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Susan Glickman On Energy Preemption Moves In The Florida Legislature

Susan Glickman stands at a podium surrounded by people during a rally outside the Florida Public Service Commission.
Provided by Suan Glickman
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Susan Glickman (center) is a long-time clean energy advocate. Photo was taken in 2015.

At the onset of the legislative session, environmentalists were concerned about four legislative proposals that would preempt local government control over energy-related issues. Now they're homed in on one. They argue it takes away local communities' ability to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Susan Glickman is a long-time clean energy advocate. Robbie Gaffney recently spoke with Glickman to get her take on the proposals.

Susan Glickman is Florida Director for the Southern Alliance of Clean Energy. She says over the last several years, there's been an increasing effort by the Florida legislature to preempt things like local bans on certain sunscreen. She says this year, the focus seems to be on energy-related preemption efforts. One of the proposals Glickman has been following is Senate Bill 856.

"Originally written, it was very broad, but now it has been narrowed down, so it is of less concern and just disallows local governments from banning gas stations, and to the best of our knowledge in Florida, there are no local governments trying to ban gas stations," Glickman says.

The other proposal is Senate Bill 1128. It would preempt local government's ability to ban utilities from using fuels like natural gas.

"So that's a big problem first off because of a greenhouse gas emissions perspective, and Floridians are already feeling the heat and paying the price for climate change. We are heavily over-reliant on natural gas in Florida at 74%, so 74% of our energy mix comes from natural gas," Glickman says.

Glickman says fracking gas releases methane, and she says that locks Florida into creating greenhouse gas emissions. Glickman says many communities in Florida have made commitments to move to clean renewable energy.

"There are more than a dozen cities in Florida that have adopted commitments to 100% clean energy. They come at a different date or a different time, but most often, it would be 100% clean energy by, let's say 2040," Glickman says.

She says these communities are concerned about Senate Bill 1128. For instance, if communities wanted new buildings to have electricity power them and not natural gas, Glickman says this bill would preempt that choice.

"No one is coming in retroactively to take away your gas stove, but what we're trying to do is to protect citizens so that their local governments can have a say where gas infrastructure is cited," Glickman says.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast), has said his bill doesn't stop governments from moving forward with more sustainable energy technology, like solar farms. He just wants to protect existing sources as well. Hutson says if someone wants to use natural gas in their homes, they should be able to. But Glickman says greenhouse gas emissions like methane that come from natural gas are warming the planet.

"We need to reduce those emissions and not put that into the system because if you lock energy choices now into the system, then they're around for decades," Glickman says.

Glickman also argues the bill is not about consumer choice since consumers are not the ones choosing how and from where they get energy. Those decisions are made at the provider level.

"Because this is the Florida legislature making the choice for you. We need local governments who are closest to the community to figure out those community needs," Glickman says.

Senate Bill 1128 and 856 have passed two committee stops and have one more to go before heading to the floor for a vote.