Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a piece of legislation into law earlier this week that requires Florida cities and towns to keep using fossil fuels and could strangle their ability to set clean energy goals and mandates.
The bill, SB 1128/HB 919, is very similar to a slew of other bills that have entered state legislatures over the past year. These pieces of legislation, which have been dubbed “ban the ban” bills, are sponsored by oil and gas interests. They’re part of a flurry of public lobbying and private panic from the industry in response to the growing number of cities moving to ban natural gas hookups in new construction. With its passage, Florida joins Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arizona, and Oklahoma in banning new natural gas hookups in buildings; at least eight other states considered similar bills this year. And, like many of these bills, Florida’s new law has the backing of the state natural gas association and other corporate interests.
“It definitely is following the national trend we’re seeing pushed by the natural gas industry,” said Alissa Jean Schafer, a research and communications specialist at the Energy and Policy Institute who has been tracking the bill.
But Florida’s bill goes a step further than most. The language in the short bill is much broader than its siblings; it says that cities “may not enact or enforce a resolution, ordinance, rule, code, policy, or take any action that restricts or prohibits or has the effect of restricting or prohibiting the types or fuel sources of energy production.” Proponents of the bill say that this language is meant to encourage “energy choice” for Floridians, a term the gas industry has thrown around as it tries to defend against gas bans. But this phrasing, Schaefer said, opens the bill up to a lot of interpretation, and could be read as potentially restricting cities from banning fossil fuels altogether.