DeSantis, amid criticism, signs Florida bill making climate change a lower state priority

TALAHASSEE, Fla. — Climate change will be a lower priority in Florida and largely disappear from state statutes under legislation signed Wednesday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that also bans energy-generating wind turbines off the coast or near the state's long coastline.

Critics said the measure signed into law by the former Republican presidential candidate ignores the reality of climate change threats in Florida, including projections of rising seas, extreme heat and flooding and increasingly severe storms.

It takes effect July 1 and would also encourage the expansion of natural gas, reduce regulations on gas pipelines in the state and increase protections against bans on gas appliances such as stoves, according to a news release from the governor's office.

DeSantis, who suspended his presidential campaign in January and later endorsed his bitter rival Donald Trump, called the bill a common-sense approach to energy policy.

“We are restoring common sense to our approach to energy and rejecting the agenda of the radical green fanatics,” DeSantis said in a post on social media platform X.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Florida already relies on natural gas for about 74% of its electricity generation. Opponents of the bill that DeSantis signed say it removes the word “climate” in nine different places and moves the state's energy goals away from efficiency and the reduction of greenhouse gases responsible for warming the planet.

“This deliberate act of cognitive dissonance is evidence that the governor and state legislature are not acting in the best interests of Florida residents, but rather to protect the profits of the fossil fuel industry,” said Yoca Arditi-Rocha , executive director of the nonprofit Cleo Institute. , which advocates for climate change education and engagement.

The legislation also eliminates the requirement that government agencies hold conferences and meetings at hotels certified as “green accommodations” by the state environmental agency and that government agencies make fuel efficiency a top priority when purchasing new vehicles. It also ends the requirement that Florida state agencies review a list of “climate-friendly” products before making purchases.

In 2008, a bill to address climate change and promote renewable energy was unanimously passed in both legislative chambers and signed into law by then-Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican at the time. Former Governor Rick Scott, now a Republican U.S. Senator, took steps after taking over the governorship in 2011 to undo some of that measure, and this latest bill goes even further.

The measure signed by DeSantis would also kick off a study of small nuclear reactor technology, expand the use of hydrogen-powered vehicles and improve the safety of the electric grid, according to the governor's office.

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This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Yoca Arditi-Rocha's first name.

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