Florida County Approves Plant Construction Moratorium

The Broward County (FL) Commission last week gave the green light to a proposal that would impose an 11-month moratorium on the construction of new power plants in the county, but it remains unclear whether the temporary ban will face a challenge in the courts. Dennis Myers, a spokesperson for the commission, told NGI that the panel signed off on the moratorium by a vote of 8-0 in favor, with one commissioner abstaining.

At issue is a moratorium put forward by Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs. At the time the moratorium was first floated, there were three power plants that were being proposed in the county, one in Pompano Beach and the remaining two in Deerfield Beach. Enron recently decided not to move forward with plans to construct a 500 MW power plant in Pompano Beach (see NGI, June 18).

Deerfield Beach recently signed off on a proposal by Enron to build a 510 MW peaking power plant in the city. The other power project by El Paso Corp. in Deerfield Beach is a 250 MW, combined-cycle baseload plant, which is 100% gas-fired. Aaron Woods, an El Paso spokesperson, noted that the company has applied for an air permit related to the plant, which is pending approval. El Paso will also need to get a construction permit from the county for the plant, he said.

Prior to the commission vote, Woods was asked if El Paso had made any decision whether the company might seek legal remedies assuming the commission advanced the moratorium. "We will continue on schedule with our project," Woods told NGI. "The moratorium will not affect our procedures as far as obtaining appropriate permits, and we're going to continue to be on schedule to hopefully be in operation by 2004."

Broward County's moratorium on new power plant construction could face a legal challenge from several fronts. Eric Thode, an Enron spokesperson, noted that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has already issued a letter to the Broward County Commission pointing out that a moratorium would be contrary to several "duly passed" statutes and stating that there is no statutory authority that provides for a moratorium. Such authority ultimately rests with the state legislature, the DEP letter said.

"Since the Broward County Department of Planning and Environmental Protection gets its powers from the Florida DEP, there is a strong likelihood that the Florida DEP will step in and tell them that this moratorium is illegal, as they have already implied in this letter," Thode said.

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