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Solar power had a major victory this week as the Florida Public Service Commission approved FPL’s SolarTogether proposal to create the country’s largest community solar program. We’re following bills about conservation easements and water quality, while elected officials team up to expand the moratorium on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Audubon Florida
Audubon Advocate | Your Policy Update
Water Bills Address Pollution and Fines
Strengthening Florida’s water policy by updating and tightening regulations will reduce water pollution while benefiting water quality and quantity.

SB 712 by Senator Mayfield (R-Vero) and HB 1343 by Representative Payne (R-Palatka) take the first big step in that direction. Through updating and upgrading Florida’s water regulatory framework and by addressing every major source of pollution (septic tanks, wastewater, stormwater, agriculture, and biosolids), these bills provide steady, incremental improvements. However, one issue that remains is the appointment process for the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. The revised Senate version of the bill makes no changes to the current appointment process.


At the time of writing this article, SB 712 was placed on third reading and the engrossed text was filed. HB 1343 is placed on second reading and is on special order calendar for Friday.

In September 2019, as part of his bold agenda, Governor DeSantis announced his intention to raise the state's $10,000 fine for spilling raw sewage into waterways by 50 percent to hold local governments and utilities accountable for their actions. In addition, each day that the spill continued would be considered a separate offense. SB 1450 and HB 1091, filed by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) and Representative Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay), respectively, require changes to both the amount and the duration of penalties for violating the State’s environmental laws. HB 1091 is in messages to be sent to the Senate while its senate companion is on special order calendar for Friday.
Tricolored Heron. Photo: Ira Rappaport/Audubon Photography Awards.
Tricolored Heron. Photo: Ira Rappaport/Audubon Photography Awards.
Appropriations
House and Senate leadership are predicting that this session will last longer than sixty days. Budget allocations for major issues haven’t been worked out yet; however, negotiations may start this weekend.

Audubon policy staff will be keeping a watchful eye out for alerts and updates on the budget process. Our funding priorities remain Everglades, Water, State Parks, Florida Forever, and Rural and Family Lands Protection Program (RFLPP). Conservation Easements are critical to the health of Florida’s landscape; they both protect water quality and supply for urban areas, maintain our agricultural economy, sequester carbon, and protect Florida’s tourist economy.


The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services budget request for RFLPP was based on meeting match funding obligated to the state by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration funds (REPI) from the Department of Defense. Funding for the RFLPP this year is especially important, as a minimum appropriation of $27.5 million is crucial to avoid losing federal matching dollars. Leveraging federal funds to benefit conservation in Florida is a win for everyone.
An oil rig explodes in the Gulf of Mexico.
Senators Rubio and Scott Team Up to Expand Moratorium on Gulf of Mexico Drilling
Let's get this done! Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott have teamed up to add a 10-year extension to the moratorium that protects the eastern Gulf of Mexico from oil and gas drilling, just six weeks shy of the 10th anniversary of BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The moratorium is essential to safeguard Florida’s iconic Gulf Coast, environment, and tourism, as well as the defense industry that relies on an unobstructed view of the eastern Gulf for training exercises.

Read more here.
Carolina Wren. Photo: Sujata Roy/Audubon Photography Awards.
Carolina Wren. Photo: Sujata Roy/Audubon Photography Awards.
State Resumes Misguided Move to Assume Federal Water Permitting
Audubon Florida will be responding to a new round of state rulemaking centered on Florida taking over the federal wetland regulatory program: the Clean Water Act Section 404 Permitting Program.

This proposal dates back two years, and we find it still presents the same concerns for protection of our wetlands. There is not adequate assurance the state can manage both its own wetland regulatory program (Environmental Resource Permitting or ERP) and the federal program. Each has different definitions of protected wetlands and there is no indication that the state will request additional funding or staffing to assume this important program.

In addition, there are no agreements or policies addressing how federal endangered and listed species would be considered in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as currently occurs in 404 permit reviews of wetland impacts.

Finally, Florida continues to suffer unsustainable wetland losses that have accelerated over the past decade, as documented by federal agencies and Audubon. Losses illustrate ineffective regulatory programs at both state and federal levels.

Audubon wants to see these staffing, funding, unsustainable losses, and Endangered Species Act issues addressed.
Solar panels.
Solar panels.
A Solar Victory!
Florida's Public Service Commission on Tuesday approved FPL’s Connect's SolarTogether Proposal, which will become the country's LARGEST community solar program!

FPL will build 20 solar power plants comprising 1490 megawatts of new universal solar. This innovative program was created in direct response to increased customer demand for solar generation. The program does not require long-term commitments and is flexible enough to move with the customer.

FPL SolarTogether is supported by national chains like Walmart and 7-Eleven, groups such as Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Vote Solar, as well as numerous cities and counties. This program will more than double the amount of community solar currently in the U.S.
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