A group of 40 local mayors, commissioners, and councilmembers today wrote to Florida legislative leaders asking them to leave the state’s Office of Energy under the purview of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
In the letter, the local elected officials noted that they “recognized the need to move towards clean, renewable energy” and noted that “the accomplishments of the Office of Energy under Fried’s leadership are many.” The letter reads in part as follows:
It is long overdue that a statewide, independently-elected Cabinet member is focused on these imperative issues. That’s why we are encouraged by the direction Commissioner Fried has taken the FDACS Office of Energy in prioritizing energy efficiency and addressing climate change.
To move this important office could undo the tremendous progress made in the past year. We are concerned that moving the Office of Energy to the Department of Environmental Protection without any plans for success would be detrimental. Without appreciable cost savings or efficiency gains from moving the Office of Energy, we see no reason why it should be moved, now that it is working for the first time in a decade.
After years of dormancy, the FDACS Office of Energy is moving in the right direction. We strongly encourage you to reject efforts to move the office from under the purview of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Of the letter of support from the more than three dozen local officials,Commissioner Fried stated, “I’m grateful for the support of Florida’s mayors, commissioners, and local leaders who recognize that our Office of Energy is working, that there’s no good reason to move it from our department, and that we’re driving new conversations and achievements on Florida’s energy and climate future.”
The list of elected leaders signing the letter includes: Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, City of Sarasota; Mayor Joe Ayoub, City of Safety Harbor; Commissioner Mark Bogen, Broward County; Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski, City of Dunedin; Councilmember Joseph Citro, City of Tampa; Mayor John Dailey, City of Tallahassee; Mayor Daniel Dietch, Town of Surfside; Councilmember John Dingfelder, City of Tampa; Commissioner Lamar Fisher, Broward County; Commissioner Beam Furr, Broward County; Vice Mayor Steve Geller, Broward County; Councilmember Orlando Gudes, City of Tampa; Mayor Steven Grant, City of Boynton Beach; Mayor Rex Hardin, City of Pompano Beach; Commissioner Chuck Hess, Wakulla County; Mayor Dale V.C. Holness, Broward County; Commissioner Pat Kemp, Hillsborough County; Mayor Lori Lewellen, City of Dania Beach; Commissioner Janet Long, Pinellas County; Councilmember Guido Maniscalco, City of Tampa; Mayor Helen Miller, Town of White Springs; Commissioner Les Miller, Hillsborough County; Mayor Frank Ortis, City of Pembroke Pines; Commissioner Kimberly Overman, Hillsborough County; Mayor Judy Paul, Town of Davie; Mayor Lauren Poe, City of Gainesville; Commissioner Bill Proctor, Leon County; Commissioner Nan Rich, Broward County; Commissioner Curtis Richardson, City of Tallahassee; Councilmember Braheem Russ, City of Midway; Mayor Michael Ryan, City of Sunrise; Commissioner Mariella Smith, Hillsborough County; Mayor Gary Smith, Town of Ponce Inlet; Mayor Matthew Sparks, City of Oakland Park; Mayor Philip Stoddard, City of South Miami; Mayor Matthew Surrency, City of Hawthorne; Mayor Ken Thurston, City of Lauderhill; Mayor Dean Trantalis, City of Fort Lauderdale; Mayor Raúl Valdés-Fauli, City of Coral Gables; and Council Chairman Luis Viera, City of Tampa.
On February 13, the Florida House of Representatives voted to strip the FDACS Office of Energy from under Commissioner Fried, and transfer it to under Governor Ron DeSantis and the Department of Environmental Protection. The Palm Beach Post agreed this effort is a “partisan power grab,” the Miami Herald opined “it doesn’t benefit the public,” the Gainesville Sun noted “Fried has re-energized the office since becoming agriculture commissioner a year ago, making a priority of energy efficiency and renewable energy,” and the Panama City News Herald said “it’s not hard to ascribe political motives for DeSantis’ effort to grab the Office of Energy for himself.”
Since taking office, Commissioner Fried has revitalized the FDACS Office of Energy, empowering the office with new focus on energy efficiency, climate change, and low-income energy equity. Under Fried’s leadership, the FDACS Office of Energy has highlighted the need for improved energy efficiency standards, hosted the first statewide summit to address climate change since 2008, and released the 76-page Florida Energy and Climate Plan. Fried and state lawmakers also announced ambitious energy and climate legislation, which has not received hearings in the Florida House or Senate.
Since being transferred to FDACS in 2011, the Office of Energy has administered $158 million in state and federal funds for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, including energy efficiency upgrades for small and rural local governments. The Office of Energy has also provided hundreds of free energy and water audits for Florida agricultural producers.