April 22, 2015

Fact-checking Rick Scott and Marco Rubio on sea-level rise, climate change

With President Barack Obama scheduled to visit the Everglades for Earth Day, it seems like a good day to look back at some of PolitiFact Florida’s fact-checks about climate change and the environment including claims by or about Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio.

Here are a few from our archives:

Scott said during an October debate "We have spent $350 million to deal with sea-level rise" in the Miami area and "hundreds of millions dollars to deal with coral reefs."

Scott was exaggerating. The state has spent $100 million to help the Keys upgrade to a sewer system, which should improve water quality -- a benefit for coral reefs. But Scott omitted that it was under Gov. Charlie Crist that the Legislature passed a law paving the way for the money. For the sea-level rise portion of his claim, his spokesman pointed to a variety of projects that related to flood mitigation or beach protection. While those are worthy projects, they don’t address future sea-level rise. We rated that claim Mostly False.

Scott said during his 2014 State of the State speech that "we have invested record funding in protecting our environment." That’s not correct. Scott’s spokesman said that he was referring to his "record" proposal to fund springs protection. The budget for the state Department of Environmental Protection was not a record under Scott. We rated the claim False.

We have also rated several of Scott’s promises related to the environment including about oil drilling, environmental penalties and springs restoration.

In the spring of 2014, scientists issued reports warning about climate change.

Just a day before those reports were released, Rubio said, "I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it." (That wasn’t the first time that Rubio had disputed the basic science of climate change.)

A May 2013 report analyzing all scientific papers that address the causes of climate change showed 97.1 percent of scientists’ findings that took a position agree that there’s been a negative human impact on the atmosphere. We rated Rubio’s statement False.

Obama will visit Everglades, backyard to Republicans skeptical on climate change

@jenstaletovich @Patricia Mazzei

In his first ever visit to the Everglades on Wednesday — Earth Day — President Barack Obama hopes to connect climate change impacts already unfolding in the imperiled wetland to wider risks across the nation.

Obama plans to tour the Everglades, as long as it doesn’t rain, and make a speech about the importance of protecting the environment — not just for the planet’s sake, but also to boost the economy, protect national security and guard public health.

The president will tout his administration’s record on tackling environmental problems, including imposing a historic cap on carbon pollution and spending $2.2 billion on Everglades restoration projects. He further plans to unveil new ways to assess the value of the country’s national parks, including a study that shows protected wild lands play a major role in keeping carbon out of the atmosphere. Visitors to parks also poured $15.7 billion into surrounding communities, the administration said.

Obama will also reveal new conservation efforts in four areas of the country, including Southwest Florida. And in a move some say is long overdue, the National Park Service will designate as a national historic landmark the Marjory Stoneman Douglas house in Coconut Grove, which several years ago sparked a contentious fight between preservationists and neighbors. The pioneering preservationist is largely credited with sparking Everglades restoration.

In addition to highlighting his environmental record, Obama’s trip is intended to pressure Republicans into a more robust climate-change debate. Voters will elect Obama’s successor in 18 months, and the GOP field so far is teeming with would-be candidates who question whether climate change is man-made, despite significant scientific scholarship concluding that it is largely a result of carbon emissions.

Among those skeptics are U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and, to a lesser extent, former Gov. Jeb Bush, both of Miami. While Obama is not expected to single out any presidential contender, a trip to Bush’s and Rubio’s backyard will hardly go unnoticed in the early days of the 2016 campaign.

More here.

April 18, 2015

Obama to visit Everglades to speak about climate change

@PatriciaMazzei

President Obama will travel Wednesday -- Earth Day -- to the Florida Everglades to speak about the threat of climate change.

In his weekly radio address Saturday, the president said, "there is no greater threat to our planet than climate change."

"And on Earth Day, I’m going to visit the Florida Everglades to talk about the way that climate change threatens our economy," Obama continued. "The Everglades is one of the most special places in our country. But it's also one of the most fragile. Rising sea levels are putting a national treasure -– and an economic engine for the South Florida tourism industry –- at risk."

 

April 10, 2015

PolitiFact looks at Rick Scott's promise to enact tougher environmental penalties

After being criticized by environmentalists for his pro-business policies during his first term, Gov. Rick Scott stepped up his environmental promises for his re-election campaign.

One of those promises was to crack down on polluters by proposing "legislation to increase penalties to ensure fines match the value of Florida's natural resources, and also provide agencies with the flexibility to analyze the past actions of those seeking environmental permits in Florida."

When we asked the Department of Environmental Protection if there was any legislation pending, spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller pointed to SB 1468.

The bill addresses some types of fracking, though it uses the term "high pressure well stimulation" instead of fracking. (Not all techniques using these chemicals use high pressure to create fractures; some use acid instead to dissolve the rock.) The bill defines "high pressure well stimulation" as a procedure that involves injecting more than 100,000 gallons of fluids into a rock formation at a pressure that is high enough to cause fractures to increase oil or gas production. The bill calls for increasing penalties from the current $10,000 a day to $25,000 per day for oil and gas companies that are using certain types of fracking. Those penalties could be for a variety of violations that could harm the air, water or property, such as not following DEP rules, improper storage of gas, or refusing to allow a state inspection. DEP collaborated on the bill with its sponsor, Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples.

