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Florida Senate Environmental Panel To Look At ‘Resiliency’

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With calls growing for lawmakers to pay more attention to climate change, the state Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection and the chief resiliency officer position are slated to be reviewed Monday by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

The resiliency officer position is among the duties of Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein, who has had the responsibility since early last year, after Julia Nesheiwat left for a job in President Donald Trump’s administration. Nesheiwat, an appointee of Gov. Ron DeSantis, was the first person to hold the title of chief resiliency officer.

The committee is also scheduled to review septic-to-sewer conversion efforts and the implementation of the “Clean Waterways Act,” which was approved by the Legislature in the 2020 session. The act, in part, moved regulation of the 2.6 million septic tanks in the state from the Department of Health to the Department of Environmental Protection; required utilities to develop inspection, maintenance and replacement plans for their wastewater systems; and required the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to perform on-site verification of agricultural “best management practices” every two years.

Several environmental groups, seeking stronger measures, unsuccessfully pushed for DeSantis to veto the bill. Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, has called for lawmakers in the 2021 session to pump more money into programs to replace septic tanks with sewers and to exceed the $50 million that is required in law to be spent annually on natural springs.

The Senate is scheduled to hold meetings over four days next week as it begins preparing for the March 2 start of the annual legislative session.