Audubon Florida
The Advocate
This was the second week of committee meetings in the 2021 Legislative Session. Lots of bills of interest were introduced, several others progressed through their first committee stop, and the Governor released his budget recommendations on Thursday. For this issue of the Advocate, we are taking a deep dive into renewable energy bills, as well as highlighting an exciting new greenhouse gas inventory initiative.
Eastern Phoebe. Photo: Andrea Hedblom.
Governor DeSantis Releases Proposed Budget with $1 Billion for Climate Change
Amidst an economy challenged by the impacts of the pandemic, Governor DeSantis released his $96.6 billion “Florida Leads” Budget on Thursday. For a third year in a row, the Governor continues to prioritize investments in Florida’s environment and water quality, requesting more than $625 million for Everglades restoration, water quality improvements, springs restoration, and alternative water supply.

His budget included $50 million for Florida Forever and an additional $1 billion (over four years) towards the “Resilient Florida” program that will provide grants to state and local government to complete vulnerability assessments and fund projects by local governments to make their communities more resilient.

Budget highlights are below.
Eastern Phoebe. Photo: Andrea Hedblom.
Osprey. Photo: LeRoy VanHee.
Mixed Bag: Committee Action Sees Bills on Dairy Pollution, Regional Planning Councils and Litter Reduction Advance
The Senate Committee on Community Affairs chaired by Senator Jennifer Bradley (R-Orange Park) met on Monday, January 25, 2021. 

Senator Gruters’ (R-Sarasota) bill “Regulation of Smoking in Public Places,” SB 0334, with companion bill HB0239 by Representative Altman (R-Indialantic), authorizes cities and counties to restrict smoking on public beaches and to prohibit smoking in state parks. Cigarette butts are a perennial problem on our beaches, and negatively impact birds, sea turtles, and other wildlife species.  The bill passed the committee with one “nay.” 


The Committee also heard Senator Bradley’s SB 0062, “Regional Planning Councils.” The bill eliminates the advisory role of regional planning councils in state comprehensive plan preparation, and repeals provisions relating to the Florida Regional Planning Council Act. Regional Planning Councils currently provide essential planning and organizational services to many rural counties and small cities in Florida. Additionally, Florida may lose access to some federal funding if RPCs are eliminated. The bill passed committee with six “yeas” and three “nays.”

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Agriculture heard Chair Rouson’s (D-St. Petersburg) bill, “Large-scale Agricultural Pollution Reduction Pilot Program,” SB 336. The bill attempts to create and fund a large-scale agricultural pollution reduction pilot program for dairy farms within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). However, it is short on details about the benefits of the pilot project, permitting requirements, and monitoring to ensure accountability for taxpayers. The bill does not have a House Companion and passed the committee with a unanimous vote. As this legislative session progresses, Audubon will be looking for improvements to this bill.
Osprey. Photo: LeRoy VanHee.
Baltimore Oriole. Photo: Una Davenhill/Great Backyard Bird Count.
Bills Filed Reflect New Priority on Renewable Energy
This legislative session we have seen several bills filed in both chambers that tackle renewable energy and energy efficiency legislation. While not all will gain traction, it is encouraging to see an increasing priority placed on addressing climate change.

SB 136, “Energy 2040 Task Force” by Senator Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) 

- Establishes the Energy 2040 Taskforce within the Public Service Commission to address Florida’s energy needs over the next 19 years. The bill requires an analysis of the impact of solar and other renewable technologies (by non-utility suppliers), sustainable energy, smart grid technologies, energy storage, and electric vehicles. No House Companion has been filed.


SB 138, “Electric Vehicles” by Senator Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) + SB 140 “Fees/Electric Vehicles” by Senator Brandes

- Directs funds from license tax revenues of electric vehicles to the proposed Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Grant Program. SB 140 is linked to SB 138 as the fee structure mechanism to fund the proposed grant program.


SB 208, “Renewable Energy” by Senator Brandes (R-St. Petersburg)

- Allows commercial or industrial businesses to install solar panels on their property and enter into power purchase agreements to sell the generated electricity to adjacent commercial or industrial businesses or to a local utility. No House Companion has been filed.


HB 283 + SB 720, “State Renewable Energy Goals,” by Representative Eskamani (D-Orlando) and Senator Berman (D-Boynton Beach)

- Amends the definition of “renewable energy” so that energy generated from waste and other methods is no longer defined as an alternative energy resource. The bill prohibits exploration and drilling for oil, gas, or other petroleum sources on state lands and waters. The bill sets a 100% renewable energy goal for the state by 2040, as well as a statewide net zero carbon emissions goal by 2050. The bill requires an assessment of what measures must be taken to reach these goals.


