Putnam Working to Overcome Senate Resistance to Energy Plan

By: Jim Turner | Posted: March 1, 2012 3:55 AM
Adam Putnam

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam

The chances for the comprehensive but "realistic" energy package championed by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a topic neglected by legislators for several years, may be running out of juice as the session winds down.

Agriculture Department spokesman Sterling Ivey said that while Putnam hasn’t been twisting arms to get the Legislature to approve its first energy plan since 2007, “he’s been meeting with members all week on the energy bill.”

And he's going to keep trying.

“We are looking at all the options and will continue to work with both House and Senate leadership to get a moderate energy bill passed this session,” Ivey said. “There is over a week of the regular session remaining so we will keep working on the various energy-related bills.”

The House effort, HB 7117, which still includes a number of pro-business protections and incentives, is awaiting a final vote by the House.

However, for two nights, the Senate Budget Committee has failed to find time to discuss its bill, SB 2094.

Committee Chairman J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said after Wednesday's committee meeting that he’d still like to get the bill done. However, he expressed concerns about several “rough edges” in the Senate version of the package.

Alexander said he would like local referendums to be required on a part of the bill that would allow local governments to redirect infrastructure projects involving alternative energy that receive state money. 

Also, he said, private companies should be required to bid on projects that can receive tax credits rather than the current proposal to distribute the credits on a first-come-first-served basis.

“First-come-first-served tends to favor insiders who may already have things keyed up,” he said.

Alexander noted that he’s talked with Putnam three times to air his concerns.

“I don’t consider it dead, not at all,” Alexander said. “I’d like to get it done.”

Late Wednesday, it was announced the committee will meet again Thursday.

Putnam introduced the plan as a more realistic market-oriented effort than prior plans, by seeking to diversify the state’s portfolio away from its dependency on natural gas by advancing renewable energy production, encouraging home-grown technologies and promoting greater energy efficiency.

Highlights of Putnam’s plan include:
  • Removing regulatory barriers that prevent the expansion of renewable energy opportunities in the state.
  • Requiring the Public Service Commission to consider fuel diversity when making decisions about new power sources. Investor-owned utilities would be required to set aside 1 percent of their overall generation capacity to renewable investments.
  • Allowing utilities to enter into approved financing projects with renewable energy companies, which they can do now with publicly owned solid waste facilities.
  • Reviving $16 million in tax breaks for investments into renewable energy technology and production.
  • Allowing a municipality to collect special assessments to pay the additional costs to purchase renewable energy.
  • Reviving the business credits and incentives that expired last year in Florida, that were put in place before the industry was mature enough to take advantage of them.
If both chambers are able to mediate the parts of the plan they support, it would be the first comprehensive energy plan to be approved by the Legislature since former Gov. Charlie Crist introduced a plan that called for sweeping reforms.

It should be noted that many of Crist’s proposals have since remained dormant or required repeal.

Last year, legislators broke up the Energy and Climate Commission, created under Crist's direction, and shifted the responsibilities to Putnam's department.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

Comments (2)

6:32AM MAR 2ND 2012
You people are political idiots.

Hate sells only in Tea Bag households.

Your anti-everything strategy is going to wipe your majority and your state clean.
Jim B.
9:45AM MAR 1ST 2012
Hey Adam check the title on your office door. Commissioner of Agriculture, not Energy Czar! Get back to taking care of the farmers who elected you!

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