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News from Tallahassee for 9/2/14
Backroom Briefing: Global Warming Heats Up Governor's Race posted on 8/29/14
by DARA KAM | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
A political committee linked with California tycoon Tom Steyer unleashed its fifth television ad attacking Republican Gov. Rick Scott this week.
Steyer has pledged to spend plenty of green -- $50 million in seven states, including $10 million in Florida -- targeting climate-change skeptics like Scott.
When asked about global warming recently, Scott told reporters: "I'm not a scientist."
Steyer and enviros are hoping to make global warming a wedge issue in the November elections, something that could give Democratic nominee Charlie Crist a boost.
One ad links the governor to Duke Energy Florida customers being forced to pay higher fees to underwrite a never-built nuclear power plant. The Republican Party of Florida countered with its own ad accusing Crist of signing the "nuclear cost recovery" law, but Jeb Bush was actually governor when the 2006 law went into effect.
The latest attack highlights stories by the Tampa Bay Times revealing a secret hunting trip Scott took last year to King Ranch in Texas. Scott later appointed Mitch Hutchcraft to a spot on the board overseeing the Everglades restoration project. Hutchcraft works for King Ranch, a major player in Florida's citrus and sugar industries.
Can A Version Of Cap-And-Trade Reduce Water Pollution? Florida Hopes So posted on 8/21/14
by JESSICA PALOMBO | WFSU
Florida plans to go statewide with a water-quality program that lets polluters partially off the hook if they buy credits for extra cleanup others have already done. The credit-selling program has critics in Jacksonville, the city where it started.
A few years back, the polluted St. Johns River became the test case for the voluntary water-quality credit program. The theory, state regulators say, was to foster regional cooperation by adding an economic incentive for water cleanup.
Director of the State Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration, Tom Frick, says credits are one tool to push polluters toward meeting their cleanup obligations.
“That allows water quality restoration to occur quicker. It also allows water quality restoration to occur more cheaply,” he says.
The city of Jacksonville was the credit buyer and private utility company JEA was the seller. Both were already required to clean the river a certain amount, but JEA had gone above and beyond its duty. Jacksonville, which can’t clean as cost-effectively, bought credits from JEA, paying for that extra work, rather than fulfill its entire obligation. Frick says the river still got the total required amount of cleaning—and it happened faster.
But Lisa Rinaman, head of the nonprofit St. Johns Riverkeeper, says the river isn’t benefiting long-term from the program.
“Can it be used in a way where it is adding additional benefit? That remains to be seen,” she says.
SCIENTISTS QUESTION SCOTT’S COMMITMENT ON CLIMATE AFTER MEETING posted on 8/20/14
by Bruce Ritchie | FloridaEnvironments.com
Scientists who met Tuesday with Gov. Rick Scott to explain the threat of climate change said the governor asked only modest questions while withholding comment on the issue.
“He asked modest questions but he did not ask questions that reflected his understanding of the material,” Eckerd College Professor David Hastings said. “Nor was there any reflection of the position he is going to take.”
Ten Florida scientists in July requested the meeting with Scott after the governor in May answered questions from reporters about whether he accepted climate change as real by responding, “I’m not a scientist.”
During the 30-minute meeting on Tuesday, Hastings and four other scientists said Florida is vulnerable to sea level rise resulting from climate change and should publicly develop a response to a proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule to reduce carbon pollution. Hastings called the EPA plan “forward-thinking.”
Scott left the meeting in the governor’s office without responding to reporters’ questions. A spokesman said the governor left for a staff meeting.
Gov. Scott agrees to meet with Florida climate scientists posted on 8/19/14
by Lloyd Dunkelberger | Herlad-Tribune
TALLAHASSEE – With the environment taking a larger role in this year’s election, Gov. Rick Scott is scheduled to meet with university scientists today for the first time about climate change and its impact on Florida.
The half-hour meeting, set for late this afternoon, is the result of a letter from 10 prominent oceanographers and other scientists from major Florida universities who asked to talk with Scott after the governor repeatedly told reporters he was “not a scientist” when asked for his position on climate change.
“We are scientists and we would like the opportunity to explain what is at stake for our state,” the July 15 letter said. “In short, Florida is one of the most vulnerable places in the country with respect to climate change, with southeastern Florida of particular concern.”
Scott, who had previously expressed doubt about man-made climate change, initially balked at meeting with the scientists. His likely Democratic opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, seized the opening, meeting with Jeff Chanton, an oceanographer at Florida State University and one of the letter signers.
“I’m not a scientist either but I can use my brain and I can talk to one,” Crist said.
Scott’s campaign called Crist’s impromptu meeting with the scientist a “publicity stunt.”
Southerland, Putnam Target EPA Powers posted on 8/19/14
by MARGIE MENZEL | News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE | Florida Congressman Steve Southerland and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam joined business groups Monday in support of Southerland's bill aimed at curb-ing federal regulatory power over water bodies.
Southerland said his bill, the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act (H.R. 5078), is designed to block a power grab by the Environmental Protection Agency.
"If the big government bullies are successful, it will mean higher costs for doing business, more uncertainty in the marketplace and fewer jobs here at home," he said.
The measure, which Southerland introduced last month, stems from a proposed EPA rule about enforcement of the Clean Water Act. The agency says the rule would clarify which bodies of water it is supposed to regulate. But opponents contend it would give the EPA too much power to regulate water bodies that border on private property.
Southerland's bill would prevent the EPA from implementing the rule. It also would require federal regulators to consult with state and local officials to decide who will regulate which bodies of water.
"It empowers states, not the federal government," Southerland, a Republican, said of his legislation, adding that it has 120 co-sponsors.
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