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Florida Rejected Biden’s Green Infrastructure Program. State Plans Say Otherwise.

Ron DeSantis’ transportation secretary said Florida was opting out of the federal carbon reduction program, widely reported as the state turning away federal funds. But Florida still has plans in place to use the money.

Traffic congestion in Miami, FL
State funding reports still show tens of millions in project funding from Carbon Reduction Program grants. Alan Diaz/AP

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ transportation secretary had a message for Joe Biden: Floridians reject the “politicization” of roads, Jared Perdue wrote in a letter to “formally notify” the administration that Florida would “not participate” in a federal green infrastructure program.

The November letter was widely understood to mean that Florida was rejecting $320 million in funding the federal government had earmarked for the state. “FDOT’s time, money, and resources will be focused on building roads and bridges – not reducing carbon emissions,” Perdue wrote.

But what Perdue’s letter failed to mention is that Florida’s state government, under DeSantis’ leadership, has already committed at least $60 million from that carbon reduction program, funded by the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law, according to information the Federal Highway Administration provided to NOTUS. The state has also approved a plan utilizing all $320 million of the federal funds over the next five years, which was still posted on the department’s website as of this week. According to FHWA, “the Florida Department of Transportation has identified over 300 projects throughout the state to receive funding from the Carbon Reduction Program.”

Perdue’s letter came in response to a federal deadline for states to submit a “Carbon Reduction Strategy” to accompany the federal funds. Florida was the only state to say it was opting out of the program, as first reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

In response to questions from NOTUS, the Florida Department of Transportation said that its claim that it would “not participate” in the carbon reduction program did not necessarily mean the state was rejecting the funds.

“The reality is the Department has simply offered a response to the participation in the Carbon Reduction Program,” an FDOT spokesperson wrote in an email. “The U.S. DOT has not communicated with the Department since the transmission of that letter. As such, we are unaware of any changes related to funding and await their return correspondence.”

What’s still unclear is how the state will fund those already-approved projects while opting out of federal requirements. Current state funding reports, updated daily, still show tens of millions in project funding from Carbon Reduction Program grants, including for rest areas, weigh stations, truck parking and an EV hub.

Florida lawmakers, outside groups and news outlets widely understood Perdue’s letter as rejecting the federal funds. Florida Congressional Democrats wrote a letter asking DeSantis to reverse the state’s rejection of the money. (They say they’re still waiting on a response). The Sierra Club of Florida issued a press release urging Perdue to “accept these unprecedented investments.”

Perdue penned an op-ed in The Daily Wire earlier this month in response to a backlash that also did not include the state’s ongoing plans to spend the federal dollars.

“Florida is home to the 14th largest economy in the world and fortunately has the means necessary to fight back against this overreach,” Perdue wrote in The Daily Wire. “So much so that only 25 percent of transportation funds in Florida come from the federal government.”

The Department of Transportation said it is still working on a response to Florida officials, and pointed to the state’s still-posted plan for spending the money.

According to the White House, federal agencies have committed at least $14.1 billion from the larger bipartisan infrastructure law to Florida. It’s the fourth-highest amount among states, after California, Texas and New York.

Claire Heddles is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.