Incoming Florida Senate president blames Crist for death of energy bill

Incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos on Thursday, while announcing his plans to moderate an energy conference in Orlando in August, blamed Gov. Charlie Crist for the failure of a renewable energy bill during the legislative session. The July 8 “Florida Energy Summit” will be hosted by Citizens for Clean Energy, a new nonprofit group formed by developer Kitson & Partners and other groups that support renewable energy.

HB 7229 would have allowed utilities to pay more for renewable energy projects and charge customers for those costs. Syd Kitson, developer of the Babcock Ranch development in Southwest Florida, said the bill was needed to allow Florida Power & Light to build there a 75-megawatt solar array, the nation’s largest.

The bill passed the House but failed to win Senate approval. An attempt by Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, to attach the measure to another energy bill, HB 7179, failed when Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, offered amendments that likely would have killed the bill. Crist has said he wants to hold a special session this summer to take up renewable energy in response to the BP oil spill but he hasn’t offered specific ideas about legislation.

In a conference call with reporters on Thursday to discuss the energy summit, Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said HB 7229 died because Crist let it be known that he was against it. “The governor, if he wants to play politics with it, he can,” Haridopolos said. “He had a great opportunity during the regular session to address this issue.”

Crist spokesman Sterling Ivey said he didn’t recall the governor saying anything specifically about the bill. Haridopolos said he looked forward to moderating the summit, which will be open to the public, to hear ideas from Florida residents and people in the industry.

Other upcoming energy conferences include the “Clean Energy Congress” in Tallahassee on June 28-29, involving Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, and the 5th annual “Farm to Fuel” Summit on Aug. 11 in Orlando.

(Story provided by The Florida Tribune. Story and photo copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting