It's Tea Party sentiment vs. utility industry cash in fight over renewables legislation
Americans for Prosperity, the tea-party backed group supported by Gov. Rick Scott, has joined with business groups in opposition to a renewable energy bill moving swiftly through the Florida legislature (SB 2078/HB 7217.) The measure would allow the state's largest utilities to raise utility rates $377 million, or as much as $2.60 a month for average customers, every year for the next five years to build solar or biomass renewable energy plants.
AFP, which was founded by oil billionaires Charles and David Koch, has joined the Manufacturers Association of Florida, the Federation of Independent Businesses in Florida to oppose the bill. They are up against the powerful lobbying of Florida Power & Light and the state's largest utility companies which were the largest contributors of campaign cash to the Republican Party of Florida before the session. The Koch brothers have financed proposals to oppose renewable energy and climate change laws.
FPL donated $255,000 to the party in the first three months of the year and contributed at least $4 million since 2009 to legislators and statewide candidates, including Scott's Republican opponent Bill McCollum. Progress Energy contributed $200,000 during in the last quarter and Tampa Electric Co. gave the party $140,000 over the same time.
The bill is the top priority of FPL and lawmakers have given the renewables bill swift approval as it has moved through committee. In the Senate, leaders have plucked the bill out of hostile committees to avoid having it watered down. The latest shift came on Friday when the bill was pulled from the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee and move to the Senate Budget Committee.