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Coral Gables has levied thousands of dollars in fines on FPL after it says the utility did not fulfillits promise of completely restoring electricity to city residents after Hurricane Irma. .
The city fined the utility $64,500 for not meeting its power restoration deadlines, from Monday to Wednesday.
FPL publicly promised that all power would be restored in the county on Sunday, Sept.17, a week after Irma’s winds hit South Florida. The company failed to meet their goal and amended its target date to Tuesday, Sept. 19.
As of 5:50 p.m. Wednesday, FPL said 380 customers were without power in Miami-Dade. It does not show data for individual cities.
“Our minimum housing code says that every dwelling must have electricity,” Coral Gables city attorney Craig Leen told the Miami Herald Wednesday. “A violator is someone who causes a violation and FPL unjustifiably failed to return power. They caused people to not have power and that can’t be tolerated.”
He added: “It is evident that FPL was not prepared at all for this storm, considering that it was supposed to be almost a direct hit, and it wasn’t.”
FPL fired back with a statement Tuesday, blaming the “city’s irresponsibly managed tree program.”
“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,” the statement said.
“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. Coral Gables has for many years resisted FPL’s well-documented efforts to trim trees and harden our electric system.”
After Hurricane Irma’s winds ripped through South Florida, more than 6.5 million homes and businesses in the state lost electricity. In Miami-Dade, nearly 900,000 of FPL’s 1.1 million customers were without power after the storm.
Thursday evening, Coral Gables issued a cease and desist letter to FPL, demanding that all trees on downed power lines be removed by 5 p.m. Friday and that all homes in the city be powered up by 11:45 p.m. Sunday.
While the trees were removed, not all of the city’s residents go their power back. That’s when the city started calculating fines.
By the end of Tuesday, the city issued FPL two $15,000 fines for not having 100 percent of its city back.
“At that point, we only had 92 percent of the city with electricity.,’’ Leen said. “What could have been close to $1 million fine ended up being much less because we capped it at $15,000 per day for the first two days.”
The city added another $33,000 fine on Wednesday. It came up with that number based on a $500 fine per household that didn’t have power. As of Wednesday, 99.7 percent of the city had electricity.
“There are 22,000 households in Coral Gables. If you do the math, three-tenths of a percentage means that there are 66 households without electricity. That’s about $33,000 in fines just for today” city attorney Craig Leen said. “And yes that may rise.”
FPL was also fined $1,500 for not cooperating with the city’s cease and desist letter. If the city is not fully powered by Thursday, fines will stack up again, city leaders say.