For Immediate Release, June 16, 2022

Contact:

Elise Bennett, (727) 755-6950, ebennett@biologicaldiversity.org

Agencies Warned for Ignoring Florida Nuclear Plant’s Harm to American Crocodiles

Turkey Point Extension Came Despite Role in Reptile’s Plummeting Population

MIAMI— The Center for Biological Diversity warned the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that they’re violating the Endangered Species Act by failing to lawfully consult over the Turkey Point Nuclear Plant’s current harm to imperiled American crocodiles and their habitat. The violations relate to the federal approval of a 20-year operational extension for nuclear units 3 and 4 at Turkey Point.

Today’s letter also says that the nuclear commission and Florida Power & Light Company — the utility that owns Turkey Point — are violating the Act’s prohibition on the unauthorized killing, harming or harassing of the crocodiles because there has been no proper analysis and authorization of the plant’s current harm to the threatened species.

“These federal agencies should immediately revise their analysis for Turkey Point to include the plant’s current harms to these captivating reptiles and their habitat,” said attorney Elise Bennett, deputy Florida director at the Center. “Consultation is an essential requirement of the Endangered Species Act. It ensures federal actions won’t drive species like the American crocodile extinct. But by ignoring harmful impacts to the crocodile and its habitat, the agencies have failed to ensure the species’ future is secure, and that’s wrong.”

Built amid the crocodile’s wetland habitat in South Florida, Turkey Point’s cooling canal system has hosted crocodiles for decades. However, in the mid-2010s, poor water quality and increased temperature and salinity in the system caused an ecological collapse as seagrass died and algae thrived. Crocodiles experienced extreme stress and starved, and their population plummeted.

In a 2019 analysis, the Service found that the canal system’s poor water quality was harming crocodiles and their habitat. Yet the Service never analyzed those harms because it assumed they would improve by the year 2032, when Turkey Point’s 20-year operation renewal is set to begin. As a consequence, the agencies never assessed how plant operations over the next decade will affect individual crocodiles on the site — and the species as a whole.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service recognized that Turkey Point hurts both crocodiles and their habitat, but it didn’t take the requisite steps to analyze the harm and its impacts on the species,” said Bennett. “Wildlife officials and nuclear regulators can’t simply ignore that near-term harm because they hope conditions might get better in a decade.”

The American crocodile is a federally threatened species found in South Florida and parts of Central America, South America and the Caribbean. It is similar in appearance to the American alligator but can be distinguished by its slender body, tapered snout and exposed fourth tooth on the lower jaw.

The primary threats to crocodiles are habitat degradation and human disturbance, which disrupt essential breeding behaviors and hatchling survival. In a recent recovery plan for the species, the Fish and Wildlife Service specifically described poor water quality at the Turkey Point nuclear plant as being among the emerging threats to the species.

RSAmericanCrocodile_NPS_FPWC
American crocodile. National Park Service / Judd Pat. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.