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Florida bill awaiting signature would remove mention of 'climate change' from many state laws

The bill would remove climate change terminology and climate-friendly government guidelines in state laws in favor of making energy accessibility a higher priority.
Solar panels in Florida
Posted at 5:04 PM, May 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-01 20:04:20-04

Florida lawmakers have approved new legislation that would strike mention of "climate change" from many state laws, focusing them instead on energy security.

The final version of the bill, which was awaiting Gov. Ron DeSantis' signature as of April 30, strengthens mutual-aid guidelines for power providers, helps harden electric and gas networks against cyberattacks and directs the state to investigate whether nuclear power is a viable path forward for Florida.

But it removes all explicit mentions of climate change, including by shortening a passage that would have obliged the state to "recognize and address the potential of global climate change wherever possible." Instead, the bill directs the state only to "promote the cost-effective development and use of a diverse supply of domestic energy resources."

The bill also eliminates a wide collection of guidelines for government to increase energy efficiency and reduce fossil fuel emissions. The new bill prohibits new wind energy construction within one mile of Florida's coastlines, and language prioritizing fuel-efficient government vehicles or energy-efficient meeting spaces was removed.

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The legislation reverses the last vestiges of a policy first put in place by then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist in 2008, which passed unanimously in the Florida legislature. It was meant to account for the effects of climate change and how it could or should affect Florida's energy policy.

Florida Republican Rep. Bobby Payne, who sponsored the new legislation, said a focus on climate change would have added difficulty to the task of meeting Florida's energy needs.

"We're protecting consumers, we're protecting consumer pricing, we're protecting them with great reliability and we're protecting to make sure we don't have a lack of energy security in our state. That's where we're moving as far as our policies."

Crist, now a Democrat, told The Associated Press "It’s disappointing to see a continuing lurch in the wrong direction, particularly when Florida, with our coastline, is probably the most vulnerable to rising sea levels."

"I mean if we don’t address it, who’s going to?" Crist said. "It breaks my heart."

Gov. DeSantis has until May 15 to sign the bill.