DeSantis Signs Energy, China Investments Bills

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed a controversial energy bill that includes repealing parts of state law about greenhouse-gas emissions and another measure that calls for ending state investments in companies linked to the Chinese government and military.

DeSantis announced the approvals online, saying the bills “will keep windmills off our beaches, gas in our tanks, and China out of our state.”

“We’re restoring sanity in our approach to energy and rejecting the agenda of the radical green zealots,” DeSantis said in a post on the social-media platform X. “Furthermore, we’re going to ensure foreign adversaries like China have no foothold in our state.”

In addition to making changes related to greenhouse-gas emissions, the energy bill (HB 1645) will ban offshore wind-energy generation and calls for the Florida Public Service Commission to develop a “cost-effective” energy infrastructure “resilient to natural and manmade threats.”

Also, with Florida utilities heavily dependent on natural gas to fuel power plants, the bill will ease a regulation on building natural-gas pipelines. Pipelines within Florida that are 15 miles or longer currently need certification under a law known as the Natural Gas Transmission Pipeline Siting Act. Under the bill, the requirement will apply to pipelines 100 miles or longer.

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The Florida Natural Gas Association on Wednesday praised the bill, saying in a news release that it will “maintain and encourage reliable fuel sources for public utilities, remove federal and international control over Florida’s energy policies and allow consumers to choose their energy source.”

“This law strengthens natural gas infrastructure resiliency and reliability, which are critical to the state’s economy, the ability to recover from natural disasters and the health, safety, welfare and quality of life of Floridians,” Dale Calhoun, the association’s executive director, said in a prepared statement.

But during this year’s legislative session, Democrats and environmental groups criticized the bill, in part because of how it addresses greenhouse-gas emissions.

For example, it will eliminate part of current law that says, “The Legislature finds that the state’s energy security can be increased by lessening dependence on foreign oil; that the impacts of global climate change can be reduced through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; and that the implementation of alternative energy technologies can be a source of new jobs and employment opportunities for many Floridians.”

That will be replaced, in part, by sentences that say, “The purpose of the state’s energy policy is to ensure an adequate, reliable, and cost-effective supply of energy for the state in a manner that promotes the health and welfare of the public and economic growth. The Legislature intends that governance of the state’s energy policy be efficiently directed toward achieving this purpose.”

In February, Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, objected to the changes, saying Florida is “ground zero for climate disasters.”

“We are surrounded by water, and the effects are showing,” Polsky said.

DeSantis continues to promote efforts to combat rising seas and flooding. But his tone has changed since he first took office and Republicans were starting to publicly address climate-change effects.

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While campaigning for president last year, DeSantis touted the development of fossil fuels and blamed a “concerted effort to ramp up the fear” of things such as “global warming and climate change.”

“This is driven by ideology, it’s not driven by reality,” DeSantis said during a September appearance in Texas. “In reality, human beings are safer than ever from climate disasters.”

Another part of the bill will ban building or operating offshore wind turbines in Florida-controlled waters and on property within one mile of coastlines. Currently, locating wind turbines in those locations isn’t considered viable.

In February, Senate bill sponsor Jay Collins, R-Tampa, said the wind-turbine ban was designed to help protect wildlife and ecosystems and to prevent noise.

“Overall, the risk to our flora and fauna, our whales, the ecosystem around there, that’s concerning,” Collins said. “And then the tourism and noise aspect as well is also concerning.”

Lawmakers passed the energy bill and the China-investments measure (HB 7071) in March.

The investments bill will require the State Board of Administration to develop a plan by Sept. 1 for selling holdings tied to companies that are majority-owned by the Chinese government, the Chinese communist party or the Chinese military. The divestment will then have to occur within one year.

The State Board of Administration oversees investments for Florida’s massive pension fund and other funds. Florida’s exposure to Chinese-owned companies has been estimated under $300 million.

The bill is the latest in a series of efforts by state leaders to try to cut economic ties with China.

In December 2021, DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, in their role as trustees of the State Board of Administration, directed a review of Florida Retirement System investments to find links to the Chinese communist party.

Lamar Taylor, interim executive director of the State Board of Administration, in March 2022 announced a pause in new investments in China, which had been part of the state’s “emerging market strategies” since the mid-1990s.

Other recent state laws included a 2023 measure restricting certain people from China and other “foreign countries of concern” from owning property in Florida. That law faces court challenges.

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