Audubon Florida
The Advocate
Breaking news! In the Fourth Week of the 2022 Legislative Session, both the House and Senate released their proposed budgets – see our summary below.

The potentially damaging rooftop solar bill advanced in the House, as did bills addressing equity, brownfields, and water quality. Thank you to our advocates in the districts of representatives on the Tourism and Infrastructure Committee, who emailed more than 200 letters to their representatives urging their opposition to measures that could cripple Florida’s rooftop solar industry.

Advocates whose senators sit on the Senate Community Affairs Committee: It’s your turn next week! Stay tuned to lend your voice to Florida’s natural resources.
Close up of a Florida Scrub-Jay looking at the camera. Photo: Thomas Dunkerton/Audubon Photography Awards.
Proposed Florida House and Senate Budgets
The House and the Senate each released their first volley in budget negotiations Friday evening. While we see substantial funding for the environment in these proposals, we know this is just one step in negotiating the final budget. 

Of note, both included $352.6 million for Everglades Restoration and $50 million for springs restoration; $90 million in the Senate and $100 million in the House for Florida Forever; and an unusual $300 million from the Senate for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ conservation easement program, Rural and Family Lands, with a caveat that it cannot be spent until January 2023 when a new Agriculture Commissioner will take office.Recall that while the Governor makes budget recommendations, the House and Senate ultimately consider those recommendations and then propose their own allocations, negotiating disagreements in committees until reaching consensus with final passage. In any budget discussion, there will always be winners and losers, but Audubon is working towards a positive appropriations outcome for Florida’s environment.
Florida Scrub-Jay. Photo: Thomas Dunkerton/Audubon Photography Awards.
A table of the budgets proposed by the FL House and Senate. Critical information is summarized in the previous section.
Close up of Sandhill Crane head. Photo: Jean Hall/Audubon Photography Awards.
Damaging Rooftop Solar Bill Still Moving Forward, But With Helpful Amendment
HB 741 by Rep. McClure (R-Dover) passed after debate during a very contentious Tourism and Infrastructure Committee meeting on Thursday. The bill would reduce the price utilities pay rooftop solar owners for excess energy they sell back to the grid, reducing the economic viability of rooftop solar drastically.Rooftop energy generation is less than 1% of Florida's current energy mix and Florida’s existing net metering structure was established to reduce barriers to private investment in the adoption of rooftop solar; making these changes to an industry still in its infancy is premature. Audubon feels strongly that the transparent and accountable Public Service Commission process that started in 2021 to evaluate rates and net metering should be allowed to run its course. Rather than this bill’s regressive mandate, the PSC review could result in rate improvements that address utility concerns, protect consumers, and still provide financial incentives to drive the adoption of solar, battery, and efficiency tech.Taking a step in a positive direction and recognizing the investment made by rooftop solar customers, an amendment was added to the House bill this week that extends the period of time existing rooftop solar owners can depend upon the current net metering rates from 10 to 20 years. This is a good first step to protect existing rooftop solar owners, but the bill would still have devastating effect on Florida’s solar adoption rates.

Thank you to all of our Audubon advocates who emailed the committee members ahead of this hearing! In addition, more than 66 members of the public signed up to testify in person but were unable to do so because of insufficient time.The Senate companion, SB 1024 by Sen. Bradley (R-Orange Park), is on the agenda for Community Affairs (Chair Sen. Bradley, R-Orange Park).Solar—both utility scale and rooftop—are essential to helping Florida meet the challenge of climate change.
Sandhill Crane. Photo: Jean Hall/Audubon Photography Awards.
Great Egrets perched at the top of a tree, with blue sky in the background. Photo: Fraida Gutovich.
Large Private Stormwater Treatment Bill Passes Committee Hurdle
On Monday, at the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee (Chair, Sen. Brodeur, R-Orange Park), Sen Burgess (R-Zephyrhills) presented SB 1426, Water Quality Enhancement AreasThe bill incentivizes the creation of large private stormwater treatment areas that government entities could “buy into” rather than managing their stormwater impacts onsite, as currently required.While the state has previously partnered with private landowners to store water in an effort to restore waterbodies, this bill would allow government entities causing new harm to wetland resources to compensate for that offsite in one of these regional projects. This is a departure from current law that requires landowners to offset impacts onsite so that their immediate downstream neighbor receives water as clean as they did.

