Crist vetos ’landmark’ energy bill, says it’s not enough

by Bill Kaczor

Associated Press

Thursday June 21, 2007

A $62 million energy bill that sponsors called landmark legislation would not have gone far enough to wean the state off fossil fuels and reduce global warming, Gov. Charlie Crist said in vetoing the measure Wednesday night.

It fell short of focusing Florida's energy policy on renewable fuels and conservation and would not have ended fragmentation and regulatory delays that have stalled progress, Crist wrote in his veto message.

In some instances the bill (HB 7123), which unanimously passed in both legislative chambers, would have taken a step backward, Crist added. He did not elaborate, but wrote that he would work with lawmakers to draft a better solution.

"I am committed to advancing aggressively the climate change agenda and developing environmentally sound energy policy," Crist wrote. "When reviewing this bill as a whole, it is apparent that a unified approach to state energy policy would not result."

Instead, it might have delayed establishing an energy policy focused on conservation, efficiency and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the governor added.

"We can do better," Crist wrote. "We must do better."

Environmentalists and renewable energy advocates had given the bill lukewarm support, saying it was lacking in some areas including solar power and energy conservation.

"Gov. Crist has sent a clear signal that renewable energy, energy conservation and reducing global warming pollution are his top priorities," Holly Binns, field director for Environment Florida, said in a statement.

She said Florida has been overly focused on "building expensive, polluting fossil fuel power plants, instead of investing in energy efficiency and clean energy sources."

Lawmakers removed two consumer-friendly provisions before passing the bill because of budget constraints: tax breaks for buying alternative-fuel vehicles and a "tax holiday" on purchases of energy efficient appliances.

The bill, though, would have used tax breaks to speed up the development and distribution of biofuels instead of mandates that more than 20 states have in place.

It also would have created a $20 million demonstration plant for the production of cellulosic ethanol from such materials as sugarcane and citrus waste that are abundant in Florida. This type of ethanol is more efficient than the variety produced from corn in the Midwest.

The bill called for a greenhouse gas inventory and would have established a task force to help implement a coherent energy policy. Another provision would have promoted "green" building codes.

Crist noted he will convene a Climate Change Summit next month "to address these issues in a timely, progressive manner."

The governor also pointed out he supported millions of dollars in the state budget for developing and using renewable energy technologies.

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