SB 514 + HB 315, “Resiliency” by Senator Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) and  Representative LaMarca (R-Lighthouse Point)

- Creates the Statewide Office of Resiliency within the Executive Office of the Governor to be headed by the Chief Resilience Officer, appointed by the Governor. The bill creates the Statewide Sea-Level Rise Task Force to recommend consensus projections of sea-level rise and flooding impacts across the state.


SB 856, “State Preemption of Energy Infrastructure Regulations” by Senator Hutson (R-Palm Coast)

- Mandates that the construction approval of "energy infrastructure," defined as any infrastructure that supports production, storage, importation, and distribution of any energy resource (to include petroleum, solar, wind, etc), is at the state level. The bill would prohibit any local government from implementing any restriction or requirements on changes to existing or proposed energy infrastructure. No House Companion has been filed.
Baltimore Oriole. Photo: Una Davenhill/Great Backyard Bird Count.
Redhead ducks. Photo: Bill Dix / Audubon Photography Awards.
Wastewater Conservation and Reuse Bills Filed
SB 64, filed by Senator Albritton (R-Bartow), and its companion HB 263 filed by Representative Maggard, (R-Dade City), will require certain domestic wastewater utilities to submit a plan to DEP for eliminating non-beneficial surface water discharge within five years.

The bill also allows municipalities and special districts to authorize the use of technologies to treat and use graywater (includes waste from the bath, lavatory, laundry, and sink, excluding kitchen sink waste), and provides incentives for using these technologies.

Water is getting scarce, and with huge projected population growth we should be looking for ways to conserve water, to use less water, and to reuse water so it is not wasted
 
Redhead ducks. Photo: Bill Dix / Audubon Photography Awards.
Yellow-rumped Warbler. Photo: Julie Torkomian/Audubon Photography Awards.
Concerning Growth Management Bill Reappears
SB 496, by Senator Perry (R-Gainesville), and its companion HB 59, by Representative McClain (R-Belleview), include an unnecessary mandate for local governments to include property rights language in their comprehensive planning documents to ensure that private property rights are considered in local decision-making. The bill requires changes to state law for both development orders and municipal annexations.

During the 2020 Legislative Session, a similar bill with additional bad growth management provisions was vetoed by Governor DeSantis.
 
Yellow-rumped Warbler. Photo: Julie Torkomian/Audubon Photography Awards.
Glossy Ibis. Photo: Dave Allen / Great Backyard Bird Count.
This Week's Climate News
We are sharing news about Greenhouse Gas inventories, reaching the electric vehicle tipping point, recently-published books about climate, and more.

To sign up for the bi-weekly climate updates, click here.
Glossy Ibis. Photo: Dave Allen / Great Backyard Bird Count.
Swallow-tailed Kite. Photo: Donald Wuori.
Audubon, the East Central Florida Regional Resilience Collaborative, and More Launch Partnership to Fight Climate Change, Save Taxpayer Dollars, and Train Future Environmental Professionals
Florida’s largest, simultaneous Greenhouse Gas (GHG) inventory initiative launched last week in East Central Florida.

Audubon Florida announced the initiative, which will develop common sense baselines for greenhouse gas emissions for 18 visionary cities and counties in the region, in partnership with ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, the East Central Florida Regional Resilience Collaborative (R2C), and local universities.

These baselines are a critical first step in helping local governments track the effectiveness of their efforts to improve energy efficiency in their own operations and shift to renewable energy sources over time. Both can result in cost savings to taxpayers and reduced emissions that contribute to climate change.

The municipal GHG inventories will assess the emissions produced by government operations in municipally-owned buildings, municipal fleet usage, and waste services, among others. Student fellows from University of Central Florida, Florida Institute of Technology, and Stetson University, are partnered with a representative from a participating city or county. Each fellow will provide important bandwidth for their assigned local government in developing the GHG inventory, while receiving specialized training from ICLEI, and experience in this growing field.

Audubon Florida is funding and co-facilitating the GHG inventories with the R2C and ICLEI as part of their commitment to strengthening climate resilience through science, innovation, and entrepreneurship for the benefit of Florida’s communities, ecosystems, and birds.

Learn more here.
Swallow-tailed Kite. Photo: Donald Wuori.
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