Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed into law SB 1128/HB 919, “Preemption Over Restriction of Utility Services,” preventing local governments in the state from banning new commercial, industrial, and residential natural gas hookups.
“[The law] prohibit[s] municipalities, counties, special districts, or other political subdivisions from restricting or prohibiting the types or fuel sources of energy production used, delivered, converted, or supplied by certain entities [generally utilities] to customers; providing construction …,” says the law.
The law effectively blocks political subdivisions of the state from banning fossil fuel distribution and use, including natural gas hookups, and retroactively voids any such bans political subdivisions of the state of Florida had previously enacted.
Miami Halts Ban Proposal
After the law was signed, the City of Miami ceased further consideration of a proposal pending before the city council to ban natural gas hookups in new construction within the city as part of an Mayor Francis Suarez’s ‘unequivocal promise’ to to slash the city’s greenhouse gas emissions to stave off the worst effects of climate change.
Before the city council dropped the proposed gas ban, TECO People’s Gas, a utility operating in Florida, had been fighting the proposal.
Miami’s proposed gas ban would increases energy prices and end the use of whole classes of appliances, said Sergio Abreu Jr., People’s Gas regional manager for external affairs, in an email to the city asking it to revise the anti-gas proposal.
“Your proposed language asks customers to start eliminating their natural gas appliances starting in next year, 2022,” Abreu’s email said. “This will include significant expenses to not only convert the appliance but the supporting appliance infrastructure in the walls.”
State Law Avoid Confusion
Florida’s law banning local gas bans will avoid infringement of citizen’s choice of energy sources and eliminate unnecessary confusion for utilities and their customers, says Tim Benson, a senior policy analyst with The Heartland Institute, which co-publishes Environment & Climate News.
“Local governments are just as likely to infringe on liberties as state governments or the federal government,” said Benson. “When they do, hopefully state governments step in to restore or defend those liberties, which is what the Florida Legislature did here.
“Allowing municipalities to block the usage of certain fuel sources for electricity could potentially lead to a crazy quilt that would be difficult for utilities like FP&L to service,” said Benson. “Miami may ban natural gas, but Hialeah may not, and Pembroke Pines may also ban it, but not Hollywood, etc.; however, nothing prevents municipal boards or governments that own or control a utility directly from pass their own regulations on restricting natural gas use by their utility.”
Economics and Rising Seas
The law will likely preserve reasonable energy costs for the Florida’s businesses and residential ratepayers, says Benson.
“This will benefit Florida consumers by ensuring that they will not be blocked access to affordable and reliable energy sources like natural gas, which is important because Floridians, thanks to the state’s warm climate, use a lot of electricity to keep their homes cool enough to be livable,” Benson said. “Despite high use, the average retail price of electricity per kilowatt hour in Florida is about 5 percent below the national average price, thanks in large part to natural gas, and this new law will help ensure those prices stay in that ballpark.”
Benson also expressed confidence barring local governments from banning new gas hookups won’t result in rising seas swamping Miami’s homes and businesses.
“Nor is this law’s passage is going to condemn Floridians to some sort of climate catastrophe, or cause Miami to sink below the ocean or whatever doomsday scenario is dreamt up by climate alarmists,” Benson said. “Seas aren’t rising at an unusual rate historically.
“I live just a couple blocks off the ocean in Florida, and based on housing prices and the amount of new construction going on, none of my neighbors seem too concerned about those scenarios either,” Benson said.
Kevin Stone (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Arlington, Texas