A bill to preempt energy regulations cleared the Senate Monday on a near party-line vote.
The Senate, considering the House version of a bill (HB 839) dealing with local regulations of gas stations, voted to approve the proposal 26-12, with Plantation Democratic Sen. Lauren Book breaking from the party in support of the legislation.
Sen. Travis Hutson, a Flagler County Republican, sponsored the Senate version of the legislation and presented the House bill to the upper chamber. While the bill glided through its third reading without debate, it faced a series of questions from Democrats on the Senate floor during its second reading Thursday.
“I don’t want any government in the state of Florida to effectively just wipe gas stations off, and then you have tourists come down trying to figure out how to refuel their rental car,” Hutson said Thursday.
At this point the bill would shield gas stations and their related infrastructure from being outlawed by local governments that want to encourage clean energy. An earlier version of the bill received pushback in committee meetings when the preemption was more broad and included provisions that would prevent local governments from prohibiting natural gas fracking, as well as nullify solar-promoting ordinances and eliminate county authority over pipelines along roadways.
Now the bill preempts certain regulations of gas stations and their infrastructure to the state, but local governments could still regulate things like zoning, building codes and necessary transportation issues. A local government under the bill could not require a gas station to include electric vehicle charging stations.
In response to a line of questioning from Sen. Perry Thurston Thursday about the importance of climate change, Hutson said the causes of climate change are up for debate therefore gas stations shouldn’t be penalized for the issue.
“I do believe in sea level rise, but the energy that’s causing it still could be up for debate,” Hutson said. “I don’t think that if you cut off all gas stations tomorrow that the climate is going to be ten times better.”
The original bill was one of several proposals that could have rolled back cities’ and counties’ authority to adopt clean energy plans and ordinances. Cities and counties were prepared to fight the legislation.
During debate in the House earlier this week, Rep. Tom Fabricio cited a resolution considered but not passed by the Tampa City Council that would have a set a goal for the city to move to 100% clean energy by 2030.
The House passed the bill 79-38.