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Power plant in panther habitat wins zoning approval

A large power plant proposed for Florida panther habitat south of Lake Okeechobee passed an important hurdle Tuesday when the Hendry County Commission voted unanimously to rezone 3,127 acres of ranch land for the project.

Eddie Garcia, a Palm Beach Gardens real estate developer, sought the rezoning to accommodate a combined natural gas and solar plant capable of generating more than 3,750 megawatts of electricity, about three times the capacity of Florida Power & Light’s plant at Port Everglades.

The proposed Hendry Next Generation Clean Energy Center still needs to obtain many more approvals, including those of the Florida Public Service Commission, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And FPL, the presumptive builder and operator, has not yet committed to the deal, although it has been involved in the project.

Garcia’s plan calls for mitigating the destruction of panther habitat by giving perpetual protection to adjacent panther habitat. But several environmental groups are fighting the proposal, including the South Florida Wildlands Association, Conservancy of Southwest Florida and Sierra Club, saying it will destroy habitat for several endangered species, contribute to global warming and use massive quantities of water.

“Sierra Club will continue to fight this proposed power plant and any other urban or industrial project in the vicinity which would threaten the Florida panther's remaining habitat, so critically needed for its survival,” stated a news release by the Sierra Club issued Wednesday.

Also opposed is the Seminole Tribe. The Florida Wildlife Federation supports it because of the protection the plan would afford nearby panther habitat.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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