Tampa City Council member Joseph Citro drops push for clean energy by 2030

The council member has decided to back Mayor Jane Castor’s pledge for the city to run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
Council member Joe Citro during a city council meeting in downtown Tampa, Florida on Thursday, June 6, 2019.
Council member Joe Citro during a city council meeting in downtown Tampa, Florida on Thursday, June 6, 2019. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Published Feb. 3, 2021|Updated Feb. 4, 2021

TAMPA — A push backed by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups to have Florida’s third-largest city run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 has suffered a blow as the council member sponsoring a resolution to that effect has withdrawn it.

Joseph Citro introduced the non-binding resolution in November, but agreed to delay it until March.

Now, he’s deep-sixing it altogether, drawing the ire of some environmentalists.

At a November meeting, Citro compared his effort to President John F. Kennedy’s efforts to put astronauts on the moon, saying of Mayor Jane Castor’s opposition to the measure: “Sometimes you got to poke the bear.”

Related: Citro wants Tampa to run completely on renewable energy by 2030

On Thursday morning, Citro said his bear-poking comments referred to industry, not Castor.

“The mayor and I are great friends,” he said.

At the November meeting, Citro said: “I’m sure we’ve all received phone calls from major corporations. Mr. Whit Remer (the mayor’s resiliency and sustainability officer) and I sat down and had a conversation. And the administration and Mr. Remer are coming up with some plans. Council members, sometimes you got to shake the tree. Sometimes you got to poke the bear.”

Citro said he didn’t dispute the Tampa Bay Times reporting of his comments in November as referring to the mayor at the time because “it wasn’t a big deal.”

Citro’s Jan. 29 memo to Council Chairman Guido Maniscalco lays out his new reasoning, vowing to “join Mayor Castor in her pledge to transition Tampa City assets to 100% renewable by 2045.”

“This is consistent with other cities and closer to goals set by the federal government. I am grateful for the insight and information that have come as a result of the last few months of discussion with crucial stakeholders, such as the Tampa Climate Alliance, TECO, the Port of Tampa Bay, Tampa International Airport, and Tampa General Hospital,” Citro wrote.

Citro is expected to formally withdraw his resolution at Thursday’s council meeting.

Environmentalists had applauded Citro’s efforts. At a recent meeting, Sierra Club official Phil Compton has said the 2030 target —an earlier date than that agreed to by St. Petersburg and some other Florida cities — was doable because of better clean energy technology.

The news of Citro’s reversal disappointed those in favor of keeping the 2030 date.

“Citro dropped the resolution without discussion with the organizations who crafted and promoted it for the past year. Although it was slated to be passed with a 7-0 vote in November... Citro delayed the vote to allow corporate and industrial interests to more heavily weigh in. He has now caved,” wrote Brooke Errett, a senior organizer with Food and Water Watch and Food and Water Action in a Wednesday email.

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Errett mentioned a bill recently filed in the Florida Legislature that would limit local governments’ power in regulating energy infrastructure as another factor. Senate Bill 856 was filed last week by Republican state Senator Travis Hutson of Palm Coast.

The preemption bill is the latest potential curb on Tampa’s home rule powers, following the gutting of the city’s tree code in 2019 and legislation filed this session that would scrap a proposed ordinance requiring apprentices to be hired on large city projects.

Related: Tampa keeps wary eye on imperiled home rule in Tallahassee

Citro didn’t immediately return a call for comment Wednesday afternoon.