Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) just signed into law SB 1128/HB 919, “Preemption Over Restriction of Utility Services,” which was pushed through the legislature. It prevents local governments from deciding which energy path they want to take. In other words, Florida towns and cities are now unable to switch to 100% clean energy because they can’t ban fossil fuels.
What’s in the new law?
SB 1128/HB 919 states:
An act relating to preemption over restriction of utility services; creating s. 366.032, F.S.; prohibiting municipalities, counties, special districts, or other political subdivisions from restricting or prohibiting the types or fuel sources of energy production used, delivered, converted, or supplied by certain entities to serve customers; providing construction; voiding existing specified documents and policies that are preempted by this act; providing an effective date.
Or, as the Miami Herald explains, the new law:
…invalidates local comprehensive plans that restrict land use related to fossil fuel and renewable energy. It… prevent[s] local governments from prohibiting natural gas fracking, nullif[ies] their solar permitting ordinances, weaken[s] Southeast Florida’s climate compact, end[s] renewable energy grant programs, and eliminate[s] county authority over pipelines along roadways.
What does this mean?
As the Sierra Club Florida chapter points out on its website:
As of late 2019, Florida cities making the commitment to 100% clean energy include Tallahassee, Gainesville, Orlando, Satellite Beach, Dunedin, Largo, Safety Harbor, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and South Miami Beach.
So now each of these cities can no longer pursue 100% clean energy initiatives, as former governor and congressman Charlie Crist (D-FL), who is running against DeSantis in 2022, confirms:
During the Trump administration, clean energy initiatives in the US were implemented at local, city, and some state levels. That has continued under the Biden administration as Congress wrangles over the big infrastructure bill.
DeSantis just kneecapped Florida communities’ efforts to fight climate change and transition to clean energy by insisting that fossil fuels must be present in all electricity systems.
Why did DeSantis force fossil fuels on Florida?
Supporters of the bill argued that consumers, not local governments, should be able to choose what type of energy source they use. But local governments are elected by the people.
The bill naturally had the backing of the Florida Natural Gas Association, seeing how natural gas is Florida’s largest single source of electricity. It powers 70% of the state’s electricity. So it’s big money.
It’s also dirty. Natural gas (mostly burned for electricity) produces 34.7% of Florida’s CO2 emissions, according to the US Energy Information Administration (table 3), behind petroleum, which produces 51.8% of the state’s emissions (mostly burned in cars). The electricity sector as a whole makes up 43.5% of Florida’s total emissions, which is disproportionately higher than the national average. Also, natural gas’s emissions might even be higher in reality due to unaccounted-for fugitive methane emissions.
DeSantis has a record of passing preemptive bills against straw men, and this is yet another example. He likes to ban what might be. No local government in Florida has banned natural gas yet.
Miami, the “most vulnerable coastal city” to climate change worldwide, is already experiencing the effects of climate change between flooding and contamination of its water supply due to sea level rise. The city has said it would need to block natural gas in new construction soon in order to protect itself from disaster, which would be important for the state, given that the Miami metro area makes up somewhere between a quarter and a third of Florida’s total economic output. Now, it can’t work to mitigate the causes of the climate change that threatens it because cities can no longer develop green building codes that exclude natural gas connections.
Let’s use an analogy. It’s now universally accepted, after many years of Big Tobacco insisting otherwise (incidentally, using the same lobbyists and industry-funded scientists who now deny climate change), that smoking cigarettes is bad for our health. Individuals can still legally smoke, but the Florida government has restricted where they can smoke. Fossil fuel emissions are even more dangerous than cigarette smoke – they caused 1 out of 5 deaths globally in 2018 compared to about 1 out of 7 for smoking. DeSantis just signed a bill saying that we are all required to breathe fossil fuel emissions. In other words, we aren’t allowed to ban “smoking” in our community “house.”
Bottom line, DeSantis chose short-term money – because climate change is going to cost Florida billions in the medium and long term, far more than any short-term profits from maintaining the status quo – and large corporate interests over those of his people. He doesn’t care what individual communities want, nor does he care about the health of Floridians.
How did environmental groups respond?
To put it succinctly, they’re angry. Florida Conservation Voters deputy director Jonathan Webber said:
Read More: Florida’s governor just locked ‘Florida into a dirty fossil fuel future’