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Gov. DeSantis signs bill cutting mentions of climate change from state law, bans wind turbines

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made waves on Wednesday as he signed into law a contentious energy bill that would remove mentions of the words “climate change” in state statutes, and ban power-generating wind turbines off the state’s coastline.

The proposed bill would remove over 50 lines in state law established in 2008 by then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist addressing climate change and promoting renewable energy.

READ: Proposed Florida bill could remove majority of mentions to climate change from state law

The energy bill, HB 1645, includes provisions repealing parts of state law mentioning “the potential of global climate change” as a state and energy policy; banning offshore wind energy generation; easing regulations on natural gas pipelines; and eliminating the requirement for Florida state agencies to consider a list of “climate-friendly” products before making purchases.

In a social media statement, DeSantis stressed the bills’ significance, saying they would “keep windmills off our beaches, gas in our tanks, and China out of our state.”

“We’re restoring sanity in our approach to energy and rejecting the agenda of the radical green zealots,” DeSantis stated in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

The bill would also require the Florida Public Service Commission to develop a “cost-effective” energy infrastructure “resilient to natural and manmade threats.”

Currently, pipelines within Florida that are 15 miles or longer require certification under the Natural Gas Transmission Pipeline Siting Act. The bill proposes to change this requirement so it applies to pipelines 100 miles or longer.

The Florida Natural Gas Association reportedly applauded the bill in a news release stating it will “maintain and encourage reliable fuel sources for public utilities, remove federal and international control over Florida’s energy policies, and allow consumers to choose their energy source.”

“This law strengthens natural gas infrastructure resiliency and reliability, which are critical to the state’s economy, the ability to recover from natural disasters and the health, safety, welfare and quality of life of Floridians,” Dale Calhoun, the association’s executive director, said in a prepared statement.

Florida utilities rely heavily on natural gas to fuel power plants, with nearly 74% reliant on power electric generation according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

However, the legislation has faced criticism from Democrats and environmental groups, particularly concerning its approach to greenhouse gas emissions.

For example, the bill would eliminate part of the current Florida law that states, “The Legislature finds that the state’s energy security can be increased by reducing dependence on foreign oil. The impacts of global climate change can be reduced through the decrease of greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the implementation of alternative energy technologies can create new jobs and employment opportunities for many Floridians.”

The information will be partially replaced by sentences stating, “The purpose of the state’s energy policy is to ensure an adequate, reliable, and cost-effective supply of energy for the state in a manner that promotes the health and welfare of the public and economic growth. The Legislature intends that governance of the state’s energy policy be efficiently directed toward achieving this purpose.”

Senator Tina Polsky (D-Boca Raton) raised concerns in February, highlighting Florida’s vulnerability to climate disasters due to its coastal geography.

“We are surrounded by water, and the effects are showing,” Polsky said.

Despite ongoing concerns about rising sea levels and flooding in Florida, DeSantis’ approach has shifted since he first took office, when Republicans began publicly addressing the effects of climate change.

While campaigning for president in 2023, DeSantis promoted the use of fossil fuels and criticized the “concerted effort to increase fear” of issues such as “global warming and climate change.”

“This is driven by ideology, it’s not driven by reality,” DeSantis said during a September appearance in Texas. “In reality, human beings are safer than ever from climate disasters.”

The DeSantis administration in 2023 additionally turned down over $350 million in federal funding for lowering the cost of making Florida homes more energy efficient.

Another part of the bill will prohibit the construction or operation of offshore wind turbines in Florida-controlled waters and on property within one mile of coastlines. Currently, it is not considered feasible to locate wind turbines in those areas and none currently exist.

Senate bill sponsor Jay Collins (R-Tampa) stated the ban on wind turbines was designed to help protect wildlife and ecosystems and to prevent additional noise.

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“Overall, the risk to our flora and fauna, our whales, the ecosystem around there, that’s concerning,” Collins said. “And then the tourism and noise aspect as well is also concerning.”

The bill signing occurred one day after a poll of 1,400 Floridians revealed that 68% of respondents believe the state government should take more action to address climate change. Of those surveyed, 58% attributed climate change to human activity, a decrease from the previous year. The survey also indicated that only 40% of Republicans attributed climate change to human activity.

The governor was supposed to sign the bill in Clearwater Beach, Pinellas County. However, a spokesperson informed the assembled crowd 15 minutes before the scheduled appearance that he would not be there in person due to concerns about the weather.

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William Clayton

William Clayton, Action News Jax

Digital reporter and content creator for Action News Jax