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Environmentalist Say New Florida Law Could Interfere With Local Clean Energy Commitments

Pictured here is a utility meter outside a home.
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Environmentalists say a new law stops local governments from fully transitioning to clean energy. It voids local rules that limit what fuels utilities can use.

Starting in July, local governments won't be able to limit what fuels utilities use. That's under a new law Governor Ron DeSantis signed Monday. Environmentalists have opposed the move. Florida Conservation Voters' Jonathan Webber says it could stop cities from fulfilling their clean energy commitments.

"If they want to build a new section of their town or, say, a new neighborhood that is entirely powered by solar and that's the only type of energy that they would be allowed to have there, unfortunately, that is now forbidden," Webber says.

Webber says if a city tries to dictate what fuels a new development can use, that has the effect of restricting fuel choices—which is banned under the new law. Rep. Josie Tomkow (R-Auburndale) sponsored the bill in the 2021 legislative session. She says the measure isn't meant to deter cities away from making clean energy commitments.

"Cities can and should continue to support clean energy, and this bill is needed to ensure cities cannot mandate the type of clean energy or mandate elimination of one type of energy source," Tomkow says.

But Webber says cities can only go forward with their clean energy plans if a utility offers that option.

"The sponsors are playing a little bit of a word game there about what this actually means and what it doesn't, but you can read the bill yourself. It flat out says that cities can no longer have a say in how energy comes into their city overall," Webber says.

Municipalities that own or operate their own utilities, like Tallahassee, can still pass rules, regulations, and policies governing that utility.

Robbie Gaffney graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Digital Media Production and Creative Writing. Before working at WFSU, they recorded FSU’s basketball and baseball games for Seminole Productions as well as interned for the PBS Station in Largo, Florida. Robbie loves playing video games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Animal Crossing, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their other hobbies include sleeping and watching anime.