February 15, 2018

The Legislature has completed Week 6 of the 2018 Legislative Session.  You can review all of the legislation FLERA is monitoring here.

Tree Preemption
HB 574 by Senator Steube passed the Senate Community Affairs Committee this week with a controversial amendment preempting local government regulations that protect historic and specimen trees in electric utility rights of way.  The bill goes next to the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee, which currently has only one more meeting on the calendar.  If the bill is not placed on next week’s agenda, it may be dead for the session.  HB 521 by Representative Edwards-Walpole is expected to have a strike-all amendment in its last committee that is more narrowly tailored to include only rights of way for water management and flood control.  However, the bill may not be heard again if the Senate bill does not continue to advance.  

Florida Forever
HB 7063 is expected to be heard in the House Appropriations Committee next week.  While the bill contains provisions that restructure the Florida Forever program and fund it over time, the bill was amended in its previous committee with controversial language that would saddle losing parties in environmental administrative cases with attorney fees simply for losing, regardless of whether there is an improper purpose.  This would have a significant chilling effect on intervenors such as environmental groups that challenge permits, but would also apply to permit applicants that intervene on behalf of an agency.  After significant opposition from many interested stakeholders, Chair Caldwell has indicated that this language will be removed in the next committee.  However, new issues may continue to emerge.  The Senate approach has been to simply fund the existing Florida Forever program at $100M annually.  The differences in approach will be resolved during budget negotiations.

State Assumption of Federal Section 404 Dredge and Fill Authority
SB 1402 by Senator Simmons and HB 7043 by the House Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee and Representative Raschein authorize the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to seek assumption of the federal section 404 dredge and fill program from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers.  SB 1402 passed its second of three committees this week amid opposition from environmental groups concerned about potential resource constraints on DEP, lack of transparency in the administrative process of assumption, and concerns regarding uncertainty over the new state process for coordinating with other agencies that must be created since the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) would not apply to a delegated program.  In order to address these concerns, Audubon Florida has suggested legislative ratification of the state’s application prior to submittal to EPA.  However, there have been no amendments to date that would provide for ratification.  

Basin Action Management Plans (BMAPs)
SB 1664 by Senator Simmons passed its second of three committees this week.  This bill requires the DEP to develop remediation plans for onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems under certain conditions and specifies requirements for the installation, repair, modification, or upgrade of certain systems.  The bill does not have a companion.

Fracking
SB 462 by Senator Young, which contains a ban on fracking, passed its second of three committees this week.  The House companion measure, HB 237 by Representative Peters, has not received a hearing.

C-51 Reservoir Project
SB 992 by Senator Book revises requirements related to the phase I and II of the C-51 reservoir project, authorizes the South Florida Water Management District to enter into certain capacity allocation agreements, and authorizes the DEP to waive loan repayments under certain circumstances.  SB 992 passed its second of three committees.  There is no stand-alone companion bill in the House, but similar provisions are contained within HB 7063, the House Florida Forever package.

TNC Procurement Guide for Nature Based Solutions
The Nature Conservancy has released a procurement guide for nature based solutions.  You can view the guide here.  The purpose of the guide is to provide communities with an overview of nature based solutions, tools, and best practices for drafting a Request for Proposals (RFP) in favor of nature based approaches to flood and stormwater management.