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Environment

Tampa activists and officials want greater clean energy use by power companies

People, some wearing masks, sit at a table while others holding signs stand on a stage behind them.
Jorgelina Manna-Rea
/
WUSF
Clean energy activists and other officials, including Rep. Kathy Castor, seated, second from left, gathered at a local business in Tampa's Progress Village Oct. 15.

Community representatives and climate activists from across the greater Tampa Bay region gathered Friday in support of equitable clean energy use.

Climate activists gathered alongside local officials Friday in Progress Village to discuss the future of energy in Tampa.

The event was hosted by the environmental organization Sierra Club. Their main concern was TECO Energy’s recent proposal to the Florida Public Service Commission to raise rates for customers by 14%, some of which will pay for converting a generating unit at its Big Bend power station from coal-burning to natural gas.

Sierra Club National President Ramon Cruz said with today’s technology, there is no longer an excuse for utilities like TECO not to make the move toward cleaner energy.

“It is important that now that there is the technology to go into the future in a clean economy and a clean energy future, this is what we want to develop,” said Cruz.

Cruz also said that Tampa is one of the most vulnerable cities to the effects of climate change.

“Florida is the epicenter of the climate crisis, it's so vulnerable and we have seen already people here, not only in terms of heat waves and powerful hurricanes, people live in fear and especially the communities that we are in today, Progress Village, are very susceptible,” said Cruz.

Community members like Twanda Bradley, the vice president of the Progress Village Civic Council, said they’re concerned about the effects TECO’s proposal will have on the cost of living.

“Can our people afford that? Is it fair to those that have been living here for a very long time, still here, and generations on generations are still here?” said Bradley.

“So we’re just asking, TECO, help us, help our wealth.. so we're not spending as much, so we can afford to live, so that our elderly don't have to choose (between) their meds and their lights. It shouldn't be that way.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, said the stall in shifting to clean energy use in Florida is due to the profitability of the current system for both power companies and policymakers.

“I have a front row seat to the fact that other states and other communities are saving more money through energy efficiency,” said Castor. “Here in the state of Florida, policymakers and the polluters have kept this rigged game going, because they are profiting off of their pollution.”

With sea levels expected to rise in Florida due to climate change, Cruz said what happens in Tampa when it comes to clean energy could serve as a model for the rest of the nation.

“So what is happening right now in Tampa Bay, it is, the whole country and the whole world is watching because ultimately we want to transition to a clean economy,” said Cruz.

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