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?

Woke? How About We Wake Up!

“The United States has spent billions on a climate change initiative and ideology that is unfitting for our country without significant results. Our country would not be where it is today without fossil fuels.”

Florida Representative & HB 1645 Sponsor Bobby Payne, R- Palatka

Investigative journalists all over Florida today have been reporting that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ office was directly involved in authoring provisions of Florida’s apparently soon to be new ULTRA UTILITY INDUSTRY FRIENDLY energy legislation, House Bill 1645. This horrific pending law awaits the Governor’s signature but if enacted it would do far more to take Florida’s energy policy back into the fossil fueled dark ages than just limit wind power as the article’s headline (“DeSantis’ office quietly backed ban on wind energy in Florida — onshore or off”) below announces. Some of the bill’s changes include:

  • Removing legislative wording from current laws related to global climate change to, I guess, act as if the climate is not changing and sea level rise is not threating our state;
  • Eliminating any mention of energy policy goals related to sustainable energy or global climate change;
  • Making “resiliency facilities” to store and distribute all kinds of gas a permitted land use in every county and municipality in Florida permissible;
  • Discouraging the state and local governments from purchasing electric vehicles;
  • Reducing public and local government input on and review of gas pipeline projects under 100 miles in length;
  • Eliminating the few clean renewable energy grant programs Florida has while providing utilities the ability to recover their costs related to the gas industry;
  • And, yes, it prohibits wind energy within a mile of the coast as well as offshore.

Candidly, the bill is an embarrassment to the State of Florida. It so overtly panders to Florida’s electric utilities at the expense of the State’s consumers and our environment that we should question the very fitness to hold office of anyone who sponsored it, helped author it, or voted for it. Scientifically, Florida is well known to be ground zero for America’s climate crisis, especially sea level rise. Seas are rising. Temperatures are rising. Local governments all over the state are desperately planning for how much (or little) of their communities they can save in the decades to come and I can only wonder how humiliated they must be to learn that the state government and governor are supporting the electric utilities powered by fossil fuels over taxpayers or saving as much of Florida as possible. The pending law is, simply stated, a disgrace and anyone attached to it should be ashamed to do this to our environment and Florida’s future generations.

So why would your elected officials do this? Well, it’s certainly to help the utility industry. The next time you see or hear a Florida utility touting how much they “love” renewable energy such as solar or wind power, please consider the most recent statistics about where these often large, profitable businesses actually source their power. Here in Florida the amount of renewable energy our power companies currently source to fill Florida’s energy needs is shockingly small. Here are the facts according to their own financial reports and government publications:

1. As of 2022, 93% of Florida’s power is from non-renewable energy.

2. 81% of the energy Florida utilities source is from fossil fuels including coal, petroleum, and natural gas.

3. Natural gas, a methane emitting fossil fuel that is 28 times more damaging than carbon dioxide, accounts for 75% of the energy Florida utilities source.

4. And, while I am sharing numbers, consider that solar power, in a place called “The Sunshine State,” accounts for a pathetic 6% of all of the power Florida utilities source.

Now consider this: the State’s three largest utilities, all for-profit, investor-owned, gigantic businesses (FP&L, Duke Energy, and TECO) respectively sourced the following amount of their power last year from sustainable, renewable energy such as wind, solar, and hydro:

1. FP&L was 5%,

2. Duke was 1.5% including both solar and hydro,

3. TECO was 7%.

Collectively these three investor-owned utilities account for 75% of the power sold in Florida and each firm has been in business for at or over 100 years. So, I ask you, if left to their own devices do we have any reason to truly believe these businesses will stop using the very fossil fuels that are causing our planet to warm, glaciers to melt, and seas to rise? Of course not. Not in any meaningful way or soon enough to help solve our global climate crisis. That’s why Florida has had climate-oriented energy policies in place since the early 2000’s or, for that matter, supported the petition that implemented Rule 50-5: Renewable Energy, which I helped lead in 2022 and that sure seems to have scared the utilities into the action that led to HB 1645.

What HB 1645 does is allow Florida’s utilities to continue the pollution without the rules, laws, or regulatory accountability needed to transition our state’s energy system from one based on fossil fuels to one based on sustainable energy. Like I said, anyone who supported it in any manner should be ashamed of how overtly they have sold our state (and I suppose themselves) to the utility industry.

As the article below from today’s Tampa Bay Times reports, DeSantis’ office touted the energy bill in a recent news release related to what they called “victories” from the recent legislative session under a section entitled “Stop the Woke” in which they expressed how pleased they were with themselves. I can only imagine how pleased the electric and gas utilities must be to know that our state government has, once again, picked them over taxpaying citizens and our fragile environment.

