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Consumer Group: FPL Paying Too Much To Close Coal Power Plant

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Florida Power and Light told state regulators Tuesday it would save customers money by purchasing a Jacksonville coal-fired power plant.

The state Public Service Commission is weighing whether to approve the purchase. The regulatory panel held a hearing in Tallahassee Tuesday to hear from FP&L and opponents of the purchase, who include the Florida Office of Public Counsel. 

Florida Power and Light serves more than 100,000 customers in Nassau and St. Johns Counties. The company says it can save them and all of its ratepayers $70 million over a decade by not continuing to buy power from a coal-fired plant in Jacksonville.

In order to end a decades-old agreement it has to buy power from the plant, FPL wants to buy the plant outright and shut it down. Company lawyer Robert Barrett told regulators Tuesday the company plans to continue offering coal-fired power at the plant on Jacksonville's Northside until next year. That's when it expects enough natural gas will be available in Florida that it can phase out the coal plant. 

Barrett told the Public Service Commission the benefits also go beyond the financial.

“This will result in lower emissions and improved environmental profile for the state,” Barrett said.

But the power plant purchase is being fought by the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, which represents large-scale electricity consumers. The group contends the plant’s purchase price of over $500 million is "inflated," and the cost to ratepayers could be even lower.

FIPUG lawyer Jon Moyle told the Commission Tuesday the sales price should be below $370 million, an estimate given in previous valuations and by experts with the state Office of Public Counsel.

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP