Action Alert on SB 738/HB 789
2024 Legislative Update - Week 8
March 1, 2024
Environmental bill highlights from the eighth week of Florida's Legislative Session include:
  • Joint Agreement on Environmental Budget now within reach
  • Senate Energy Resources bill passes last Committee
  • SB 738 – Environmental Resource bill passes full Senate with liability protections for pollution caused by projects previously approved by DEP – See ACTION ALERT below
By law, the State budget is the only piece of legislation that must be passed each session. Late each session, a select group of House and Senate budget conferees is named to negotiate the final state budget. 

This year, the Agriculture, Environment and General Government conferees announced they were very close to agreement of the final spending plan for the environment with only a small number of items to be “bumped up” to the Appropriations Chairs for final negotiation. 

As of now, the Senate and House agree on funding levels for Everglades restoration but there are still some discrepancies on funding levels for land acquisition programs, citrus infrastructure projects and some specific water quality projects.

SCCF will provide a complete list of state and local environmental projects in our legislative summary.
Next week, the last week of session, they will finalize the budget in time to meet the mandated 72-hour “cooling off” period to qualify for a final vote and end the session by March 8 as scheduled. 
Energy – SB 1624 by Sen. Jay Collins passed its last of three committees by a vote of 13-6 and will be heard by the full Senate next. Senate Committee members that opposed the bill asked many of the same questions discussed in previous committees, such as:

  • Concern for the bill’s preemption of local community plans regarding the placement of natural gas facilities, which could be permitted in any commercial or industrial zoning — including near shopping centers or other population centric businesses
  • Removal of clean infrastructure goals in the State’s energy policy
  • Repealing the Florida Energy and Climate Protection Act (Renewable Energy and Energy Efficient Technologies Grants Program), Florida Green Government Grants Act, Energy Economic Zone Pilot Program, and Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds provisions 
Additional comments were made that the bill’s allowance for “cost recovery” will increase the cost to consumers despite the bill sponsor’s assertion that it would not. Most public comments in opposition to the bill decried the preemption of local communities to decide where fuel storage and distribution sites would be located.
The House version, HB 1645 by Rep. Bobby Payne, has cleared all three of its committees and is scheduled to be heard by the full House.  
Environmental Resources – SB 738 by Sen. Danny Burgess passed the full Senate this Thursday by a vote of 26-7 and has been sent to the full House for its consideration.

This bill started out this session with several bad provisions including the requirement for citizens to pay the prevailing party’s attorney’s fees for any challenges to Department of Environmental Protection or Water Management District actions and added a requirement for coastal permitting streamlining measures. Both of these elements were stricken from the bill after a large public effort to have them removed.

The House version, HB 789 by Rep. Toby Overdorf has also passed all of its committees and is waiting to be scheduled to be heard by the full House.

Additional troubling language was later added to the bill that shields polluters from being held accountable for damages from a toxic spill if their projects have been previously permitted by the state. An example of such pollution would be the Piney Point disaster — a 215-million-gallon toxic water discharge from the phosphate gypsum stack in Tampa in 2021. This massive discharge of pollution coincided with a major blue green algae bloom in Tampa Bay the same year. This bill would shield companies from accountability in those types of pollution events. 

As a result of climate change, Florida is ground zero for increased rains and stronger hurricanes that will exacerbate future water pollution events. A better solution would be to plan for these events rather than shield the polluters from responsibility. Please take action by clicking the button below to contact your Florida House members to ask them not to schedule either of these bills for a vote on the House floor.
Thank you for your continued interest and participation in the legislative process!
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