Fortune Telling: What Will Ron Do?

HB 1645, a bill that would send Florida’s environmental and climate policy backwards decades in time, was passed by both the Florida House and Senate during the 2024 legislative session and has been sitting on Governor Ron DeSantis’s desk for a couple of weeks awaiting his decision to either enact the law or veto it. The pending law is horrible legislation that, if enacted, would:

  • Remove the phrases “global warming” and “climate change” from existing Florida laws,
  • Eliminate energy policy goals related to sustainable energy or global climate change from Florida laws,
  • Allow “resiliency facilities” to store and distribute all kinds of gas as a permitted land use in every county and municipality in Florida,
  • Discourage state and local governments from purchasing electric vehicles,
  • Reduce public and local government input on and review of natural gas (a lethal methane producing fossil fuel) pipeline projects under 100 miles in length,
  • Eliminate Florida’s clean renewable energy grant programs, and
  • Prohibit wind energy within a mile of the coast and effectively offshore.

Governor DeSantis has until May 15th to either allow HB 1645 to sign and enact the law, veto it, or take no action which actually ends up enacting it into Florida law regardless. In my view his decision will define his environmental legacy more than any other step he will take during his two terms in office and will impact Florida forever. That decision begs the question What Will Ron Do?

The world knows that South Florida sits at, sinks at, ground zero within the United States because of the warming of earth’s climate that is causing glaciers to melt and seas, therefore, to rise. It is truly not hyperbole to say that much of our region faces the very real risk of extinction from rising sea levels over the coming decades and that places like the Florida Keys, the Everglades, Miami, Miami Beach, and countless others may not survive from those rising seas.

Without an aggressive transition away from the polluting fossil fuels that are causing that warming, vast parts of South Florida will not survive. Fragile Florida is in a unique position to show leadership to our country and the world by becoming serious about addressing the foundational cause of our climate crisis, fossil fuel use. Yet, allowing HB 1645 to become law would, instead, do the exact opposite.

The Governor, a man educated at both Harvard and Yale, most certainly knows the truth – as I suspect do those legislators who supported and voted for HB 1645. And, yet, these same people seem to have placed the seductive short-term political support and massive money from Florida’s electrical utilities and fossil fuel firms that they crave along with a fictitious political narrative that panders to what some folks want to hear over taking sensible steps towards saving as much of this unique and special place we call Florida before it’s too late.

For this reason, the Governor’s decision is simply monumental. Allow it to automatically become law, sign it on or before the 15th, or veto it by that date.

Now the fact that he’s not yet announced his decision might, perhaps, offer hope to some that he will do the right thing and veto HB 1645. And I sure hope that is the case. Unfortunately, if I were a fortune teller or had a crystal ball, I’d predict that he will enact the law. I hope I am wrong but I’ve long worried that the Governor was a “pretend environmentalist” and the evidence that my concerns are correct grows with each passing year.

For example, the fact that he actually played a direct role in authoring the part of HB 1645, the section that essentially outlaws sustainable wind energy in Florida, is terribly telling. And if you need another example, just consider his own “energy policy” from his failed recent presidential campaign that touted plans to withdraw the United States from the UN’s global climate accord (the Paris Agreement), cease all US commitments to reduce greenhouse emissions to zero, increase the installation of petroleum pipelines, and allow the extraction of oil, gas, coal, uranium, and other minerals on federally protected lands. It is not a coincidence that he announced his plan on a campaign stop last year in Texas while standing in front of two huge oil dikes, a picture that made it clear that his priority is supporting the fossil fuel industry instead of the environment and the right of our citizens to a clean climate.

The clock is ticking, Governor DeSantis.

Your environmental legacy can largely be cemented with a veto of HB 1645 or destroyed by enacting a law that will make you, and Florida, the laughingstock of the country and world beyond.

Do you have the moral and ethical conviction to do the right thing by protecting Florida?

The choice over these important nine remaining days is yours and leads me to ask and wonder What Will Ron Do?