Monday, March 24, 2008

Senate committee OKs energy reforms

Originally published March 20, 2008
Senate committee OKs energy reforms

Sweeping reforms to increase energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy in Florida were approved Wednesday by a Senate committee.

SB 1544 includes major energy proposals by Gov. Charlie Crist. The bill directs the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to develop a proposal for limiting emissions of greenhouse gases and allowing the sale of credits for reductions. The bill also requires improved energy efficiency in new buildings and requires increasing amounts of ethanol in gasoline.

"Our governor has taken a tremendous leadership role in this issue of energy independence (and) climate change," said Sen. Burt Saunders, a Naples Republican. He is chairman of the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation, which unanimously approved the bill.

The bill, as proposed by Saunders was expanded Wednesday to include some recommendations by the Florida Energy Commission. The bill generally drew praise from environmental and renewable energy industry groups.

But Florida Chamber of Commerce representative Joanna Bonfanti said a requirement that utilities increase their use of renewable energy "may be a little aggressive" early on.

"We are always more supportive of incentives and goals over mandates," she said.

The committee last week delayed consideration of several proposed amendments, including a proposal by the Florida Energy Commission to increase recycling to 75 percent by 2020. But most were approved by the committee Wednesday with some changes.

DEP supported the recycling proposal after it was modified to direct the department to develop a program by 2010 for achieving 75 percent recycling.

The bill does not include the greenhouse gas reductions required by Crist's executive orders signed last summer. DEP is implementing those requirements through rulemaking, department spokeswoman Sarah Williams said.

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