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Coral Gables and FPL are fighting

FPL describes Gables’ mayor as “self-entitled”

Florida Begins Long Recovery After Hurricane Irma Plows Through State
Destroyed power lines hang above a road two days after Hurricane Irma swept through Florida
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Coral Gables and Florida Power and Light are butting heads as swaths of Miami-Dade customers are desperate for their power to return today, which was FPL’s self-imposed estimate for full restoration across the county.

On Tuesday morning, the city issued a citation against FPL for failing to restore power by a September 17th deadline and recently threatened legal action in a letter dated several days before that deadline.

Coral Gables Mayor Raúl Valdés-Fauli described FPL's’s level of support as “pathetic” and FPL has issued quite the response, describing the mayor as “self-entitled” and the city’s lawsuits as “frivolous.”

"We understand that it's extremely frustrating for our customers to be without power," the statement read. "That said, frivolous lawsuits and ludicrous code violations that attempt to pressure us into providing preferential treatment for their city will not work.

"Our focus is on restoring power to all of our customers, and we will not be moved by self-entitled politicians who are looking for someone to blame for the city's irresponsibly managed tree program.”

FPL’s statement went on to criticize Coral Gables for failing to trim trees and “harden” their electric system.

“The fact is the city of Coral Gables has for many years resisted FPL's well-documented efforts to trim trees and harden our electric system. Unfortunately for our customers in that area, they are now paying the price in terms of extended outages due to hundreds of trees that have fallen into our lines.

"There's no doubt that the city's extreme approach to trees is the cause of the problem. More importantly, it threatens the safety of the residents of Coral Gables and the lives of the lineworkers who are trying to restore power."

Meanwhile, there’s also a class-action lawsuit that was filed against FPL yesterday, claiming “FPL collected storm charge fees to allow for trees near power lines to be pruned and for moving some power lines underground but FPL didn't do what was promised.”

FPL claims 97 percent of the county has power restored. Their full statement is below.

"We understand that it’s extremely frustrating for our customers to be without power. That said, frivolous lawsuits and ludicrous code violations that attempt to pressure us into providing preferential treatment for their City will not work. Our focus is on restoring power to all of our customers, and we will not be moved by self-entitled politicians who are looking for someone to blame for the City’s irresponsibly managed tree program. The fact is the city of Coral Gables has for many years resisted FPL’s well-documented efforts to trim trees and harden our electric system. Unfortunately for our customers in that area, they are now paying the price in terms of extended outages due to hundreds of trees that have fallen into our lines.

While we do not have a precise assessment of the number of City-owned trees that may have been improperly located, resulting in unnecessarily extensive damage to electrical equipment and extended outages for Coral Gables residents, there’s no doubt that the City’s extreme approach to trees is the cause of the problem. More importantly, it threatens the safety of the residents of Coral Gables and the lives of the lineworkers who are trying to restore power.

We have restored 97 percent of Miami-Dade, and thousands of crews are working to restore the remaining customers without power. After restoration is complete, FPL would be happy to work with the City constructively and provide them recommendations on how to avoid some of these problems from reoccurring during severe weather in the future. However, it is important to note, that numerous attempts we’ve made in the past to address the impact of the City’s dense, overgrown vegetation and tree canopy has on the reliability of their residents’ electric service has been ignored.

We recently learned of a separate, related lawsuit filed on behalf of two individuals who appear to have a history of pursuing frivolous legal action. Frivolous lawsuits are filed every day in America, however, what is concerning in this case is that the suit was filed by a law firm linked to a Coral Gables City Commissioner. We have not yet received a copy of the lawsuit, but we can only assume it’s another attempt to distract from the City’s failure to properly locate and manage its trees, despite having a website that shows the exact location of each of its 38,000 trees.

Our crews have been removing a shocking number of fallen and damaged trees that were apparently planted by the City in dangerous locations far too close to power lines. Other trees appear to have been planted too closely together, preventing their root systems from being able to grow properly and hold the ground securely in high winds. With wind gusts of more than 90 mph recorded in nearby weather stations, it’s no wonder why so many trees came crashing down all over the City."