activists plan to discuss "environmental racism." Al Lark, chair of the Civic Association's Environmental Committee, says that blacks in America are "five times more likely than a white person to live within walking distance of a power plant. "

It seems FPL doesn't disagree with their assessment. Florida Power and Light scrapped its plans to upgrade the plant only after its recent request for a 30 percent rate hike was denied last week by the Florida Public Service Commission. The plant, which was grandfathered in, currently does not meet Clean Air Act standards. FPL was in the final stages of planning to demolish the old plant and build a "state of the art" structure that would operate on clean-burning natural gas, cutting emissions by 50 percent (the equivalent of removing 46,000 cars annually from the road, according to FPL's literature) .

One other dirty Florida plants, at Cape Canaveral in Brevard County, had also been scheduled for upgrades. The decision not to upgrade will affect not only local residents: It will have far-reaching economic impacts on FPL's vendors and subcontractors.

The Environmental Coalition cites U.S. Census data indicating that 68 percent of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a power plant -- the distance where the maximum effects of the smokestack plume are felt. According to the coalition, EPA data shows that 71 percent of African-Americans live in counties that violate federal air pollution standards, compared to 58 percent of the white population.

Activists hope that tonight's meeting "will begin the urgent dialogue needed to work towards clean, safe, renewable, decentralized energy options in the City." The meeting will be held at Newcomb Hall, 180 E. 13th St., Riviera Beach.

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