Senate Agriculture Committee – This week the committee heard a presentation from Patrick Juneau, the BP Claims Administrator (succeeding Ken Feinberg).   Mr. Juneau was appointed by a Federal Judge to implement the Settlement Agreement, which he called “the most complex and detailed in history.”  Mr. Juneau stated that there is a staff of 2,500 people (including 365 professional accountants) working full time on claims to ensure equal treatment for equal claims in the Gulf region. 

Mr. Juneau stated that they have processed over 106,000 claims and sent out determination letters (notification of valid claims to be paid) totaling over $1.7 billion.  Florida claims total 34,000 and amount to $335 million in valid determinations.      Of interesting note, Mr. Juneau said that although some original claims may have been denied under the Gulf Coast Claims Facility guidelines, many of those claims may be eligible under the Settlement Agreement.  He encourage all who may believe they have a claim to file it at one of Florida’s many claims assistance centers (e.g., Pensacola, Appalachicola, Naples, and Ft. Walton Beach).

This Tuesday was the final day however to submit seafood claims.  According to the Settlement Agreement, a $2.3 billion funding cap was placed on that type of claim, and any residual amounts in the fund, after processing up to the deadline, will be reallocated back to the original awardees.   They haven’t yet decided, however, whether reallocation will be pro rata or based upon certain factors. 

Finally, for those accepting payment after executing a waiver or release, those claims cannot be reassessed, although the validity of those waivers or releases may be challenged in other venues. 

House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee – This week the committee heard a presentation by the Public Service Commission regarding its report on electric vehicle charging and its impact on the grid.  As expected, California leads the nation in vehicles and charging stations due in large measure to state emissions law and incentives.  In Florida, there are three different types of charging stations: i) Level 1 – home units up to 1.8 kW (equivalent to a blow dryer) that charge a vehicle in 8-10 hours; ii) Level 2 – using 240 volt outlets and drawing 3.3 kW and charge in 4-5 hours; and iii) Level 2+ - public units (often funded from ARRA) drawing up to 20 kW and can charge a vehicle in 1-2 hours.   The PSC reported that due to the charging profile and projected slow growth, and because most charging occurs overnight and off-peak, there is very little impact to grid reliability.   Using solar energy for vehicle charging is feasible, but not practical at the present time. 

The committee also heard a presentation from Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE).  The group reported that Florida currently imports 97-97% of its fuel and conservation amounts to only 3.4%.  Further, renewable sources only account for 1.2% of Florida energy sources.  SACE requested additional funding for renewable power (a rebranding from “alternative energy’).   The group also suggested that barriers should be removed to a market-driven process whereby third party providers can sell energy directly to consumers. 

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government – This week the subcommittee conducted base budget reviews, funding initiatives and agency budget requests for state agencies under its purview including the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and  the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS). 

The DEP reported a base budget of $1.4 billion, with approximately 97% coming from 23 different trust funds, and 3% from General Revenue.   This figure, however, contemplates a base operating budget of $413 million with approximately $450 million for debt service and $91 million is funds passed through to other agencies.   The DEP discussed three local funding initiatives including 1) Lakewatch, a voluntary water quality monitoring program in cooperation with the University of Florida ($275,000); 2) TMDL Springs Monitoring Program ($2 million); and 3) Statewide Numeric Nutrient Criteria Monitoring ($1.8 million). 

Among its major budget priorities for 2013-14, the DEP presented the following:  

•      $50 million Everglades

  • $50 million Florida Forever (from sales of surplus lands)
  • $263.2 million Restoring Waterways and Water Supply

$9.4 million TMDLs, $3 million springs

$23.3 million Small County Wastewater Treatment Grants

$14.4 million Nonpoint Source Management Planning

$142.7 million Wastewater Treatment Revolving Loan Program

$72.9 million Drinking Water Revolving Loan Program

  • $3 million Non-mandatory Land Reclamation
  • $42.5 million Ecotourism and Recreation

$25 million Beach Erosion Control

$14 million State Parks (repair, renovations and development)

$3.5 million Recreational Trails Grants

  • $125 million Petroleum Tanks Cleanup

DACS also reported a base budget of $1.4 billion, but with the vast majority (80% - $1.1 billion) federally funded through the Child Nutrition Program (transferred from the Department of Education).  Of the remainder, $117 million comes from General Revenue (8%) and $162 million from trust funds (12%).    Specific to the Agricultural Water Policy Division, DACS presented local funding initiatives including Hybrid Wetland Chemical Treatment Technology ($3 million) and Soil Sensor Based Nutrient Management and Irrigation Monitoring ($4 million). 

Among its major budget priorities for 2013-14, DACS presented the following:

  • Forest and Resource Protection

Firefighting Equipment

Mobile radios and Communication Consoles

Call Back Overtime

  • Water Policy Coordination

Northern Everglades Protection

Water Supply Planning and Conservation

BMP Cost Share Agreements

  • Plant Pest and Disease Control

Citrus Health Response

Giant African Snail Eradication