Monday, December 11, 2017
Business

FPL parent company asked to report on cost of sea level risk

TALLAHASSEE — Shareholders at NextEra Energy's annual meeting in Oklahoma City on Thursday will be asked to vote on two issues that the parent company of Florida Power & Light and its board don't support: a mandate that the company annually report on the risks and costs of sea level rise and another that it disclose all campaign contributions made to candidates, campaigns and nonprofits.

Coral Gables activist and NextEra shareholder Alan Farago successfully petitioned federal regulators to require the company to have shareholders vote on a motion to require the company to report annually on the risks and costs of sea level rise at its operations. And the comptroller of the State of New York, Thomas P. DiNapoli — on behalf of the New York pension fund — is asking the shareholders to vote on the campaign contributions disclosure.

The board, which includes former state Senate president and Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings, opposes both proposals and successfully defeated a similar proposal on campaign finance disclosure last year.

In addition to those shareholder-requested agenda items, the annual meeting will also have voting members approve the annual compensation package for NextEra's top officials, as recommended by the board of directors.

According to the NextEra proxy statement, the company's top five executives were paid $32.1 million in 2015 in salary, incentives and performance pay and are eligible for a total of $46.8 million in shares of company stock.

NextEra hired two law firms to fight the proposal from Farago, the environmental activist and author of the Eye on Miami blog, and his wife, Lisa Versaci. But the Securities and Exchange Commission said that the motion must be placed on the agenda.

According to the proposal, shareholders "request that NextEra Energy Inc. report material risks and costs of sea level rise to company operations, facilities, and markets based on a range of (sea level rise) scenarios projecting forward to 2100, according to best available science."

Farago argued, in an article he wrote for the Huffington Post, that it would be the first time a utility would be required to report on the impacts of climate change and sea level rise. He noted that NextEra's 2015 annual report included a section titled "Risk Factors: Risks Relating to NEE's and FPL's Business," barely mentions climate change and makes one mention of sea level rise.

"... NEE's and FPL's physical plant could be placed at greater risk of damage should changes in the global climate produce unusual variations in temperature and weather patterns, resulting in more intense, frequent and extreme weather events, abnormal levels of precipitation and, particularly relevant to FPL, a change in sea level," Farago quotes the company as saying.

NextEra argued against taking the vote, saying that a report assessing the climate change risk was inappropriate for a shareholders meeting and would violate Florida law by interfering with the ability of the board of directors to "assess material risks."

"A proposal that asks the Company to speculate on a single aspect of global climate change nearly a century into the future would be a waste of time and money," FPL lawyers wrote in response to the SEC.

This is the fourth year NextEra has held its annual meeting outside of Florida, the Palm Beach Post reported this week. Prior to that, the company held it at its Juno Beach headquarters, and the meetings were attended by customers who were shareholders, and they came loaded with questions. Since the meetings have been relocated, they have ended in less than 30 minutes, the paper reported.

The company will web stream the Thursday meeting on its website.

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