By Chelsea Rivera, Central Florida Jobs with Justice
A massive energy bill being considered by the Legislature presents serious threats to Floridians’ environment, health and safety.
The bill (HB 1645/SB 1624) is an omnibus, which means it’s one large bill composed of smaller bills on related topics. Instead of having to vote on individual bills, omnibuses roll them all into one larger bill that only needs to be passed for all the smaller component bills to become law.
The current draft of the bill is composed of nine appropriations with far-reaching consequences for our state and its inhabitants. Let’s dissect each of these smaller bills to understand what makes them so dangerous:
Transporting natural gas: The bill would preempt local governments from restricting the types of fuel sources, such as natural gas and liquified petroleum, that may be “used, delivered, converted, or supplied.” The transport of natural gas is extremely dangerous and inefficient, with 30% of natural gas infrastructure prone to leaks, which can lead to significant levels of radium and methane in drinking water. Natural gas extraction and production can lead to a slew of negative health impacts including heart disease, reproductive harm, asthma, adverse cognitive effects, sleep disturbances and hormone disruptions.
Natural gas storage sites: The bill would prevent local governments from changing their land-use regulations to outlaw natural gas “resiliency facilities.” Resiliency facilities are storage sites for emergency supplies of natural gas. Under this bill, resiliency facilities could be built in any plot zoned for commercial, industrial or manufacturing use.
Natural gas and hydrogen fueling stations: Under this measure, any turnpike that allows gas stations must also allow repowering services such as liquefied natural gas, compressed hydrogen gas and hydrogen.
State energy goals: This part of the bill strikes more than 100 lines related to Florida’s current policy, deleting lines that acknowledge “implementation of alternative energy technologies can be a source of new jobs and employment opportunities” and that “the impacts of global climate change can be reduced through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.” Any piece of legislation that discourages more sustainable forms of transportation or minimizes the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on our climate is dangerous and misleading. It’s estimated that fossil-fuel vehicles generate nearly double the amount emissions of an electric vehicle, even when one accounts for the metal and mineral extraction required for EV production.
Deposit on EV batteries: Car dealerships would be required to collect a deposit for EV batteries, with the amount of the deposit depending on the kilowattage of the battery; the range falls between $500 for 50 kWh to $1,000 for more than 100 kWh. Owners can get their deposits back when they sell the car, transfer ownership or move out of state.
Power plant retirements: This piece of the legislation would require the Florida Public Service Commission to review any proposed closures of power plants larger than 75 megawatts. If the PSC determines that retirement of a power plant goes against Florida’s state energy goals, even if required by federal regulations, the PSC would support the state attorney general in challenging the federal regulation (i.e. filing a lawsuit against the federal government). Setting a norm of suing the federal government over disagreements in energy plans opens a costly can of worms for litigation battles.
Residential EV charging: The Public Service Commission would have the power to approve residential EV charging programs if the programs do not negatively impact ratepayers; any revenue generated will be required to be shared among ratepayers. Giving the commission any additional power is dangerous and moves us further away from a transition off of fossil fuels.
Fuel efficiency considerations when buying state vehicles: This piece would do away with fuel efficiency requirements for vehicles of state agencies. Because EVs did not comply with existing requirements, there is the possibility that this could open up more EVs in state agency fleets, but it’s highly unlikely as there is no criteria that encourages EV use by state agencies.
Forced-labor procurement ban: State agencies and local governments would only be allowed to purchase products from the Department of Management Services’ “Florida Humane Preferred Energy Products List.” While this bill signals as though it’s written from a human rights’ standpoint, it mainly serves to prevent state agencies from buying Chinese-made batteries.
Each individual piece is dangerous on its own, but taken together, this omnibus bill has far-reaching, disastrous implications for our state and its citizens. Urge your elected officials to vote no on HB 1645/SB 1624!
This piece was written by Dr. Chelsea Rivera, policy organizer at Central Florida Jobs with Justice, in collaboration with the Florida Climate Equity Cohort, a group of 10 organizations across Florida working at the intersection of climate change and social, economic and racial justice.