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Senate committee approves increased electricity bills for natural gas expansion

The Senate Rules Committee approved a bill Wednesday allowing utility companies to raise electricity bills so they can pass along the cost of building renewable natural gas facilities.

SB 1162 would allow utility companies to purchase and use natural gas and hydrogen as fuel sources for electricity. This would help diversify fuel sources Floridians use for their energy.

“Florida relies on other states to provide fuel to generate electricity, said Sen. Nick DiCeglie who introduced the bill. “Our state is a peninsula, and it's important that we have reliable and resilient energy. This bill allows our public utilities to advance our energy solutions and create our own energy in the state to be prepared to take care of our citizens here in the state of Florida.”

AARP director of advocacy Zayne Smith said they are not opposed to diversifying energy sources but are opposed to the way Floridians will be charged for it.

“Now they're going to get the markup on it and make more profits,” said Smith, “and there's no doubt that the utility industry is booming right now. The recession hasn't hurt their bottom line. They're profiting at record rates right now.”

Smith also said this has a particular effect on older adults.

“When you're an older adult, you might be income strapped,” said Smith. “Majority of our members, 50 plus, especially the retiree contingent of AARP's membership, they're retired. They're on restricted incomes or low incomes. And, anytime you have an increase in a monthly bill of any type, that hurts.”

If signed into law, the measure would go into effect on July 1.

Aileyahu is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.