WLRN, Monroe County residents worried about water quality want Miami-Dade to go slowly on deal with FPL

The Miami-Dade County Commission on Jan. 23 will consider mandating a certain number of electric vehicle charging spaces in new developments.

The ordinance would apply in the unincorporated areas of the county, which cover a significant portion of the population, and most of the undeveloped land. Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who sponsored the ordinance, said it would apply to developments submitted after the rule is passed, not retroactively. The rule would not apply to single-family homes, duplexes and townhouses, which all usually have access to electrical outlets near parking spaces, or to religious buildings.

There were 361,307 electric and plug-in vehicle sales in the United States in 2018, an 81 percent increase from the year before, according to Inside EVs. Telsa was responsible for over 50 percent of those sales, with Chevrolet in second. That was still less than 2 percent of overall U.S. auto sales in 2018.

Some automotive analysts project that electric vehicle sales will grow rapidly as more automakers, such as Volkswagen, General Motors, Hyundai and Ford, electrify a larger portion of their lineups. A study by the Edison Electric Institute and the Institute for Electric Innovation forecasted that 2 million electric vehicles will be on the road by early 2021, and that number will exceed 18 million by 2030. There were 1 million electric vehicles on the road at the end of 2018.

“We need to move more to electric vehicles,” Levine Cava said. “It’s good for the environment. It reduces our carbon footprint. More people are interested in electric charging and the more infrastructure we have, the better.”

One of the biggest barriers to electric vehicle adoption is the lack of charging stations. For people who live in complexes or towers, it’s hard to have a charging station installed in a parking area they don’t own. Mandating charging stations would give many more people the option to purchase an electric vehicle.

The lack of charging stations is also an issue in office buildings and business parks, where some employees might want to plug in their vehicles while they’re at work.

Initially, all projects that require nine or fewer off-street parking spaces must have at least one electric vehicle charging space or one electric vehicle-ready space, meaning full circuitry is installed so a charger could be connected at a later time. Projects with 10 or more off-street parking spaces must have at least 10 percent of their spaces ready for electric vehicle charging.

By Jan. 1, 2022, the requirement for the latter group would increase to 20 percent, but only after a public hearing confirms that there is enough demand from electric car users.

The ordinance doesn’t mandate that the electric vehicle-ready spaces have chargers installed, only that they be wired for a charger. However, vehicles can still charge at a lower voltage through a regular electrical outlet.

“Hopefully, it will create more excitement once the infrastructure is visible and it will be an incentive for people to think about charging up with electric cars,” Levine Cava said.

In addition, the ordinance would create official county signage for electric vehicle parking/charging spaces and establish traffic penalties for non-electric vehicles that park in them. Violators could have their vehicles towed and be subject to a non-moving violation fine.

Following the Jan. 23 vote, the ordinance must pass a committee hearing and then have another vote before the County Commission.

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Miami Herald, County moves toward using wastewater in FPL canals, but won’t set water standards yet

A plan to use treated wastewater to freshen Florida Power & Light’s troubled nuclear cooling canals will move forward, for now, without meeting strict water standards set for nearby Biscayne Bay.

On Tuesday, Miami-Dade commissioners authorized the county staff to negotiate the deal, but put off setting the standards.

Instead, terms of the costly treatment will be ironed out as the utility and the county staff work out details. Any project will ultimately come back to commissioners for final approval. But by then, critics worry it may be too late.

“Once we build a reuse treatment plant, we’re not building it again,” said Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, the only commissioner to vote against the plan. “That’s why we have to think about the future.”

Mayor Carlos Gimenez pitched the deal in January as a simple solution to two thorny problems: meeting a state deadline to reuse up to 60 percent of the county’s wastewater and cleaning up the aging canals. On Thursday he said including standards now would complicate the process.

“We need to put the right water in the right place and the right quality in the right place,” he said. “Right now it would be premature to put any standard in it.”

Environmentalists have also objected, warning that putting wastewater into the leaky canals could worsen pollution in the bay.

Two years ago, after years of mounting evidence that the salty canals were helping fuel a massive underground saltwater plume, county environmental regulators confirmed canal water had begun leaking into the bay. Evaporation combined with rising temperatures in the canals had caused water to become increasingly salty and sink, creating the plume. The utility is now in the midst of a $200 million cleanup.

The utility is also struggling with an uncertain future for the power plant. Two new reactors were shelved amid mounting construction costs last year. FPL instead plans on applying to extend the operating license of the two existing units, which are nearly 50 years old, by another 20 years.

At Tuesday’s meeting Cava tried to make it clear that the county did not support the continued use of the canals. Last year, the commission voted to urge staff to retire them.

But it now appears the reuse plan will help support extension.

“For us to move forward with the project, the … license renewal will have to occur,” FPL vice president Mike Sole said. “Otherwise we can’t make an investment on what will be a very short term for that project.”

Commissioner Rebeca Sosa also proposed including stricter water standards, but Sole objected, citing the expense.

“It would truly be like using boutique water to water your plants,” Sole said.

Sosa also insisted that the county report back on the status of the canals in a year to ensure progress is made.

Cava also pointed out that 16 months ago, she asked the county staff to come up with a more thorough plan for reusing wastewater that addressed efforts to help revive coastal wetlands. Reusing wastewater was originally part of a 2000 Everglades Restoration plan that shared the cost with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Cava finally received a plan of 400-plus pages late Monday.

“It was four months late, but that’s not so bad,” she quipped. “The idea of working with FPL to reuse water has great promise, but it’s not enough.”

The proposed new facility would be able to treat up to 60 million gallons of wastewater a day, enough to generate 45 million gallons a day of usable water. Up to 15 million gallons would be used daily to cool the natural gas unit and 30 million gallons for the canals. Sole said meeting strict water quality standards could make the project too expensive.

“We understand it is more expensive, but there are also opportunities,” Cava said. ‘We would rather have water that would be really good for our environment, and not just the cooling canals.”

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