Mitch Perry Report 4.22.14: Happy Earth Day

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Welcome to the 44th anniversary of Earth Day. Although the biggest issue of the day when it comes to the global health of the planet remains climate change, most experts will tell you not enough is being done to mitigate its deleterious effects.

Locally, one of the biggest events will be a political one. A host of Pinellas County public officials, including St. Petersburg City Council members Karl Nurse and Darden Rice, will hold a noon news conference calling on Duke Energy to increase its solar and energy efficiency investments in Florida. This is the second major event in recent weeks that the Sunshine State Clean Energy Coalition has staged to target the region's public utility.

I've always been under the assumption that, while Duke isn't doing much on alternative energy in Florida, the company does significantly better in places like Ohio and North Carolina, but even that is suspect. Duke Energy Carolina's own reporting shows that it generates 57 percent of its energy from coal and natural gas plants, 26 percent from nuclear, and less than one half of 1 percent from solar. Of course, that's subject to change in the coming years, as the state of North Carolina has a  Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires investor-owned utilities (like Duke) to generate 12.5 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2021. Florida has nothing of the kind. The last time there was any momentum for such a change came during the middle of Charlie Crist's term in office, but even he backed off on that as he prepared for his Senate run in 2010.

Solar activists in particular have been critical of Duke's stances in North Carolina. Earlier this year Duke management said that solar prices have dropped so much recently that subsidies paid to solar customers should be reduced accordingly. Those payments are part of a plan called  “net metering,” a concept that lets homeowners use the solar energy they generate but requires Duke to buy surplus electricity from those homes.

Will continued calls for more solar in Florida work? Obviously the odds may be low and based more on what our Legislature and Public Service Commission ultimately do, but for engaged citizens, it's the best thing they can hope for, especially on Earth Day.

In other news… The legislation that would penalize craft brewers in order for them to sell 64-ounce growlers is really hitting the fan now. If you're a critic of the bill floating in the Senate, one piece of solace is that there isn't a companion bill yet in the House.

Rick Scott is a man of principles when it comes to making the state workforce drug-free, Constitution be damned. But the Supreme Court of the United States decided not to hear his appeal of a lower court's rejection of his mandate that state employees be forced to urinate in a jar.

And over the Easter weekend, a number of religious officials met in Tampa to call for the House of Representatives to pass the Senate's comprehensive immigration bill.

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