Seminole had tried to understate the extent of the new air pollution the plant would have caused and avoid having to install stringent control technologies to minimize the pollution. On behalf of Florida Wildlife Federation, Earthjustice challenged the estimated volume of hazardous pollutants that the proposed plant would have discharged.
The electric company today changed direction and now wants to instead build a natural gas fired power plant that will facilitate renewable energy by smoothing out power generation and fill any gaps created by lack of sun or wind.
Seminole Electric is also considering building a 1 to 5 megawatt solar energy project in southwest Florida. The company was recently awarded the right to issue low-cost bonds for the solar project under a federal clean-energy program.
"It's great to see that Seminole Electric realizes that it's time for Florida to move away from outdated, dirty coal technology and toward more modern energy sources," said Earthjustice attorney David Guest. "Coal generates more of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming than other fuels and generates almost twice as many global warming pollutants as natural gas."
Earthjustice has been at the forefront of moving utilities and regulators away from coal. In June 2007, Earthjustice successfully challenged Florida Power and Light's proposal for what would have been the largest new coal plant in the United States, near Everglades National Park. The landmark environmental victory marked the first time global warming played a role in a decision by the state's utility regulatory agency, the Public Service Commission.
Seminole Electric's decision is also a watershed moment for Florida.
"Seminole Electric did the right thing here," said Florida Wildlife Federation president Manley Fuller. "It makes no sense to add new coal generating units in Florida when we're finally moving to install renewable energy sources like solar."