New Florida construction laws address climate change

| Jul 9, 2020 | Construction Law |

In early July 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis passed a collection of bills that address several environmental concerns in Florida. Among the bills cracking down on iguana sales and sewage discharge is an order to protect Florida’s coastlines.

The new law impacts how Florida’s construction companies approach new public coastline projects. What must construction companies know before taking these jobs?

Florida’s rising sea levels and sinking coastlines

Researchers agree that Florida’s coastlines face two different climate change problems. Studies of the sea level along the entire eastern seaboard indicate that sea levels have risen over three inches since 1993. Additionally, Florida’s coastlines are subsiding (sinking) about three millimeters per year.

2020 Florida legislators hope to combat these issues with some key legislation. In March, legislators filed House Bill 1157 to establish an initiative to study Florida’s land subsidence, but it has yet to become law. In early July 2020, Gov. DeSantis did sign Senate Bill 178 into law, which directly addresses construction along Florida’s coast.

SB 178 requires that all public construction projects along Florida’s coasts must include a comprehensive review of its impact on the environment. This research must include a 50-year sea-level impact projection (SLIP) study for construction projects using taxpayer dollars. The study must prove the project does not pose a future flood risk before approving funding by:

  • Using a systematic, interdisciplinary and scientifically accepted approach;
  • Assessing the flooding, inundation and wave action damage risks to the coastal structure over its expected lifespan or 50 years, whichever is less.

The SLIP study must also provide alternative solutions or sites and offer comparisons to environmental impact and threats to public safety. The bill also includes action items that Florida legislature can take against firms that neglect the SLIP study, including civil action and recovery of all public funding.

A lawyer can provide insight

Construction companies in Florida can reach out to a local attorney familiar with construction law for more information. A lawyer can help ensure all projects align with these new laws, work with legislators and file appeals against any unjust rulings.