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Guest opinion: A slick oily fraud – Amendment 1 IS funded by Big Utilities: Vote ‘No’

By Staff | Oct 28, 2016

“Let the scum shine,” as Carl Hiassen penned in a recent column about Amendment 1. The money trail on Amendment 1 tells it all. And the dirty footprints lead right to the door of Florida’s biggest monopoly utilities: Florida Power and Light, Duke Energy, Gulf Power and more.

Like the famous Trojan Horse wheeled in during the dark of night and filled with waiting warriors to slay the city, the utilities have wheeled in their ballot amendment covered in a sheen of an appealing name: “Consumers for Smart Solar.” Except there is no consumer in sight, only highly paid lobbyists and public relations executives who are writing slick editorials, and covering the state in TV ads and mailers showing happy families. Even Pat Boone has been paid to call voters.

Don’t be fooled. The solar-power amendment on Florida’s November ballot is a slick, oily fraud. Promoted as a way to expand solar energy and protect residents who want it, Amendment 1 would do just the opposite.

These powerful utility and oil interests are seeking to protect their profits and their monopoly on energy. Solar is scary to them as a recently leaked audiotape of a lobbyist has proven. Miami Herald reporter Mary Ellen Klas released this devious audiotape of a presentation made by Sal Nuzzo of the James Madison Institute to energy industry insiders in which he is heard praising Amendment 1 as “an incredibly savvy maneuver” that “would completely negate anything they (pro-solar groups) would try to do either legislatively or constitutionally down the road.”

Despite protestations afterward by the James Madison Institute and other hired utility lobbyists, the truth is clear: The whole idea is to stop solar, and protect their incredibly profitable monopolies.

The whole amendment is like a scary Halloween trick. It starts by giving consumers a “constitutional right” to own or lease solar equipment “for their own use.”

But guess what? We’ve already got that right – no amendment necessary. They threaten the pitfalls of unregulated solar installers, but the truth is consumers already have more protections from solar installers than almost any other home contractor. And is the Florida Constitution now a place to put homeowner protections?

They leave the really nasty deceptive part at the end where they try to trick voters in to believing that solar gives those who don’t have it higher costs. But study after study shows solar rooftops, in fact, help everyone – by reducing the stress on the grid and preventing the need for super expensive new power plants.

“Solar polls very well,” remarked chatty Sal Nuzzo to his audience of power-company players last month.

But Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente saw right through their deceptive language: “A wolf in sheep’s clothing,” wrote Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente in her dissent, when the court voted 4-3 to allow the measure on the ballot.

This amendment will need 60 percent of the vote, so “Consumers for Smart Solar” (which should read “UTILITIES TO STOP SOLAR”) has been pulling out all the stops, including buying top advertising positions on the Google search engine, hiring lobbyists to write editorials, TV ads and non stop mailers.

Florida’s utility monopolies are spending $22 million to make sure we all fall for it Don’t let them pull the wool over our eyes. It’s tricky, but not complex: if you favor solar expansion in Florida, VOTE NO on this amendment.

Pamela Goodman is the President of The League of Women Voters of Florida.