In a recent case between a Florida city and local electric company, the court set dangerous legal precedent by infringing on longstanding property rights. In its decision, the court blurred the distinction between which party is financially responsible for infrastructure relocation. While this raised concerns among many utility companies across the state, Florida’s consumers could also be forced to shoulder the burden of this ruling.
The court revealed a loophole when it applied right-of-way obligations to utility easements. Utility easements have traditionally been interpreted as a matter of property law and grant companies the right to locate infrastructure on a property. In the past, it was standard practice for cities to reimburse the utility if a public project impeded on infrastructure in an easement.
When the court ruled in favor of the city, it infringed on the property rights of the electric company. Relocating utility infrastructure is expensive. By shifting relocation costs onto utilities, local governments are hiding the true cost of public projects from their taxpayers. If local governments continue to force utilities to help foot the bill on public projects, the cost of business will rise and be passed on to customers.
Despite allegations from opposition, Senate Bill 416 by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) and House Bill 461 by Rep. Clay Ingram (R-Pensacola) will not change current law to limit the power of local government. They’ll simply reestablish the long-standing property rights of easement holders and reinforce the common practice of reimbursing utilities when they’re forced to relocate.
At the Associated Industries of Florida, we believe that with this good legislation, legislators can ensure relocation law is enforced as always intended, preserving utilities’ property rights and protecting Florida customers from unfair rate increases.
president & CEO
Associated Industries of