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U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor Calls For ‘Thorough Review’ Of TECO Utility Project

TECO's  Big Bend Power Station
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TECO's Big Bend Power Station in Hillsborough County is asking the state Cabinet to approve changes to the facility.

Pointing to concerns about climate change, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., urged Gov. Ron DeSantis and state Cabinet members Friday to conduct a “thorough review” of a proposed Tampa Electric Co. power-plant project.

Castor’s request came as DeSantis and the Cabinet could be poised Thursday to give a key approval to the project at Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station in Hillsborough County.

Acting as the state Power Plant Siting Board, DeSantis and Cabinet members will consider an administrative law judge’s recommendation that they approve the project. 

Under the Tampa Electric plan, one old generating unit, known as Unit 2, at the Big Bend site would be shut down. Another old unit, known as Unit 1, would be upgraded as a natural-gas plant, eliminating the use of coal in the unit.

But Castor, chairwoman of the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, raised concerns about the use of natural gas instead of cleaner sources of energy such as solar or wind.

“Any decision regarding TECO’s new plant should be reviewed thoroughly by the Siting Board based upon the language and spirit of the (state) Power Plant Siting Act,” Castor wrote. “The Siting Board also should go beyond a strict legal analysis in deciding to review the project prior to certification because any decision TECO makes or is allowed to make will be with us for decades. Therefore, the need for an efficient, economical decision that safeguards citizens and shareholders alike, and the need to ‘get it right’ for Florida’s environment and economy requires that the Siting Board take a broad view of its role and the impact of utility siting decisions.”

But Administrative Law Judge Francine M. Ffolkes, in a May 30 recommended order, said the project would reduce emissions when compared to the current operation of the two units.

“The modernization project is projected to result in significant reductions in emissions compared to the continued operation of Units 1 and 2 firing either coal or natural gas as a primary energy source,” Ffolkes wrote.

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