Environmentalists to DeSantis: Do more to reduce fossil fuel use

Julie Hauserman photo

On Earth Day’s 49th anniversary, a coalition of environmental organizations in Florida brought a five-page letter to Governor Ron DeSantis, outlying what the new governor could  be doing to address climate change.

Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters, said her group is encouraged at DeSantis’ statements on protecting the state’s water and continuing Everglades restoration.

“We’re hopeful that he’s now setting his sights towards establishing some really forward-thinking clean energy policies for Florida,” she said at a press conference in the Capitol. Florida Conservation Voters is one of 11 different organizations who signed on to the letter.

In his proposed budget introduced before the legislative session began, DeSantis proposed nearly $1.9 billion for environmental protection, with $625 million pledged towards water protection efforts. He also introduced two new government offices, one for “environmental accountability and transparency,” the other for “resilience and coastal protection.” And he recently named Thomas Frazer, the director of the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, to become the state’s first chief science officer.

But the coalition says DeSantis has plenty more to do when it comes to combating climate change, and at the top of their agenda is to push him to set goals to increase energy efficiency and expand access to solar power in the Sunshine State.

“Florida is woefully behind in helping families save energy,” says Susan Glickman, the Florida director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Our efficiency savings (rate) is worse now, currently, than it was in 2009.”

The coalition is encouraging the governor to appoint people to the Public Service Commission (PSC) “who value setting meaningful energy efficiency goals for the state’s largest power companies.”

When it comes to solar power, the advocates note in their letter that the price of solar has dropped 80 percent in the past decade, and that decline is expected to continue in the next few years.

“Solar power has many benefits, reduces air pollution, diversifies our state energy mix, it drives up economic development and it provides low cost energy to customers,” said Jennifer Rubiello with Environment Florida, who noted that  just one percent of Florida’s energy is coming from solar.

Rubiello urged DeSantis “to use the full weight of your office to advance the deployment of solar energy at all scales – driving more solar farms, community and shared-solar offerings, and corporate and large customer access to renewable energy, as well as customer-sited and rooftop solar.”

While state government hasn’t set any goals to reduce fossil fuel dependence, seven local governments have passed resolutions committing to making a complete transition to renewable energy sources like wind and solar. The city of Tallahassee became the latest to do so in February, committing to powering all municipal operations entirely with clean energy by 2035, and community-wide by 2050.

The U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment, released last fall, warned that Florida and the Southeast will continue to experience more frequent  extreme events related to climate change, including higher intensity hurricanes, toxic algae blooms and heat-related health threats.

Lawmakers introduced several proposals to deal with climate change in the current legislative session, but none advanced.

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