Florida lawmakers look to preempt energy regulation

FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2019, file photo, a gas pump reflecting prices is seen in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Late last year, a Tampa City Council member dropped plans for a resolution banning new gas stations after 2030, but the decision hasn’t stopped state lawmakers from moving legislation that would prohibit any local government in the state from banning any energy choice.

Climate activists believe that banning new gas stations will speed up the move to electric cars, but state lawmakers are having no part of it.

“What’s currently in place, you can’t change,” said state Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine. “Local governments can continue their to appropriately site gas stations in their jurisdiction so long as the activity does not have the effect of prohibition.”

Two bills approved Tuesday morning would stop local governments in their tracks.

The first says they wouldn’t be able to ban energy choices outside your home, like gas stations.

The second would prohibit bans on energy choices inside your house, like natural gas.

“This bill undermines the power of Floridians. Floridians are problem-solvers,” said Ida Eskamani, with Florida Rising.

Environmentalists argued the legislation would limit, not increase, consumer choices.

“We have to cut back on fossil fuels. If we don’t, getting to 1% renewable energy will be 100% impossible,” said Dave Cullen, with the Sierra Club.

Both were approved along near party lines.

State Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, split her vote on the bills but said she doesn’t really like either.

“I’ve never happy with anything that preempts local government. I’m a little sick and tired of it actually,” said Cruz.

Hutson, who is sponsoring both bills, said the original ban proposed in Tampa is what got his attention.

“The Tampa one was more of the eye-opening one because that is a large city that could make some major implications when it comes to tourism, right? People that are coming in not knowing the rules,” said Hutson.

The measure would also not allow counties to restrict gas supplies arriving at local ports.

Originally, the legislation would have erased anti-fracking ordinances in 13 counties, but objections forced it out of the bill.