Senate Panel debates new clean energy regulations
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03/31/09 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

In Tallahassee, a Senate panel today passed a bill sponsored by Republican Jim King that would require 20 percent of energy in Florida to come from renewable and "clean sources" by 2020; but its future looks extremely dubious.

Before the hearing, most of the controversy involved unhappiness among environmentalists who were upset because the bill had included nuclear as a clean energy source. But it later was almost derailed due to a penny gas tax.

Eric Draper with the Audubon of Florida was one of several speakers who had objections with the definition of nuclear being "clean."

Debbie Harrison is with the World Wildlife Fund and has been a member of the Governor’s Action Team on Energy and Climate Change. She said she was pleased King’s bill has the 20 percent requirement but had concerns about the substitute language.

Ken Hoffman with Florida Power and Light applauded the fact that nuclear has been included in the mix as renewable.

Miami Beach Democratic state Sen. Dan Gelber confirmed that because nuclear power by definition is not considered a renewable source, the state is expanding the definition. King said that was correct.

The proposal includes a consumer protection to limit to 2 percent any rate hikes associated with new costs of meeting the 20 percent by 2020 requirement. But Laura Cantwell with AARP said she still thinks that’s too high.

King’s bill requires a penny cent sales tax, in order to raise $90 million for a new trust fund with $45 million to go to the Florida Energy and Climate Commission.

But some senators said they wondered if there might not be sufficient money from the federal stimulus bill.

Other funding includes a one-cent raise on the state’s gas tax, which was unpleasant for legislators like New Port Richey Republican Mike Fasano. King countered by saying he had to add some funding.

The committee voted 6-3 for the bill, with Fasano, Gelber and Mike Haridopolos dissenting. Later, King said he had no idea if the bill had any chance in the more conservative House.

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