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Stop the Tallahassee Power Grab

The comments below were given to the Senate Regulated Industries Committee and House Tourism, Infrastructure, and Energy Subcommittee and on March 9, 2021 by Deputy Director Jonathan Webber.

SB 1128

Good morning, my name is Jonathan Webber and I am the Deputy Director of Florida Conservation Voters. I am here today to ask you to please vote NO on SB 1128 because it also undermines local government on decisions that should remain at the local level. 

The state of Florida is one of only a minority of states which prohibits Power Purchase Agreements and still relies solely on monopoly utilities, which are granted total control over a given service area by the state. Customers who do not want to rely on a fuel source which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions cannot simply ‘switch’ utilities if their local power provider chooses to generate electricity in a way they find reprehensible. Floridians can’t even engage in Power Purchase Agreements to provide their choice of energy. Instead, we’re limited to accepting whatever the power company has on the menu- which is virtually always natural gas. 70% of the power generated by utilities comes from natural gas, and Floridians have precious little say over that reality. 

Outside of a handful of limited-access programs, customers of a given utility have no say over how their energy is generated, and no ability to take their business elsewhere. One of the only mechanisms of direct control or input which residents have at their disposal is through their local elected officials, who can exert some degree of pressure on utilities. 

Since the state has failed to either allow people to choose their energy by legalizing PPAs or true community solar, and has failed to adopt any kind of other non-fossil fuel options, people have naturally turned to the local level to exert some kind of choice over how their communities are powered.

Far from expanding choice, this legislation would collapse it by removing one more mechanism for Floridians to control their own energy future.

SB 856

I am here today to ask you to please vote NO on SB 856 because it undermines local government on decisions that should remain at the local level. From the siting of gas stations to oil derricks to pipelines to how a local community responds to disasters and more – this bill would remove local people from all of those decisions. Under this bill, the state could site substations and transmission lines next to an elementary school or a gas station inside a residential neighborhood and local residents would have no say and just have to live with it. 

Additionally, this bill will impact all sorts of local policies and ordinances that may only be tangentially related to energy infrastructure – see the line in the bill that says “has the effect of.” Intentional or not, this legislation will have unfathomable consequences for local policy and local safeguards that are decades in the making and will cause widespread confusion about countless other local ordinances, zoning codes, resolutions, and contracts. Even the Senate Staff Analysis says on page 11 that “the bill may impair a local government’s vested rights or contractual obligations or ability to satisfy a contractual obligation.”

The word “distribution” as used on Line 17 is an extremely broad term. For example, pipelines are used to transport fuel, but so are our roads, our railways, and basic transmission lines, electric poles, gas stations, and everything related is also “distribution.” And, once it goes into the grid, electricity can be used for anything, including powering electric vehicles. All energy producing infrastructure is potentially used to power transportation. 

The word “Production” on Line 16 is also incredibly broad. Does this mean that local governments now have no say on how solar panels are installed in their neighborhoods because it could power a car? 

On line 16, “renewable fuel” is listed as part of transportation energy infrastructure. Ethanol made from corn or sorghum is deemed a renewable fuel, so does this bill now strip local authority over regulation of agricultural land? 

It’s almost impossible to define where the limits of this legislation end. Make no mistake, this bill will become a lightning rod for litigation and cost local and state governments countless taxpayer dollars. I’m sure we can all agree that policy decisions are better made in the legislature, county commission chambers, and city hall and not the courtroom. 

But finally, with all of these energy decisions now reverting to the state, Florida would likely need to massively expand the size of our government to handle this increased bureaucracy. This bill will put the State of Florida in the driver’s seat on everything, from electric poles to day-to-day issues that impact municipal utilities to whether the Wawa in Bonita Springs can expand into the parking lot of the neighboring Publix. 

This bill is just not the right policy.  I urge you to please vote NO on HB 856.

HB 839

FCV opposes HB 839 because it undermines local government on a vast array of decisions that should remain at the local level. From the siting of gas stations in neighborhoods to pipelines to how a local community responds to disasters and more – this bill would remove local people from all of those decisions.

But the Staff Analysis for this bill hits on a point that immediately jumped off the page for us. At the end of the analysis, under the section entitled DRAFTING ISSUES OR OTHER COMMENTS, they write specifically about the “have the effect of…” wording on line 35, “This language could have the effect of rendering void a wide array of local regulations that only incidentally affect or are incidentally related to transportation energy infrastructure. Due to the breadth of this language and the variation in local government regulations, these impacts cannot be determined. It is unclear whether the bill would impact a local government’s ability to implement ordinances or policies related to the operation of their own electric and natural gas utility infrastructure.”

Intentional or not, this bill will have unfathomable consequences for local policy and safeguards that are decades in the making and will cause widespread confusion about countless other local ordinances, zoning codes, and resolutions.

“Distribution” as used on Line 19 is an extremely broad term. For example, pipelines are used to transport fuel, but so are our roads, our railways, and basic transmission lines, electric poles, gas stations, and everything related is also “distribution.” And, once it goes into the grid, electricity can be used for anything, including powering electric vehicles. Almost all energy producing infrastructure is potentially used to power transportation.

The word “Production” on Line 19 is also incredibly broad. Does this mean that local governments now have no say on how solar panels are installed in their neighborhoods because it could potentially power a car?

On line 22, “renewable fuel” is listed as part of transportation energy infrastructure. Ethanol made from corn or sorghum is deemed a renewable fuel, so does this bill now strip local authority over regulation of agricultural land?

This bill is just not the right policy as currently written. I urge you to please vote NO on HB 839.

FCV and our partners are working hard to defeat this bad bundle of energy preemption bills. Can you help? Email your legislators now to ask them to OPPOSE SB 856/HB 839 and SB 1128. You can also help fuel FCV’s on-the-ground lobbying work by making a gift. Thank you, Conservation Voters!

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