Frontline Environmental Justice Activists Condemn Energy Preemption Bills

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Climate and Energy

Tallahassee, FL — Today, activists on the frontlines of environmental injustice joined with environmental advocates to condemn the suite of energy preemption bills that headed to Governor DeSantis’ desk for signature earlier this week.

If signed into law, Florida’s suite of energy preemption bills, SB 1128/HB 919, SB 856/ HB 839 and SB 896/ HB 539, will prevent renewable energy development and block community choice. Not only do the bills eliminate the power of local governments to act on their constituents’ demands to move off fossil fuels, but they also prevent local community oversight in these decisions.

With one day left in the Florida legislative session, advocates highlighted the legislature’s focus on bills that stripped local communities of their power and choice. From the bad anti-protest legislation signed into law last week that has already mired Governor DeSantis in legal controversy to to the suite of energy preemption bills that represent the most aggressive move in the country to curtail the transition away from fossil fuels, the Florida legislature has prioritized bills this session that attack and eliminate community political involvement.

“Florida has become ground zero for a new brand of conservatism that strips away local power, control and choice, in favor of catering to industry interests,” said Food & Water Watch Southern Region Director Michelle Allen. “When regular people organize, they build power large enough to solve the biggest problems of our day — Florida Republicans know the strength of our power, and are choosing to dismantle it. Governor DeSantis must veto the energy preemption bills sitting on his desk, before he secures the fate of Florida’s climate and most vulnerable communities.”

“This legislative session was incredibly harmful for our civil rights,” said For Our Future Florida Regional Director Bernice Lauredan. “Protest is an American tradition that dates back to the founding of our country. It is unfortunate that instead of focusing on the largest public health crisis in a century, Republicans are taking rights away from Floridians.”

From Gainesville to Tampa, Miami to the panhandle, activists from frontline communities and environmental organizations gathered to highlight the role that communities and local governments play in mitigating climate disaster. The groups highlighted how the suite of legislation exposes frontline communities to exploitation from utility projects by out-of-town corporate actors, and is based in the same injustice as the anti-protest bill.

“We are advocating for well-sited industrial power plants and home rule — we want a transition to renewables. We have to do it, however, with the community at the forefront of these decisions,” said Michelle Rutledge from the Saint Peter/Saint Paul Community Council in Archer, who alongside neighbors led successful local organizing efforts against a utility-scale solar project in Archer last year. “We encourage an inclusive and just transition to cleaner energy. We need an inclusive, equitable and just implementation.”

Advocates point to Initiative for Energy Justice’s Scorecard as a resource to help communities and elected officials identify if decisions around policies and potential energy projects were made with adequate community input.

“The outcome of passing these types of preemptions is that local input will be silenced,” said Gerie Crawford from the Saint Peter/Saint Paul Community Council in Archer. “The voices of local government(s), property owners, rural and historic communities would be excluded from the conversation, thus having no input in the decisions affecting our neighborhoods and promoting environmental injustices at every level.”

For a recording of the event, please reach out to [email protected].