Fears over redevelopment bill unfounded, AIF says

The bill would not protect polluters or bad actors as some critics contend.

Environmental groups have been sounding the alarm about a bill encouraging the safe redevelopment of contaminated lands, but proponents say their concerns are misinformed.

HB 789, sponsored by Rep. Toby Overdorf, specifies that companies involved in redeveloping contaminated that comply with all state environmental standards, meet clean-up targets and receive all necessary permits, they may not be sued lands may not be sued under a strict liability statute.

Critics have contended that would benefit bad actors. The Friends of the Everglades has described the provision as “a backdoor way to protect polluters from being held accountable.”

But the Associated Industries of Florida, a pro-business group, said the bill would alleviate the concerns held by companies that redevelop blighted lands in the wake of a 2019 court decision that reversed prior interpretations of the Water Quality Assurance Act.

Prior to the decision in Lieupo v. Simon’s Trucking, the Water Quality Assurance Act had not used for personal injury cases. The new interpretation of the law in that ruling led to a chilling effect on brownfields redevelopment over fears companies could be held liable for personal injury cases even when they met every cleanup standard in a government-issued permit.

“There have been some misconceptions about this legislation, but it does nothing to protect polluters and bad actors who violate their environmental permits or act in a negligent manner,” said AIF Vice President of Governmental Affairs Adam Basford.

“Instead, it simply encourages businesses to remediate and redevelop previously contaminated lands by removing the threat of being sued for doing exactly what the state authorized them to do and fully abiding by the permits they received. This doesn’t just benefit businesses, it benefits Florida’s overall environment and communities across our state.”

HB 789 has cleared all of its committees and is currently on second reading in the House. The Senate companion, SB 738 by Sen. Danny Burgess, has already passed on the chamber floor with some bipartisan support.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

One comment

  • WGD

    March 4, 2024 at 11:21 am

    The FL legislature views as its mission protecting developers who are also polluters and bad actors. Of course they will deny this. Because they also think part of their mission is to lie to their constituents. In FL politicians serve the money, not the voters.

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