Under the banner of environmental preservation and with leading participation by the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation, Earth Day will see protests against FPL's plans for a power plant in the Everglades on the border of the Big Cypress Reservation.
The 3,750-megawatt plant would cover more than 2,000 acres of Florida Panther habitat and is the target of a long-running lawsuit filed by the Seminole Tribe, which says the project "will bring disastrous consequences to the environmentally sensitive land and end the delicate balance of nature, history and culture for the Seminoles."
In its April 2013 ten-year power plant site plan, FPL stated:
FPL strives to have no adverse impacts on federal- or state-listed terrestrial plants and animals... Although few or no impacts are expected in association with future construction at the site, FPL anticipates minimizing or mitigating for unavoidable wildlife or wetland impacts.
The Seminoles' numerous objections were spelled out in their paper, the Seminole Tribune:
The site sits on proven habitat for several threatened or endangered species, including the crested caracara bird, snail kite bird, eastern indigo snakes and Florida panther. Further, the property and surrounding land is known by Tribal historians to hold relics and artifacts that date back to Native ancestors.
"At the end of the day, the plant will affect all of us," said Big Cypress Councilman Mondo Tiger.
According to a Department of Environmental Protection report, the Palm Beach plant leads the region in producing greenhouse gasses -- the main source of global warming. In 2012 alone, it discharged into the air 9.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide -- the industrial gas most responsible for climate change.
The plant would require 22 million gallons of water daily to be extracted by force from the Florida aquifer, Hendry County's main source of water.
Last February, on the occasion of a Hendry plant protest at FPL headquarters in Juno Beach, a company media rep stated:
"It is important to note that we do not have any specific plans for the Hendry property at this time. Any new power plant goes through years of public review by numerous local and state agencies. We always welcome input from the public on new projects."
The Earth Day public input will begin with an April 21 demonstration at the Hendry County Courthouse, where the Seminoles' lawsuit -- to force the county to undo its rezoning of the site to accommodate the plant -- is being heard. On April 22, Earth Day, protesters will again rally at the courthouse as the Hendry County Commission meets.
The Seminole's supporters in their effort include representatives from Everglades Earth First!, Sierra Club, Audubon Society, South Florida Wildlands Association, and the Everglades Sawgrass Warriors. Their plans include camping out on the night of April 21 on land they describe as "gorgeous, and all ours (not a public campground)."
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers public affairs and culture in Palm Beach County and elsewhere. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.