Category Archives: Economy

The handwriting on the wall for Plant Vogtle: electric cars and South Carolina cancels its nuclear project –WWALS to GA-PSC

Sent in PDF via email today.


August 2, 2017

To: Georgia Public Service Commission
244 Washington Street, SW
Atlanta, GA 30334-9052

gapsc@psc.state.ga.us

Re: Electric cars and solar power are here now; South Carolina cancels its nuclear project

Dear Public Service Commissioners and Staff,

Since my letter of July 23, 2017, asking you to stop cost overruns for Plant Vogtle and to require Georgia Power again to buy more solar power,1 there have been major developments that further indicate the desirability of these actions.

Tesla is now shipping its Model 3, which many consider the Model T of the electric car industry, affordable not just to executives, but to the masses. New York City changed in thirteen years from all but one horse-drawn carriages to all but one automobiles in its Easter Parade: 1900 to 1913,2 and not much longer for the rest of the country, after the Ford Model T shipped in 1908.

We’re well past 1900 in the electric vehicle revolution, and that is a rapidly growing market for solar panels on business and house roofs.

In The Hill yesterday:3

South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. (SCE&G) and state-run Santee Cooper both said Monday they would suspend their plan to build two nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer power plant northwest of Columbia.

The companies cited Continue reading

State and local responses to Dunnellon Sabal Trail stink

Sabal Trail did not notify state or local officials about their “odorant” leak at the Dunnellon Compressor Station site, and Sabal Trail’s response to WWALS failed to mention local people called the same stink in to 911 two days in a row. FDEP said there’s no need so long as Sabal Trail follows various permits, but gave no indication of who is checking to see if Sabal Trail does that. Apparently we the people have to keep doing what the state and federal agencies still aren’t doing: watch Sabal Trail like a hawk.

Via FL 200
Google map of locations of Dunnellon High School and Sabal Trail Dunnellon Compressor Station. You can see most of the 100-foot Sabal Trail right of way.

Below are responses from FDEP and more details from Marion County Public Relations and Fire and Rescue, and from Dunnellon Fire and Rescue: none of them were notified by Sabal Trail, and FDEP seems OK with that. For the rest, an emergency plan would be prudent: “Run like hell” as in Spectra compressor station incidents elsewhere, is probably not adequate. Continue reading

Stop failed Big Bet on nuclear Plant Vogtle and go solar: WWALS to GA-PSC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hahira, Georgia, July 27, 2017 — On Monday, WWALS Watershed Coalition asked the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) to take Southern Company (SO) CEO Tom Fanning up on his suggestion that the PSC could affect the SO board’s August self-imposed deadline about the two new nuclear units at Plant Vogtle: to go ahead despite the bankruptcy of Toshiba, or not. WWALS also asked the PSC, like it did four years ago, to require Georgia Power to buy more solar power.

Legacy --crowd reaction

Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman wrote to Georgia PSC: “The Mississippi Public Service Commission in June refused Continue reading

SRWMD kept money from Florida for “routinely anticipated budget shortfalls”

Where does the buck stop for these “routinely anticipated budget shortfalls”? Who let a budget include those? Isn’t the point of a budget to, well, budget for what’s needed? Or, given the history of deliberate downsizing of environmental agencies in Florida, maybe shortfalls were the point.

Noah Valenstein
Noah Valenstein got the job as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday May 23rd, on a unanimous vote by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet. His previous job? Executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District, which was flagged by state auditors for $22.5 million in “questionable costs”. The audit covered the time Valenstein led the district. He oversees the district in his new job. [Special to the Times]

Mary Ellen Klas, Miami Herald-Times Tallahassee Bureau, 14 July 2017, Auditors find millions in ‘questionable costs’ at water district,

Weak budgetary controls led to $22.5 million in “questionable costs,” auditors found. Officials had transferred $13.3 million of it into the district’s operating account without proper authority. They may have overspent some areas of the budget and directed money to other areas to make up for shortfalls. They set aside $3.8 million “in the event of an economic crisis” without authorization, and they steered $1.7 million “to cover routinely anticipated budget shortfalls” without explanation.

Contingency funds, sure, but “routinely anticipated”? And in an economic crisis, wouldn’t it be the legislature that should be authorizing funds?

Auditors concluded that accounts were “misclassified because district personnel misunderstood” standard accounting requirements and budget staff members were “somewhat new to the process” so they couldn’t explain how and why it happened.

