The Seminole Tribe is trying to stop the possible construction of a power plant next to the Big Cypress Indian Reservation.
Florida Power and Light, Hendry County and McDaniel Reserve Realty Holdings are named as defendants in the lawsuit. The trial began Monday.
At question is land the county rezoned in 2011 that borders the reservation. The tribe contends the rezoning, which gives FPL the option to build a power plant and solar panel fields, doesn’t line up with the county’s comprehensive development plan.
Samuel Tommie lives on the reservation and said the plant would damage the environment and relics that are important to the Seminoles.
“There are medicinal plants,” he said. “There are also endangered species in that area… Those areas will contain artifacts. Not only artifacts, but my people’s burial grounds.”
Judge Donald Mason said the defendants must prove the language in the development plan – particularly the word “utilities” – permits a power plant to be built on the site.
FPL purchased the land from McDaniel after it was rezoned.
If it wins the case, FPL has the option to build on the site, but spokesperson Sarah Gatewood, says no plans have been made.
“We own property all over the state, obviously,” she said. “We serve a big portion of the state of Florida and this is just one location that has been identified as a potential site for our project in the future, but we’ve made no decision and not decided to move forward with any property at this time.”
If FPL decides to build, it would first have to go through a permitting process.