Environmentalists blast Gov. DeSantis for blocking local phase-outs of oil and gas as fuel sources

By: - June 22, 2021 2:53 pm

Gas station. Credit: Getty Images, Joe Raedle

Disregarding warnings about worsening climate change, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a measure that prevents local governments from moving away from oil and gas.

The new law will slow down local government efforts to convert fully to clean energy, such as solar and wind.

That ensures that oil and gas companies can continue doing business in cities that have been trying to phase out those fuel sources.

Supporters of the bill, HB 919, said it ensures diversity of energy sources in Florida’s energy mix. The bill passed on a partisan vote during the legislative session, with GOP lawmakers saying yes but Democrats against the measure. Supporters did not address the impact of oil and gas on worsening climate conditions in Florida.

Sierra Club of Florida and Florida Conservation Voters said in April that HB 919, signed late Monday, and HB 839, signed last Wednesday, were bills DeSantis must veto if he wants to continue claiming he is a pro-environment governor. HB 839 blocks cities from restricting gas stations or requiring electric-vehicle charging stations.

Sierra spokeswoman Emily Gorman wrote to the Phoenix Tuesday that DeSantis has thoroughly failed their challenge.

“Refusing to veto some of the most regressive energy legislation in the country makes it clear that DeSantis is no environmentalist,” said Gorman, Sierra club organizer, co-chair of the Miami Climate Alliance, and a member of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Florida Advisory Council on Climate and Clean Energy.

HB 919 “is not only an attack on local authority, it hamstrings municipal ability to develop a thriving local clean-energy economy and limits their capacity to serve their own residents,” Gorman continued. “Thankfully restrictions and prohibitions are not the only tool local authorities have to advance energy efficiency and clean energy, but that is little comfort when leaders in Tallahassee have clearly signaled their allegiance to national gas and petroleum lobbyists over the interests of Floridians.”

Another critic described HB 919 and HB 839 as the worst of the energy-preemption bills it is tracking in 14 states, all part of a “nationwide push by the oil and gas industry.”

“We are in the midst of a climate crisis, yet Governor DeSantis insists on choosing politics over Florida’s future,” said Brooke Errett, Florida senior organizer for Food & Water Watch, an environmental non-profit that claims 1.1 million members, in a press statement.

“This year’s state legislative session has made history for its intentionally regressive climate laws, with elected officials arguing in committees that the suite of dangerous preemption bills now signed into law were necessary to protect the continued use of fracked gas in our state,” Errett said.

Congresswoman Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat who chairs the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and others earlier called on DeSantis to veto the bill, which was approved by the Legislature over Democratic dissent.

In a May 25 letter to DeSantis, Castor said HB 919 ignores the wishes of Florida voters who want locally to get rid of “dirty energy sources like fracked gas” and replace them with solar power, energy-efficient buildings, and electric vehicles.

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Laura Cassels
Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper. Contact her at [email protected]