By Jay Rosenbek and Lynn Frazier, League of Women Voters
Empowering voters and defending democracy are principal missions of the League of Women Voters. To have a functioning democracy, we must also have a habitable planet.
The League is supporting legislation that will support the maintenance of a healthy environment and opposing legislation that will suppress a healthy environment.
Prior to each state legislative session, the League of Women Voters of Florida prepares a list of legislative priorities to guide its public education and political advocacy. The League has identified 80 bills introduced for the 2022 session with direct implications for the environment. Highlighted below are seven bills the League supports and two we oppose
Critical to Florida’s prosperity is an accelerated transition from fossil to renewable energy, a transition that would benefit from statewide clean energy goals, methods and a timetable for reaching them. While the Florida Legislature has resisted setting these goals, Senate Bill 366 and House Bill 81 would establish such goals.
Specifically, the bills would require that by 2040, 100% of the state’s electricity must be generated by renewable energy. By 2050 this legislation would require that the state have net zero carbon emissions. Interim goals for 2030 and 2040 are also specified in the bills. If passed, strategies for reaching these goals must be submitted to the governor, speaker of the House and president of the Senate by 2024 and progress reports will be due on Jan. 1 every year thereafter.
To preserve a healthy planet, it will take not only individual commitment to the environment but also the efforts outlined in Senate Bill 366 and House Bill 81. The passage of these bills is critical.
Florida’s salt and estuary waters are rising, interior water and wetlands are in retreat, and the quality of all four is declining. Furthermore, at the present rate of development, it is estimated by century’s end one-third of Florida will be covered in asphalt.
Hopefully voters appalled by these developments will join with the League in supporting SB 602 and HB 449, labeled Land Acquisition Trust Fund. These bills would benefit the state’s waters and lands.
First, they would guarantee funding to implement the Florida Keys Stewardship Act, which codifies the state’s recognition of the importance of land acquisition and water quality projects as critical needs.
A minimum of $200 million per year would go to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Additionally, they would guarantee $50 million per year for springs restoration, protection and management and $5 million per year for restoration of Lake Apopka and other water projects around the state.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that transportation creates 29% of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions per year, the highest percent of any sector. SB 920 and HB 737, entitled Electric Vehicle Transportation Electrification Program, would require the Florida Public Service Commission to adopt rules that would facilitate development of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
SB 918 would require development of electric vehicle infrastructure grant programs. These bills could accelerate a transition to electric vehicles and substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
There are also proposed bills to oppose. Join with the League and other state environmental groups to oppose the so-called net metering bills, SB 1024 and HB 741.
Net metering is a utility billing mechanism available in many states, including Florida, that offers a credit to residential and business customers who are making excess electricity with their solar panel systems and sending the excess back to the grid. SB 1024 and HB 741 would change this billing mechanism, with disastrous effects on the state’s transition to renewable energy and its burgeoning solar energy sector.
A democracy that fails to generate adequate, healthy air, water and soil will not survive. Join the League of Women Voters in defending democracy by defending the environment.
Jay Rosenbek is co-chair of the natural resource committee of the League of Women Voters of Alachua County and Lynn Frazier is the chapter’s president.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.