By Roxanne Moore, Charlotte County Democratic Club President and Charlotte Dems contributing writer
Are you ready to lose local home rule? Are you ready to lose control? Get ready!
Senate Bill (SB) 856 and companion House Bill (HB) 839 will see that you do lose control and in ways you’ve never imagined. These two bills take away all local governmental control of energy infrastructure. An article published by Florida Conservation Voters describes these bills as follows:
SB 856/HB 839 – State Preemption of Energy Infrastructure Regulations by Sen. Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) retroactively prohibits local governments from passing any law, ordinance, regulation, policy, or resolution that prohibits, restricts, or requires the construction, expansion, upgrading, or repair of energy infrastructure. The bill also preempts to the state all regulation over the construction of “energy infrastructure,” which is broadly defined to include any infrastructure involved in the production, import, storage, or use of energy (drilling oil wells, solar panels, the location of gas stations, and more). The impact of this legislation would be as follows:
- Undermine local autonomy, environmental protection, and environmental justice. Under this bill, a local government would have no say over the development of a waste-to-energy incinerator next to an elementary school or a substation in the heart of a residential neighborhood. It would also instantly invalidate every local renewable energy commitment and years of carefully developed public policy.
- Devastate municipal budgets. This bill would undermine municipal bargaining power. Many municipalities can secure critical supplementation of their municipal budgets through franchise agreements that allow utility access to certain Right-of-Ways and the ability to operate within the municipality in exchange for a fee.
An oil well in downtown Punta Gorda?
Probably not, but a pipeline could be put right down the middle of Taylor Street if Big Oil wanted it. Perhaps you’d prefer a 7 Eleven in the heart of the History Park. There would be no local mechanism for the prevention of such travesties. Legislators in Tallahassee would have the control to say what Punta Gorda looks like, not the city residents. Who pays enormous contributions to the legislators? Not a difficult jump to understand who wins in Punta Gorda. Not you, you lose. You lose that lovely little city on the Harbor that we’ve all come to love. This will happen all over Florida, if we allow it.
Truly, the reality is these bills are dangerous for growth and prosperity in all of Florida. They will prevent any ongoing effort to transition away from fossil fuel to a cleaner, greener environment. A clean Florida is a destination, a toxic Florida will only attract flies. These bills will affect the use of solar in the Sunshine State that should be at the forefront of innovation. If any plan, project, or development interferes with fossil fuel use, it will be rescinded, retroactively. If pollution is occurring, no regulations will be made to stop the sliming of our canals, lakes and Gulf shores. It would cost too much to the polluter. No county comprehensive plan, no smart growth plan by any city will be in effect. If fossil fuel companies want to build substations, wells or mines in your backyard, they will have free rein. This is forcing Florida to support all that is harmful to the environment and the planet and most importantly you. You lose.
Oil as a primary fuel is going the way of coal. The future belongs to green energy and big oil sees the writing on the wall. SB 856 and HB 839 take away your local right to decide what your town, city, county will look like, and keeps fossil fuels past their usefulness in the future. Like any dying organism, big oil is gasping its dying breath. Florida can’t afford to be its oxygen tank.
Now is the time to contact your legislators. Demand they follow the original dictates of every county or city charter, written to honor the right of the citizens in local control. Demand they vote no on SB 856 and HB 839. Good government starts at home. Big Oil through their manipulation of Florida legislators will see that you lose. We must win this. There is simply too much at stake for the future of our communities.