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Get the latest coverage of the 2021 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Castor, Kriseman Ask DeSantis To Veto Energy Preemption Bill

Four photos in a Zoom call
Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor, lower left, and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, lower right, spoke during Monday's webinar.

The bill would ban local governments from enforcing policies that restricts the types of fuel sources that could be used by businesses and homes. Proponents say it would ensure Florida consumers have energy options and insure energy independence.

Congresswoman Kathy Castor and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman implored Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto a bill that would override local regulation of energy sources.

The bill could short out efforts by Florida cities and counties to move to clean energy sources.

Castor, D-Tampa, who chairs the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, said the preemption was fueled by big energy companies.

"It's a very unfortunate power play by the dirty fuel industry, our investor-owned utilities, and the petroleum and gas association," she said during a Monday webinar. "They do not have the public interest at heart — they have their profits at heart."

Castor says big energy companies want the state to keep using fracked natural gas for power plants.

Kriseman said Florida is only one of 12 states that does not have any kind of renewable energy standards, so it falls on local governments to address the challenge of climate change and sea level rise.

But Kriseman says lawmakers are not making it easy for them.

"It feels like there's been an all-out assault on home rule, in particular this year," Kriseman said. "I spent six years in Tallahassee, and there was always preemptions. But I've never seen a year quite like this one, where they were as far-reaching and as empowering for the legislature, and de-powering for cities as this year."

Kriseman said his city has made a commitment to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2035, and this preemption bill could short-circuit their efforts.

Under the bill, for instance, local governments could not require a gas station to include electric vehicle charging stations.

Proponents of the bill argue it would help ensure Florida consumers have energy options and energy independence overall.

State Sen. Travis Hutson (R-Flagler County) sponsored the Senate version of the bill.

“I don’t want any government in the state of Florida to effectively just wipe gas stations off, and then you have tourists come down trying to figure out how to refuel their rental car,” Hutson said Thursday.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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