This afternoon, Gov. DeSantis signed into law the worst environmental bill passed by the Florida Legislature during the 2023 session.
Senate Bill 540, which will take effect July 1, is a death knell for smart growth in Florida. It will effectively end citizen challenges to comprehensive plan amendments by sadling those who challenge an amendment and lose with the other side’s legal fees — including developers’ attorney fees if they join the case.
Signing SB 540 into law defies the spirit of DeSantis’ own Executive Order 23-06, which called for protecting the long-term planning process that safeguards sustainable growth in Florida. And it will embolden developers to propose more environmentally perilous projects.
Friends of the Everglades did not stand alone in our stringent opposition to SB 540. Allied organizations including Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, 1000 Friends of Florida, the Hold the Line Coalition, Hold the Line Coalition and the Everglades Coalition — representing more than 60 member organizations — also issued veto requests, citing concerns for Everglades restoration efforts and the future of smart growth in Florida.
More than 3,000 Friends of the Everglades supporters joined us in sending letters to the Governor requesting that he stand with the rights of his constituents by protecting the key role engaged citizens play in the oversight process to ensure responsible growth.
This bill now makes it almost impossible for citizens to bring legal challenges against environmentally dangerous projects, such as the South Dade Logistics and Technology District that we fought in Miami-Dade County. This denial of public participation by way of excessive financial barriers will have far-reaching implications for water and the Everglades and is a disappointing step backwards for Florida.
In the face of this bad new law, we will have to keep an even more vigilant watch over county commissions and city councils — to ensure they don’t approve environmentally damaging projects in the first place.