Hendry County Commission Approves Rezoning for Power Plant Despite Public Outcry

from Everglades Earth First!

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On April 12, the Hendry County Commission met to discuss four petitions brought forth by energy company Florida Power & Light (FPL). Though covering slightly different areas, these four petitions—which were passed unanimously by the commissioners—essentially rezoned a vital panther corridor beside the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation from agricultural zoning to a new “Electric Generating Facility” zoning category, with allowances for industrial future land use. These are first steps in FPL establishing two power plants on the site: one massive solar plant, and an even larger natural (fracked) gas power plant that would be the biggest in the United States if completed.

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Members of the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes, other local residents, and environmentalists from across the state protested outside of the Clewiston City Hall before the meeting, calling attention to the people and wildlife that will be harmed by FPL’s proposed projects. Though some commissioners (I’m looking at you Karson Turner) have mouths much larger than their ears and were unable to view the sign-holding protesters without harassing them about their messaging, activists stood their ground and were met with many honks, thumbs up, and raised fists from passerby. The public seemed to be on the side of the plants, animals, and people—not the corporations.

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Once the meeting started, FPL employees gave a presentation on the new plan, which showed everyone in the packed meeting room that the current panther corridor would be almost entirely gutted by the solar project. Dozens of people gave impassioned speeches against the project, citing destruction of the Earth, water, indigenous cultures, and even the night sky as reasons not to go forward with this project. Three people spoke in favor of the power plant: two business men and one local Clewiston resident who noted that “Solar is the future.”

After the speeches, the commissioners had no discussion: They had made up their minds already. Though they approved the rezoning, the fight has just begun. They still need to approve each power plant plan as it is presented, and potentially face years of litigation that could prevent them from moving forward with this plan at all. Stay tuned to be part of the fight against FPL and for a wild and thriving Florida.

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