Saturday, October 20, 2007

*PBC environmentalists protest natural-gas plant

By Kristi E. Swartz

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Thursday, October 18, 2007

CORAL GABLES - A group of Palm Beach County environmental activists turned up at a renewable-energy conference in Coral Gables this morning to protest Florida Power & Light Co.'s plans to build a natural gas-fired power plant near Loxahatchee.

Panagioti Tsolkas and four other members of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition tried to stand in the hallway near a meeting room at the Westin Colonnade Hotel where the 2007 Renewable Energy Conference is being held today, and display signs for the 200-some
attendees to see.

Hotel staff quickly grabbed Tsolkas by the arm and began shuffling him through the hotel and outside.

He and the other members planted themselves in front of the hotel for about 30 minutes displaying a sage-green sheet directed at Gov. Charlie Crist that read, "Hey, Charlie, don't pass gas on the Everglades." "I have a lot of respect for the governor, and he should be aware of what's going on," Tsolkas said.

As attorney general, Crist was one of the state Cabinet members that unanimously signed off on FPL's plans to build a natural gas plant in Palm Beach County. Under the guidance of Boca Raton attorney Barry Silver, Tsolkas and others have filed federal and state lawsuits contending that the plant's impact on the environment and global warming was not taken into consideration.

"We wanted to get a message to the governor," Silver said. "I think he got the message." Crist had been scheduled to give a keynote address this morning at the conference, but remained in Tallahassee to work with legislators convened in a special session.

FPL spokesman Mayco Villafana said today FPL that the West County Energy Center will be state-of-the-art and have the latest emission controls. He added that building another plant, especially in Palm Beach County, is necessary to support all of Florida's growth.

FPL is adding between 80,000 and 100,000 customers a year, 13,000 alone in Palm Beach County.

"It's a clean energy, and the emissions will be well below the established limits," Villafana said.

As of 1:45 p.m., shares in FPL parent FPL Group Inc. (NYSE: FPL) were trading at $63.07, down 17 cents.

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