That is what happens when a state massively defunds its environmental agencies and makes political tests and servicing economic development more important than competence. The article goes into that, rightly pointing a finger repeatedly at Governor Rick Scott, who said “ensuring that Florida’s precious water resources are protected and managed in the most fiscally responsible way possible” while:

The five districts, whose boards are appointed by the governor and operate under the oversight of the Department of Environmental Protection, were purged of hundreds of veteran professionals, and budgets were cut in half. They continued cutting their budgets through 2016. Suwannee, because of its small size, had proportionally fewer cuts.

The article discusses and quotes SRWMD staff, with some pretty amusing tidbits, including this one from “Roary E. Snider, the district’s chief of staff”, who

also disputed the auditor’s claim they don’t have documentation. “While we absolutely will provide these records, these documents were largely in hard copy,” Snider said. “Staff couldn’t assemble these additional records in time.”

SRWMD staff don’t know how to use a scanner? Or they didn’t know where they put those paper documents? Or maybe the dog ate them.

The article even quotes Eric Draper of Audubon Florida about “problems we’ve seen at the Suwannee River district with the change of leadership over the years,”. If Audubon Florida “works closely with the water management districts”, what did Audubon Florida know, when did they know it, and why are they only speaking up now?

The actual audit report lists on page 2:

Executive Director
Noah Valenstein from October 13, 2015
Carlos Herd, Interim, from May 14, 2015, to October 12, 2015
Dr. Ann B. Shortelle to May 13, 2015

The article mentions that:

The district is overseen by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which is now headed by Noah Valenstein. His last job was executive director of the Suwannee River WMD during the time the audit was underway.

Guess which fox the foxhouse is turning to for assistance:

The district said it would turn to the Department of Environmental Protection for advice on how to resolve the dispute over whether money is owed to the state.

“DEP has communicated with staff at the Suwannee River Water Management District, and they have informed us that they are reviewing accounting and land acquisition records for additional information,” said Lauren Engel, spokesperson for Valenstein.

“If it is determined that these funds should be returned to DEP, they would go to the trust fund from which the funding was issued, however, DEP would require spending authority from the legislature to use it.”

This is the same Noah Valenstein who told me shortly after he was appointed to SRWMD that he believes that Florida law requires him and SRWMD to provide water resources for economic development. Maybe he should have paid more attention to making sure the economic resources of the District were properly organized.

The Miami Times-Herald story as carried by tbo.com (Tampa Bay Times) has a bit more pointed headline and picture caption (see top of this blog post), Auditors find millions in ‘questionable costs’ at water district, but will it matter? Continue reading

Sabal Trail starts stagecoach line in an electric car world 2017-07-05

Let me fix some typos in Sabal Trail’s PR of yesterday, Sabal Trail Transmission Project Placed In-Service: New Pipeline System Increases the Reliability and Diversity of the Southeast U.S. Natural Gas Infrastructure.

Corrected headline: Sabal Trail starts stagecoach line in an electric car world.


Apologies to the 1877 Omaha Herald and True West.

Adding a third natural gas pipeline merely makes Florida even more than 60% dependant on natural gas, as Sierra Club Alabama, Georgia, and Florida pointed out three years ago. The people of Florida voted for solar power twice last year. Yet Sabal Trail is wasting $3 or $4 billion on Continue reading

Support the Clean Water Act for our rivers and aquifer

This Fourth of July holiday, you can help promote continued independence of clean water by opposing the EPA’s attempt to repeal the Clean Water Rule and then undermine the Clean Water Act. FLoridians in the seven counties that have asked the EPA to do something about Valdosta’s wastewater: here’s your chance to make sure the EPA can still do anything. Georgians who don’t want coal ash in landfills or industrial waste in our waters: you can help save the Clean Water Act. Everybody in the Suwannee River Basin: the water we drink from the Floridan Aquifer interchanges with surface waters, and we need the EPA to help protect all those waters.

How to Comment

Continue reading

Presto, there’s plenty of water in Florida? –Jim Gross @ WiLFest 2017-06-17

Jim Gross showed at WiLFest in Orlando Gainesville what he described later in the Orlando Sentinel:

“It was known by everyone in the agency that we had more demand than groundwater. Did the science completely change overnight? Now, ‘Presto! There’s plenty?’”

Discharge 1980 and 2010 from the Upper Floridan Aquifer
Jim Gross showing central Florida as far over sustainable withdrawals at WiLFest in Orlando Gainesville 2017-06-17
Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS

Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel, 30 June 2017, Commentary: Stop letting developments such as The Villages suck up water, Continue reading