Lawmakers Look To Prevent Local Governments From Eventually Banning Gas Stations
Sen. Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) is sponsoring a measure that would preempt regulation of transportation energy infrastructure to the state. That means local governments wouldn't be able to make decisions about the construction, upgrading, and repairing of things like gas stations. Hutson says some local governments want to switch from gas to electric for powering cars—and he says that takes away consumer choice.
"We want to preempt them from prohibiting gas stations, bring it to the state level, and if we're going to look at different energies, have the state look at it because I don't think energy should be bound to a zip code, a city line or a county line, it should be a statewide decision on how we move forward," Hutson says.
Susan Glickman is a long-time clean energy advocate. She says many local governments across Florida are committed to switching to clean energy.
"And there is great concern as we see more preemption of local control that that's going to stand in the way of those governments making those kinds of commitments and moving to clean energy," Glickman says.
Glickman says fossil fuel infrastructure can last for decades, locking communities into creating greenhouse gas emissions for a long time. But Hutson says everyone breathes the same air in Florida.
"So it's going to cross county lines, so that's kind of the genesis of where we're going is let's kind of get this to the state level. Let's put the pause button, and let's figure out what clean energy looks like."
But Jeff Scala with the Florida Association of Counties says Hutson's bill is too broad and could have unintended consequences.
"Some of these consequences of the broad preemption found in the bill include county-owned infrastructure like roadways. We're talking about no truck zones, weight restrictions on roads, airports, seaports, a lot of policies at the local level related to fracking would be preempted by this bill," Scala says.
Scala says electric vehicle infrastructure plans and solar projects could also be impacted. Despite concerns from environmental groups, Hutson's bill gained the support of Sen. Ed Hooper (R-Palm Harbor). He says he generally opposes preemption bills, but not this one.
"As of today, every piece of pavement in this state is paid for by gas tax or diesel fuel tax. And those that think electric cars are the next greatest thing and they will be someday, they don't pay a dime to pave our roads or build our infrastructure in this state," Hooper says.
Hooper says if the goal is to one day eliminate gas stations, Florida will have to find another way to pay for its infrastructure. Hutson's bill has two more committee stops to go before heading to a vote on the Senate floor.