DeSantis’ office quietly backed ban on wind energy in Florida — onshore or off

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office quietly helped write a bill to curtail wind energy in the state of Florida, email records provided to the Tampa Bay Times show.

A version of that bill is now awaiting DeSantis’ signature to become law, which will ban offshore wind turbines in state waters. It also proposes to delete the majority of references to climate change found in state law, the Times previously reported.

Florida lawmakers passed the bills, Senate Bill 1624 and House Bill 1645, in early March, even though the state has no operational wind farms because Florida generally has slower wind speeds. Still, the ban on offshore turbines in state waters puzzled and frustrated opponents, who pointed to the fact that wind energy technology is rapidly improving and offshore wind energy could become more feasible in the near future. The bills’ sponsors, including Sen. Jay Collins, R-Tampa, said if that happens, they’d repeal the ban.

While debate over the bill continued in the halls of the Legislature, DeSantis’ office weighed in via email. Cody Farrill, a deputy chief of staff in the governor’s office, sent wording related to the wind ban multiple times to Collins and his staff in late January and early February. Some of the emails include Rep. Thad Altman, R-Indialantic, who, along with Collins in the Senate, sponsored a standalone ban on wind energy. That bill received no hearings, which by February meant it was in danger of dying.

“As discussed with Rep. Altman and Senator Collins, this is the preferred alternative for” the bills banning wind energy, wrote Farrill in one email addressed to the two lawmakers. It included an attachment with proposed bill language that would prohibit “the construction, operation, or expansion of a wind energy facility or an offshore wind energy facility in this state.”

That ban on all wind energy in the state is more expansive than the offshore-specific language eventually passed by lawmakers. In mid-February, similar language curbing wind energy was tacked on to a larger energy omnibus bill that had momentum in the Legislature, and was eventually passed by lawmakers.

The emails were first reported by independent journalist Jason Garcia of the Seeking Rents newsletter. They were provided to the Tampa Bay Times by the Energy and Policy Institute, a utilities watchdog group, which obtained them through a public records request.

The governor’s office did not respond to emails asking about his staff’s involvement and why the governor was interested in banning wind energy. Collins and Altman did not respond to voicemails seeking comment. Neither did Rep. Bobby Payne, R-Palatka, who sponsored the House version of the energy omnibus bill.

It’s unclear whether the governor’s office authored the original language that appeared in the first version of the wind energy ban, filed in early January. The first email included in the records request showing Farrill suggesting language tweaks was from Jan. 30.

In some of the suggestions, the governor’s office focused on banning wind energy facilities near “critical infrastructure.” At one point, a draft borrowed language froma separate law that limits land purchases by residents of certain foreign adversaries — including China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela — near similar infrastructure.

“The close involvement of the governor’s office in the wind energy ban really seems to indicate that this is another DeSantis culture war in an attempt to win political points as opposed to addressing any serious issues that Floridians are actually concerned about,” said Alissa Jean Schafer, a research and communications manager at the Energy and Policy Institute. She said that the attempts to ban wind turbines near critical infrastructure could “lay a foundation for anti-renewables fear mongering.”

During the legislative session, rumors spread that DeSantis was backing the offshore wind ban. A Times/Herald reporter in late February asked Florida House Speaker Paul Renner whether it was something the governor wanted.

“I don’t know who wanted it,” Renner said at the time, adding that the prohibition made sense for the state. “It’s very similar to offshore drilling: Floridians don’t want to sit on the beach and look at oil derricks and they don’t want to sit on the beach and look at big windmills right off the beach.”

DeSantis’ office referenced the energy bill in a news release touting victories from the legislative session, under the section title of “Stopping the Woke.” The changes ensure “Florida’s energy policy focuses on the viability and availability of energy resources in the state, without subjecting the reliability of Florida’s grid to the pressures of the global Green New Deal regime,” his office wrote.

Other states, including Texas and those in the Midwest, have embraced wind as a clean source of energy. The power produced by the rotations of wind turbines helps the United States avoid 336 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, according to the federal government, reducing the pollution that contributes to climate change.

A 2021 report from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that most Americans — 77% — support expanding wind energy. But pollsters found that a wedge was starting to form, as backing among Republicans and conservative independents had dropped 13 percentage points just since the previous year. It was the widest partisan gap since Pew started asking about wind power in 2016.

Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau reporter Lawrence Mower contributed to this report. This story was produced in partnership with the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a multi-newsroom initiative founded by the Miami Herald, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, The Palm Beach Post, the Orlando Sentinel, WLRN Public Media and the Tampa Bay Times. This story was originally published March 28, 2024, 4:27 PM. Read more at: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/climate-change/article287178015.html#storylink=cpy

Young Floridians Helped Enact America’s Strongest Statewide Goals to Increase Renewable Energy From Electric Utilities to 100% by 2050. Is Governor DeSantis About To Destroy It?

I recently read an article about India’s Adani Green Energy Limited, a renewable power company that is investing $20 Billion to build a solar and wind plant called the Khavda Renewable Energy Park. The news caught my attention for two reasons related to Florida.

First, just that one project will provide enough clean energy to power 16 million households when complete and will take (just) five years to build. Florida, according to the most recent (2022) census data has about 8.3 million households, so the Khavda Renewable project stands to power twice the number of homes we have in our state.

Secondly, the Adani Group, a business owned by a relative of the owner of Adani Green, is India’s biggest coal importer and a significant miner of fossil fuels, the very products causing our climate crisis. Here in Florida utilities like FP&L, DUKE and TECO, three investor-owned businesses that distribute 75% of Florida’s electrical energy, source the majority of our state’s power from polluting fossil fuels. Interestingly (and sadly in a place called “The Sunshine State”), despite each of these Florida utilities being in business for 100 years or more they source a truly pathetic 5%, 1.5% and 7% of their power respectively from solar, wind, and/or hydro energy. And yet, in recent years Florida’s for-profit utilities have increasingly been advertising how much they “love” sustainable energy, how important it is to their businesses, and the vast sums of money they are investing in it. It seems that everywhere you look, whether it’s online, in print, and/or on television (heck even during the Super Bowl), Florida utilities are touting their enthusiastic “commitment” to clean sustainable energy. Yet, based on their own financial data (5%, 1.5% and 7%) those ads are misleading and simply not true.

Thankfully, hundreds of young people from all over Florida joined me in 2022 when I filed a Petition for Rulemaking and then navigated the legal process that led to our state creating what’s now known as Administrative Rule 50-5: Renewable Energy. At the time of its implementation, Rule 50-5 was celebrated as Florida’s most important step towards addressing our climate crisis in decades. The Rule provides formal targets that require Florida utilities to transition to sourcing 100% of the power they distribute from renewable energy by 2050. It also includes the regulatory accountability that was historically lacking and that had allowed the utilities to do pretty much whatever they wanted without regards to our environment or citizens’ concerns. And it requires Florida utilities to submit their 10-year energy plans to the state to evaluate whether the utilities long term energy plans are consistent with meeting the Rule’s renewable energy goals, and report annually to the state on the utilities’ progress in meeting the goals to the Florida Public Service Commission, the utilities’ direct regulator, the Governor, and Legislature.

Unfortunately, it appears that the utilities don’t like the idea of being held accountable, at least not when it comes to transitioning the power they source to renewables, and have had their friends in the Florida legislature help them attack the good work my young friends and I did in 2022. Sadly, during this year’s Florida Legislative session our state’s political “leaders” passed House Bill 1645 which takes direct aim at Rule 50-5, amongst other overtly utility friendly steps. House Bill 1645, for example, attacks efforts to shift Florida’s power from fossil fuels to sustainable solutions including eliminating phrases such as “climate change” and “greenhouse gases” within certain existing laws. Their proposed new law even effectively outlaws offshore wind energy around our state. To read this onerous new prospective law, click here.

House Bill 1645 would take Florida backwards into the energy dark ages and for this reason I am writing the Governor to ask him to veto this terrible prospective law and am humbled to be joined by many friends, family, and esteemed colleagues in signing the letter (thanks to each of you who responded so quickly for your care and support).

My letter to Governor DeSantis follows below. I hope you will consider joining me by emailing him (GovernorRon.DeSantis@eog.myflorida.com) to ask that he veto House Bill 1645 and share these concerns with your network of friends and family to ask them to email him too.

We can, I am certain, cost effectively transition Florida’s electrical utility system from one today that is almost entirely based on fossil fuels to one that’s 100% based on renewable energy, but this will never happen by enacting laws like House Bill 1645. Nor the transition happen without having a regulated plan with public goals along and the ongoing supervision needed to ensure compliance. Such transitions are happening all over the world and yet in Florida we are playing catch up by having relied on Florida’s utilities to “do the right thing” on their own for far too long until the arrival of Rule 50-5 Renewable Energy in 2022. By working together, we can shift The Sunshine State’s power system to clean renewable energy while leading America and the world beyond into our sustainable power future but today that transition should start with Governor DeSantis vetoing House Bill 1645.

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