Dispersed storage projects can help restore water quality that has already been lost in a basin, but should not be used to offset pollution for new wetland impacts that can affect neighboring properties and create pollution “hotspots.”Audubon is working with the bill’s proponents to narrow its scope to restoration BMAP uses and minimize Environmental Resource Permit eligibility. We are also advocating that this untested model should first be attempted as a pilot before making it available statewide.The bill passed committee with 4 yeas and 1 nay.  The House companion, HB 965  by Rep. Truenow, R-Tavares, passed the Environment, Agriculture and Flooding Subcommittee (Chair Rep. Buchanan, R- Sarasota) on Thursday with 16 yeas and 1 nay.
Great Egrets. Photo: Fraida Gutovich/Audubon Photography Awards.
American Kestrel in flight, with blue sky in the background. Photo: Will Sooter.
Critical Bill Would Create Energy Equity Task Force
SB 1678, Energy Equity Task Force, filed by Sen. Gibson (D-Jacksonville) passed its first hearing on Tuesday in the Regulated Industries Committee (Chair Sen. Hutson, R-Palm Coast). The bill would create a task force to make recommendations on the equitable placement of energy plants and making minority, low income, and rural communities more energy efficient. The bill identifies the duties of the task force along with details of membership on the committee. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, an entity that includes the state energy office, would provide staff for the task force, which would issue recommendations by Sept. 30, 2023. The House companion HB 1285, filed by Rep. Hinson (D-Gainesville), has not been heard in committee yet.Audubon supports this bill. The history of environmental injustice against communities of color is a serious issue and must be addressed through fair and considerate policies.
American Kestrel. Photo: Photo: Will Sooter/Audubon Photography Awards.
Close up of solar panels.
Solar Panels Could Come to Brownfield Sites
SB 1562 (Sen. Ausley, D-Tallahassee) and HB 745 (Rep. Alexander, D- Tallahassee) direct the Department of Environmental Protection, in coordination with the Office of Energy within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, to conduct a study of brownfield sites and closed landfill sites to determine viable locations for redevelopment as solar photovoltaic facilities.Many old landfills and brownfield sites (former industrial, developed, or commercial sites) are located in or near urban areas. With electrical lines nearby, they provide a cost-effective way to produce and transmit power to areas in need of renewable energy. Put simply, they require far less investment in otherwise costly utility infrastructure.SB 1562 made it through the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee (Chair, Sen. Brodeur, R-orange Park) on Monday with 6 yeas and 0 nays.
Roseate Spoonbill walking on a mudflat, with water and grass in the background. Photo: Peter Brannon/Audubon Photography Awards.
Sea-level Rise and Flood Resiliency Legislation Takes Another Step Towards a Vote
HB 513, Comprehensive Review Study of the Central and Southern Florida Project, filed by Reps. Bartleman (D-Weston) and Busatta Cabrera (R- Coral Gables), passed its last committee of reference: State Affairs (Chair Rep Massullo, R- Lecanto).

The bill would require the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to produce an annual report on the impact of sea-level rise and flood resiliency in Central and South Florida, updating the Central and Southern Florida Project. The bill specifically requires: a summary of the findings in the district's annual sea level rise and flood resiliency plan; a list of structures that are expected to fall below the expected service level in the next five years; and initial recommendations for the refurbishment or replacement of the structures identified in the bill. The Senate companion SB 1326 was filed by Sen. A. Rodriguez (R-Doral) and is on the agenda for next week in Community Affairs.

With sea level rise and flooding becoming increasingly problematic in Florida, this project is meant to protect 11 million Floridians, their environment, and their economy. This bill is timely and if passed will complement the SFWMD’s resiliency planning efforts.
Roseate Spoonbill. Photo: Peter Brannon/Audubon Photography Awards.
Entrance to a sewer system.
Improved Sanitary Sewer Pipes Could Improve Water Quality
SB 608, filed by Sen. Brodeur, passed its second committee of reference, Community Affairs (Chair, Sen. Bradley, R- Orange Park). The bill authorizes counties and municipalities to access sanitary sewer laterals (privately-owned pipeline connecting a property to the main sewer) to investigate, repair, or replace the lateral. The bills allows such programs to use state and local funds to evaluate and rehabilitate impaired these pipes. The House companion, HB 303 (Truenow, R-Tavares) has not received a hearing yet.

Sanitary sewer pipes can impact the environment and local waterways, which means it’s important to keep them in good working condition. A leak or spill can send human waste straight into local groundwater.
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