Supporting the efforts of environmentally conscious legislators
ERMI’s Steve Hilfiker is well connected in Tallahassee, and for more than two decades has been actively involved in the development of effective environmental policy and legislation.
Most recently, Steve built upon those years of legislative advocacy achievements with the formation of the ICEA, a consortium of Florida environmental groups (detailed in the retrospective below).
The new organization enables the state’s environmental experts to speak with a unified voice in legislative matters.
Steve with State Senator Kathleen Passidomo
Here are just a few examples of the ways that Steve’s input has helped inform and shape environmental legislation over the years:
A 2009 Idea
Steve’s November 2009 email to a Tallahassee attorney included this suggestion, which launched the LSSI: "How about a new program for sites scored less than 10?"
Goal: To get sites off the list and achieve closure for clean sites.
This plan would open the door to funding and closure for low-scored sites.
Becomes 2010 Law
In 2012, Steve’s correspondence with a state legislator contained the following input:
“The portion of the bill beginning on Line 466 pertaining to LSSI is very good. At the meeting today, I will voice these issues:
- The bill currently includes language to waive co-payments and deductibles — waiving these costs will increase LSSI participation.
- The definition for "low scored site" should be sites scored 29 or less. In lines 472 and 480, the score of 10 should be changed to 29. Sites 11-29 are the only group of sites that have not had a chance for funding since 1995.”
Becomes 2012 Law.
Steve contributed some of the original draft language for this 2016 Amendment:
Expands a Beneficial Program
“Restoring” a Restoration Program
ERMI’s role in shaping Florida’s environmental policy has taken on an even more collaborative form in recent years.
In September of 2020, budgetary pressures resulting from the statewide economic impacts of COVID-19 prompted the FDEP to pause the Petroleum Restoration Program. (The PRP provides vital funding to help keep groundwater sources from being contaminated by petroleum discharges from leaking storage tanks.)
Steve recognized at that point that in order to keep environmental programs adequately funded, it was going to take more political capital than a single group —such as the Florida Groundwater Association, of which he is a Board member—could muster up.
Accordingly, Steve organized and coordinated seven like-minded environmental associations to form the Informal Coalition of Environmental Associations (ICEA).
The ICEA quickly went to work, helping to educate the legislature and advocating for an appropriate budget allocation for the PRP.
The group’s success was reflected in the State’s 2021 budget, which ultimately contained an appropriate funding level for the PRP.
This funding actually brings two significant benefits to Florida’s residents.
First, it helps safeguard the state’s drinking water from petroleum contamination. And second, the funding helps sustain Florida’s vital environmental industry and the professionals who hold valuable institutional knowledge of Florida’s complex and unique geology. This knowledge becomes increasingly essential as thousands of people move to the state each year and real estate development expands.
The ICEA continues to meet, and will collectively address not only petroleum, but also growth management and other emerging issues in the days ahead.