DeSantis Signs Bill Erasing The Term ‘climate change’ From State Law

Mitch Perry, Florida Phoenix

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation (HB 1645) on Wednesday that will erase several instances of the words “climate change” from state statutes and restructure the state’s fossil fuel-based energy policy that listed climate change as a priority when making energy policy decisions.

The priority now 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,” as spelled out in a legislative analysis.

“Florida rejects the designs of the left to weaken our energy grid, pursue a radical climate agenda, and promote foreign adversaries,” DeSantis said on X on Wednesday afternoon. The message included a statement reading, “Radical green zealots want to impose their climate agenda on people through restrictions, regulations, and taxes.”

The legislation removes over 50 lines in state law that were established in 2008 under then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist when it comes to addressing climate change. The Crist administration also required the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to set clean energy goals. (Crist is now a Democrat.)

Among the parts of current law that will be removed are a provision for addressing “the potential of global climate change” as a state energy policy, and a provision for the state to “play a leading role in developing and instituting energy management programs aimed at promoting energy conservation, energy security, and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”

It removes provisions that all state agencies shall contract for meeting and conference space only with hotels or conference facilities that have received the “Green Lodging” designation from the Department of Environmental Protection “for best practices in water, energy, and waste efficiency standards, unless the responsible state agency head makes a determination that no other viable alternative exists.”

The legislation prevents local governments from enacting some energy policy restrictions and prohibits the construction or expansion of offshore wind facilities and certain wind turbines within a mile of the coast (Florida has no such facilities currently).

This isn’t the first time that the DeSantis administration has shown a disinclination to combat climate change. A year ago he turned down more than $350 million in federal funding for energy efficiency initiatives in the Sunshine State. That was followed by rejecting another $320 million in federal funding to reduce vehicle emissions, part of the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act intended for carbon-reduction projects, as reported by The News Service of Florida.

Democrats and environmentalists criticized the bill.

“I think it’s taking us absolutely in the wrong direction,” said Pinellas House Democratic Rep. Lindsay Cross, who serves as an environmental scientist with the group Environmental Science Associates. “We can’t deny that climate change is happening. Whether you trust the 99% of scientists who do believe in climate change, we know that weather is getting worse, that we have more extreme weather patterns with a very active hurricane season predicted. Combined with the destruction that we’ve already had in this state, stripping the words ‘climate change’ out of statute isn’t going to make it go away, it’s just going to make us less proactive and prepared.”

“Once again, Gov. DeSantis has failed us by signing HB 1645,” said Sierra Club Florida Clean Energy Organizing Manager Brooke Alexander-Goss in a written statement. “Allowing this bill to become law jeopardizes the health and safety of all Floridians, further proving that his top priority is to appease large corporations and fossil fuel companies. We will pay more at the pump and for our insurance premiums, and we will certainly see increases in climate-related disasters and deaths. Make no mistake, Florida will continue to fall behind the rest of the country when it comes to investments in a cleaner and healthier future.”

The CLEO Institute’s executive director, Yoca Arditi-Rocha, said, “It is extremely alarming that leaders in Tallahassee have eliminated statutory language that recognized the dangers of climate pollution, the importance of energy efficiency, and realities of increasing extreme weather events due to a warming planet.”

She went on to say that “Floridians are on the frontlines of rising sea levels, rising extreme heat, rising property insurance prices, more frequent floods, and more severe storms. This purposeful act of cognitive dissonance is proof that the governor and the state Legislature are not acting in the best interests of Floridians, but rather to protect profits for the fossil fuel industry.”

The governor was scheduled to sign the bill in Clearwater Beach, in Pinellas County, but a spokesperson told the crowd that had assembled about 15 minutes before the appearance that he would not appear in person, due to concerns about weather. Clearwater and northern Pinellas were under a severe thunderstorm watch at the time.  A listing on the state’s website shows that he signed the legislation at 4:26 p.m.

The bill signing came one day after a poll of 1,400 Floridians found that 68% say that the state government should do more to address climate change. When it comes to the belief that human activity is the cause of climate change, 58% thought so, down from a year ago. The survey showed that only 40% of Republicans say that human activity is the cause of climate change.

Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: info@floridaphoenix.com. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

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