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Published on: News

Locals Locked Out of Solar Decision Making

published on: April 20, 2021

The comments below were given to the Senate Rules Committee on April 20, 2021 by Deputy Director Jonathan Webber.

SB 896 – Amendment 713270

Good morning, my name is Jonathan Webber with Florida Conservation Voters and I urge this committee to oppose this amendment. 

All commonly accepted definitions of environmental justice, including those used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and virtually all environmental advocacy organizations emphasize the importance of meaningful involvement and informed consent by communities in the environmental policy decisions affecting their lives.

The 17 principles of Environmental Justice drafted by Delegates to the 1991 First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit serve as a seminal defining document for the environmental justice movement. The passage of this amendment would undermine 5 of these 17 principles, including:

  • Principle 3: The right to ethical, balanced, and responsible uses of land and renewable resources
  • Principle 5: The fundamental right to political, economic, cultural, and environmental self- determination
  • Principle 7: The right to participate as equal partners at every level of decision making, including needs assessment, planning, implementation, enforcement, and evaluation
  • Principle 12: The need for policies to build up rural areas in balance with nature and honoring cultural integrity
  • Principle 13: The strict enforcement of principles of informed consent 

This amendment comes directly at the expense of rural communities, low-income communities, and communities of color. Three of the state’s largest utilities have announced plans to build up to 58 new commercial-scale solar facilities in the next few years. City Hall will always be more accessible to community residents than the state bureaucracy or the secretive boardrooms of electric utility companies. 

Protecting our environment isn’t a matter of just building as many solar panels as possible- the process of transitioning to a clean energy economy requires the collaborative input from all parties, and a strong commitment to principles of environmental justice. 

Now is not the time to cut local citizens and local considerations out of the planning process. On behalf of 18 environmental non-profits in Florida, I urge you to vote NO on this amendment.

Want to help protect voting rights and access? Use our Find Your Legislator tool to message your lawmakers. You can also help fuel FCV’s on-the-ground lobbying work by making a gift.

Thank you, Conservation Voters!

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