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Published on: News

Stop the Assault on Local Government, Energy Autonomy, and Climate Action

published on: February 15, 2021

Floridians deserve a say in how we power our homes, businesses, and communities. Unfortunately, a new series of bills filed in the Florida Legislature aim to disenfranchise local governments, state executive agencies, and working Floridians by consolidating nearly all decisions about our energy into the hands of state legislative leadership. 

To combat the climate crisis, reduce the energy burden on Florida’s families, and increase accountability of our elected officials and utility companies, local governments need the authority and mechanisms to act on behalf of their citizens. 

Preemption refers to the idea that a higher authority of law (e.g., the state legislature) will displace the law of a lower authority (e.g., city, county, regional governments) when they come into conflict. 

If passed, the following bills will have significant negative implications for local autonomy, undermine environmental justice, and prevent necessary action on the climate crisis. 

Please urge your legislators to vote NO on SB 856/HB 839, SB 1008/HB 761, SB 1128/HB 919, and SB 1236/HB 617. 

SB 856/HB 839 – State Preemption of Energy Infrastructure Regulations by Sen. Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) retroactively prohibits local governments from passing any law, ordinance, regulation, policy, or resolution that prohibits, restricts, or requires the construction, expansion, upgrading, or repair of energy infrastructure. The bill also preempts to the state all regulation over the construction of “energy infrastructure,” which is broadly defined to include any infrastructure involved in the production, import, storage, or use of energy (drilling oil wells, solar panels, the location of gas stations, and more). 

  • Undermine local autonomy, environmental protection, and environmental justice. Under this bill, a local government would have no say over the development of a waste-to-energy incinerator next to an elementary school or a substation in the heart of a residential neighborhood. It would also instantly invalidate every local renewable energy commitment and years of carefully developed public policy. 
  • Devastate municipal budgets. This bill would undermine municipal bargaining power. Many municipalities can secure critical supplementation of their municipal budgets through franchise agreements that allow utility access to certain Right-of-Ways and the ability to operate within the municipality in exchange for a fee. 

SB 1008/HB 761 – Solar Electrical Generating Facilities by Sen. Hutson and Rep. Toby Overdorf (R-Stuart) will prohibit local governments from denying large-scale industrial solar facilities siting applications on agricultural lands. It also gives a blank check to utilities to overbuild to increase their profits.

  • Undermine Environmental Justice. Industrial-scale solar will be necessary to transition to a clean-energy economy, but these facilities still exert their own environmental and social impacts. This bill targets the victories of local activists in rural and predominantly Black communities. For example, when the residents of Archer, Florida, learned of a planned 75 Megawatt industrial solar farm slated for the middle of their historic residential community, they advocated for a different location and sought protection from the facility’s negative environmental impacts. Ultimately, the local government deemed the project to be incompatible with local land use codes. As is often the case when local advocates win essential battles to protect their health, safety, and environment, the state’s largest utilities are now seeking to invalidate that victory through the Legislature. 
  • Facilitate abuse by utilities. Under current law, industrial solar facilities above 75 Megawatts must perform a needs assessment and seek third-party bids, which are requirements designed to prevent cost-inflation and corrupt practices by utilities. Florida’s monopoly utilities benefit from guaranteed profits based on the equity they have invested in infrastructure. Removing the needs assessment and third-party bid requirements will enable utilities to build unnecessarily large industrial solar facilities at a marked-up cost. This establishes a dynamic where utility profits drive decision making about our energy grid rather than rational planning driven by the public interest.

SB 1236/HB 617 – Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Rep. Lauren Melo (R-Naples) will take away decision making authority from the Governor and state agencies to reduce dangerous carbon pollution. This bill will give complete control to the Florida Legislature. 

SB 1128/HB 919 – Preemption on Restriction of Utility Services by Sen. Travis Hutson will take away local governments’ rights to decide how our homes and businesses are powered. Bills with the same language have been introduced in other state legislatures as part of a nationwide assault by the oil and gas industry. This bill will prevent municipalities from moving away from outdated, gas-powered building codes to modern, clean-energy building codes. The legislation would effectively make any commitment to 100% clean energy impossible. 

Please urge your legislators to vote NO on SB 856/HB 839, SB 1008/HB 761, SB 1128/HB 919, and SB 1236/HB 617. 

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  1. You can add SB 426: State Preemption of Seaport Regulations, to the list of bills proposed by representatives of the former party of limited government, to the list. I did in the email to my legislators. SB 426 is an attempt to over rule the vote of an overwhelming majority of Key West voters to limit large cruise ships in that tiny town.