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Greenwashing Florida – From "Fuel Farms" to "Resiliency Facilities"



TALLAHASSEE, FL- Florida stands at a pivotal moment, facing a transformation that threatens to reshape its landscape and compromise the well-being of its communities. Senate Bills 1624 and 1628, and their companion House Bills(collectively "Bills"), currently under consideration, are not merely pieces of legislation; they represent a concerted effort to rebrand the expansion of fuel storage and distribution facilities in Florida as a noble endeavor to enhance resiliency. However, advocates and activists are attempting to expose the cloaking of corporate interests in the guise of environmental stewardship for what it truly is: a deceptive practice that undermines local autonomy and jeopardizes environmental integrity.


At the heart of this issue lies the creation and operation of fuel distribution and storage facilities by Belvedere Terminals, a wholly owned subsidiary of Grupo Mexico, a Mexican mining, transportation, and infrastructure corporation. What initially appears as an innocuous effort to bolster energy infrastructure is, in reality, a calculated move to establish above-ground fuel storage facilities across Florida. This aggressive expansion plan, disguised under the label of"resiliency facilities,"threatens to irreversibly alter the fabric of our state.


The terms"fuel farms" and "resiliency facilities"may sound reassuring, but they serve as thinly veiled attempts togreenwashthe true nature of these projects. By portraying the construction offuel storage and distribution facilitiesas vital components of resiliency planning, proponents of these Bills seek to garner public support while obscuring the potential risks and consequences.


The implications of this deceptive maneuver extend far beyond mere semantics. By rebranding fuel storage and distribution facilities as fuel farms or resiliency facilities, proponents seek to circumvent scrutiny and silence dissent. This greenwashing of corporate interests undermines the democratic process and erodes the rights of local communities to determine their own fate. Will Floridians continue to be misled by such rhetoric?


SB 1624, disguised as a champion for Florida's alleged energy crisis, masks a sinister reality: a scheme orchestrated for Grupo Mexico, a company with an abysmal safety record, to force unwanted fuel distribution and storage facilities into unwilling communities.


There is a legitimate concern that Grupo Mexico's control over Florida's fuel supply and infrastructure could compromise the state's energy security as well as Homeland Security. Grupo Mexico’s potential control over Florida’s railway infrastructure and fuel storage demands close scrutiny. Balancing economic interests with security imperatives is crucial to safeguarding our state and nation.


What many people may not realize is that the previously American-owned Florida East Coast Railway (FEC), a vital artery of our region's economy and transportation network for over 100 years, has been discreetly acquired by Grupo Mexico. This transformation holds significant implications for Florida communities, raising concerns about transparency, accountability, and the potential impact on local jobs, safety, and the environment.


FEC, a Class II regional railroad, owns all 351 miles of the mainline track from Jacksonville to Miami. This rail network connects vital ports, industrial centers, and transportation hubs. Any disruption or compromise to this infrastructure could have cascading effects on trade, logistics, and emergency response. FEC’s strategic importance for Florida’s economy and security cannot be overstated. It is the primary rail provider for most of Florida and exclusive rail provider for Port Miami, Port Everglades, and Port of Palm Beach.


The safety concerns do not stop with the mere existence and operation of fuel storage and distribution facilities in Florida. Grupo Mexico's history speaks volumes. Fifteen years after an explosion killed 65 workers at the Pasta de Conchos mine in Sabinas, Mexico, justice has still not been served. This tragedy, one of the worst mining disasters in the country's history, wasn't simply an accident. It became even more horrifying when Grupo Mexico, the mine's owner, callously called off the search for survivors after only five days and sealed all but two of the victims' bodies inside the mine. This disaster demonstrated the deep need for labor reform in Mexico. But it also laid bare the stark inequalities in a system where corporations prioritize profit over human life.


Will Floridians trust a company like Grupo Mexico with the safety and well-being of their communities? Grupo Mexico's abysmal safety record, defiance of environmental regulations, and blatant disregard for the sanctity of human life paint a concerning picture. At least 227 recorded violations since 2000, staggering fines, and multi-million-dollar settlements document this pattern of negligence and defiance of regulations. Such a concerning track record, coupled with the inherent risks associated with fuel storage and distribution facilities and train accidents, raises serious questions about their suitability to operate in Florida.


Safety concerns loom large for other fuel storage and distribution facilities as well. While currently there appear to be no other corporations with known plans to build and operate these facilities in Florida, these Bills could change all of that – inviting resiliency facilities to begin building in Florida as early as this year. The potential for accidents, leaks and spills poses a grave risk to public safety, underscoring the urgency of scrutinizing these projects.


Contradicting Senate Bill 170 (SB 170): The passage of SB 170 last year was hailed as a victory for local autonomy, yet these new Bills would undermine these hard-won protections. SB 170, known as the Live Local Act, promoted as the "preemption bill to end all preemption bills," had a clear purpose and intent: to protect home rule and ensure that local communities retain their ability to self-govern. However, the introduction of SB 1624 and 1628 undermines the very essence of SB 170. These new Bills, rather than reinforcing local governance, create a contradictory landscape.


SB 170 enabled businesses to challenge local ordinances they deemed “arbitrary or unreasonable.” It allowed stakeholders within a community to take action against local governments that overstepped their bounds. However, SB 1624 and 1628 eliminate exemptions for certain ordinances, including those related to land development regulations and zoning changes. These Bills restrict local governments’ ability to regulate, eroding the principles upheld by SB 170. By imposing additional requirements and legal challenges, they undermine the very protections that were meant to empower local communities. The result is a contradiction—a betrayal of the promise to safeguard home rule and protect the rights of Florida’s residents.


Imagine this: meticulously crafted local zoning regulations, crafted with community concerns at heart, are nullified with a single stroke, paving the way for fuel storage and distribution facilities to be controlled by Grupo Mexico and Belvedere Terminals – allowing these facilities to invade sensitive areas despite fierce local opposition.


As concerned citizens, Floridians must stand together in opposition to these Bills. They must hold their lawmakers accountable and insist on transparent, democratic decision-making processes. They must realize their voices matter, and it is only by speaking out that they can safeguard the integrity of their environment and protect the rights of future generations.


In conclusion, the attempt to rebrand fuel storage and distribution facilities as resiliency facilities is nothing short of a betrayal of public trust. Florida's greenwashing of corporate interests must be exposed, and Floridians are working tirelessly to ensure that the true interests of their communities are represented.


Advocates and activists are asking concerned citizens to contact their representatives and insist that they REJECT SB 1624 and 1628 and uphold the principles of transparency, accountability, and environmental justice. For those interested in taking action and participating in the legislative process, the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government (AEG) will be hearing testimony on SB 1624 during their scheduled hearing, Tuesday, February 13, 2024, at 8:30 AM. SB 1624 is item 16 on the agenda, and the hearing is slated from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM. Please note that the agenda items may be taken out of order. If planning to attend, it's advised to arrive by 8:15 AM, as there is a possibility that the room will be at capacity rather quickly and this item may be taken out of order and addressed early.


To access the full bill language, amendments and track SB 1624 visit https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2024/1624.


If unable to attend in person, it is crucial to ensure that your voice is heard by emailing the committee members. However, physical presence is highly encouraged, as there is a concern that scheduling the item towards the end of the day may limit citizens' opportunities to provide input. AEG Committee Member can be emailed directly through this link: https://www.flsenate.gov/Committees/Show/AEG?pref=full. To locate your state representatives, go to Find Your Legislators - The Florida Senate (flsenate.gov).

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