News from Tallahassee for 5/24/15

Carbon dioxide levels reach global milestone posted on 5/7/15

by doyle rice | usa today

Worldwide levels of carbon dioxide — the gas scientists say is most responsible for global warming — reached a significant milestone for the month of March, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday.

The global monthly average for carbon dioxide hit 400.83 parts per million in March, the first time the average surpassed 400 ppm for an entire month since such measurements began in the late 1950s, NOAA said.

"It's both disturbing and daunting," said NOAA chief greenhouse gas scientist Pieter Tans. "Daunting from the standpoint on how hard it is to slow this down."

The burning of the oil, gas and coal for energy releases "greenhouse" gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. These gases have caused the Earth's temperature to rise over the past century to levels that cannot be explained by natural variability.

The last time carbon dioxide reached 400 ppm was millions of years ago, according to the journal Nature Geoscience. A 2009 report in the journal found evidence of CO2 levels of 365 ppm to 415 ppm roughly 4.5 million years ago.

"Reaching 400 parts per million as a global average is a significant milestone," Tans said.

CO2 levels were around 280 ppm prior to the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s, when large amounts of greenhouse gases began to be released by the burning of fossil fuels.

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Dockery: Lawmakers ignored voters' will on environment posted on 5/1/15

by paula dockery | Tampa bay times op-ed

This has been an awful legislative session for Florida's environment. But it wasn't supposed to be that way. The future looked so bright just a few months ago.

After years of the Legislature shortchanging popular environmental programs like Florida Forever and Everglades restoration, citizens who care about protecting and managing our natural resources put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would guarantee those programs would be funded.

It passed with an overwhelming 75 percent of the vote. Gov. Rick Scott was re-elected with 49 percent of the vote.

The amendment changed the Florida Constitution to commit hundreds of millions of dollars annually to conservation programs for land acquisition and management. It set a specific percentage of an existing real estate tax to be applied to underfunded programs like Florida Forever, Everglades restoration and springs protection.

This year that documentary stamp revenue is estimated to be $750 million. That is less than 1 percent of the state's $80 billion budget.

It would take $300 million to fully fund Florida Forever, the state's extremely popular land acquisition, restoration and recreation program. That would leave $450 million for other environmental purposes, including management of lands already in public ownership.

But legislators decided early on to ignore the will of the pesky voters who had the gall to restore the environmental funding that politicians had been withholding for years.

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Fracking bills die after House departure posted on 4/30/15

by Jeff Burlew | tallahassee democrat

A controversial bill that would have created regulations for fracking in Florida died Wednesday in the Senate, another casualty of the House's early adjournment.

The bill (HB 1205) would have set up new regulations for fracking, including a separate permitting system, higher fines for violations and greater bonding requirements for energy companies. And while it also would have put in place a moratorium on fracking until a study and rule-making were complete, a number of environmental groups opposed the bill, saying it was industry-friendly and full of loopholes.

The bill was set for second reading Wednesday in the Senate. But Sen. Garrett Richter, author of the Senate's version (SB 1468), acknowledged he did not have the super-majority needed to waive the rules and move it to final reading on the same day. He asked to temporarily postpone it, effectively killing the bill.

"This bill is going to add to the list of legislation that unfortunately is not going to pass," said Richter, R-Naples. "I hope we can take up this issue next session."

Richter asked to table the legislation Tuesday after the House decided to adjourn sine die three days early. Related bills (HB 1209 and SB 1582) that would have created public-records exemptions for fracking chemicals died Tuesday after the House adjourned without passing its version of the legislation.

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Fracking, land management, and water bills left in doubt posted on 4/29/15

by bruce ritchie | florida politics

The Florida House adjourned the 2015 Legislative Session on Tuesday, leaving bills dealing with water policy, hydraulic fracturing, septic tank waste and Duke Energy Florida in doubt.

As the Senate was discussing fracking legislation, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli told House members there was no reason to keep House members in Tallahassee because of an impasse with the Senate over Medicaid expansion in the 2015-16 state budget.

Crisafulli made clear the he did not think the House’s move to sine die killed legislation.

He said the Senate “had a water bill since the third or fourth day of the session so if they wanted to pass it and had an intention of passing it I think we would have probably seen it by now.”

“Every year bills die in this process that’s just the reality of the process,” he said.

After the announcement, the Senate voted 36-1 to pass the House version of a property rights bill, HB 383.

Senate President Andy Gardiner, a Republican from Orlando, said he couldn’t be more proud of the Senate, which he said to a round of applause will return Wednesday.

“Tomorrow we are going to send the water bill to the House,” Gardiner said. “Sadly that bill is not going to make it.”

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Film incentives, Uber bill, water policy among Session casualties posted on 4/29/15

by JIM Turner | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, April 28, 2015.......... New water policies, a revival of a tax-incentive program to attract film and television production to Florida and rules for app-based transportation services like Uber and Lyft were among the bills that likely died Tuesday when the House called an early end to the regular legislative session.

Also buried Tuesday was a proposed $690 million House tax-cut package that included reducing taxes on cable-television and cell-phone bills and providing the annual back-to-school sales-tax holiday. While tax cuts could be considered during a special session on the budget, the issue --- a priority of Gov. Rick Scott --- remains murky.

"I realize we just killed a tax bill that gave $690 million back to Florida's families and businesses," House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island said as he addressed the media Tuesday. "But at the end of the day, we did what we felt was right from the standpoint of just walking away and looking to go balance a budget with our Senate partners later on in the next couple months."

Some lawmakers said they were unsure what the House's move Tuesday means for their bills.

"We're in unchartered waters," said Rep. Ray Rodrigues, an Estero Republican whose measure (HB 1205) on a controversial drilling process known as "fracking" would require Senate approval without any changes.

The Senate postponed a discussion on the bill Tuesday. While the House went home Tuesday, the Senate will meet again Wednesday.

The Senate intends to vote Wednesday on a water-policy bill (SB 918), which includes work that lawmakers have pursued for two years to improve the state's natural springs. However, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, acknowledged the measure isn't going anywhere.

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