On March 31, the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee passed the bill 6-2.

We asked a spokeswoman for Scott, Jeri Bustamante, if he supports the bill and she said "the governor will review any legislation that will come to his desk."

Turn to PolitiFact Florida to see how we rated Scott's progress on this promise.

April 08, 2015

South Florida leaders seek help controlling plastic bags

Plastic bags litter the Miami Beach shoreline. They get wrapped around the mangroves and clog the drainage system.

But there’s little city leaders can do because Florida law prohibits local governments from regulating or banning disposable plastic bags.

BullardSen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, is hoping to change that. He’s filed a bill that would allow coastal communities with fewer than 100,000 residents to create pilot programs addressing the issue.

The proposal won the unanimous support of the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee Wednesday, thanks partly to testimony from South Florida municipal leaders.

"We need your help," Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco told state lawmakers, pointing out that hundreds of thousands of tourists go shopping in his city.

Still, the proposal is a long shot. The powerful retail industry is against it, and its companion in the House (HB 661) has stalled.

More here.

April 03, 2015

Study: Florida's reefs will be seared by climate change by 2030

via @jenstaletovich

Parts of Florida’s vast coral reefs, including a pristine tract in the Dry Tortugas, may get seared by climate change as early as 2030 — about a dozen years sooner than scientists previously projected.

And that could mean that coral bleaching — a whitening that can be damaging and potentially deadly to colorful corals — could become an annual event in the Tortugas west of Key West but also in the middle Keys and reefs south of Turkey Point popular with divers.

The prediction comes from a just-released study by National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration climate scientists, who used a supercomputer to crunch piles of data on sea temperatures around the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean already identified as vulnerable to bleaching outbreaks. Their findings not only confirmed what they already knew — bleaching could be widespread by mid-century — but revealed it may start to show sooner in some areas than others, including swathes off the South Florida coast.

The findings are important because scientists consider reefs an important earlier indicator of more serious trouble.

“They’re the canary in a coal mine,” said the study’s lead author, Ruben van Hooidonk, a University of Miami coral expert and climate scientist at NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory.

More here.

April 01, 2015

Senate restores some funding for Amendment 1 land acqusition

In an effort to quell anger from environmental advocates who supported Amendment 1, the Florida Senate agreed to spend in next year’s budget $35 million for Florida Forever land acquisition and another $20 million for land acquisition for springs restorations.

“We want to send a message to those who supported the amendment and tell them, we hear you,” said Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park.

That’s not the message those groups heard two weeks ago when the House and Senate released their proposed budgets.

The Senate's budget sets aside $2 million for the Florida Forever program, which was created in 1999 to fund public land acquisition and was initially authorized to spend $300 million a year. The proposed amount represents an 84 percent cut from this year's budget and $118 million less than what Gov. Rick Scott proposes.

The House says it has set aside $205 million for Florida Forever, but most of that money is actually tied to other projects, such as reservoirs, springs restoration and other programs, leaving only about $10 million for the land acquisition program.

Supporters of Amendment 1, which passed with 75 percent of the vote, say they intended that the money from documentary stamp revenue would be spent on land to be used as parks, wildlife habitat and trails. Groups like 1,000 Friends of Florida are asking members to call senators, who were supposed to have provided more money to Florida Forever.

“Please call you senator right now and ask him or her to support amendments to increase funding for Florida Forever,” stated a 1,000 Friends of Florida blast email on Tuesday.

Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, had proposed an amendment to provide $300 million for Florida Forever, but withdrew it after supporting Bradley’s amendment instead.

“The people of Florida rose up and got an amendment on the ballot,” Altman said. “I do think our budget falls short of the intent of that constitutional amendmemt. But this amendment moves us in a very positive direction.”

Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, had opposed adding any more money for Florida Forever, saying the state already had more than 9 million acres of land set aside for conservation. He added that Bradley’s amendment come at a cost: reducing by $10 million a plan to control invasive plants, eliminating money for hybrid wetlands.

March 31, 2015

Amendment 1 advocates turn up the heat on Sen. Charlie Dean

Supporters of Amendment 1 are busy phone-banking a key state lawmaker in support of setting aside millions for the Florida Forever land acquisition program. Their calls have been targeting Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, chairman of the Senate Environmental Preservation and conservation Committee, the sponsor of the Amendment 1 implementing bill (SB 584) that is on the floor calendar for Wednesday's Senate session.

"I'm asking him to please support Amendment 1 money for the Florida Forever program," said Kathleen Betsko of Sugarmill Woods, a community in Citrus County in Dean's sprawling district. "I thought Senator Dean was going to be in favor of this and it sounds like that's not what they're doing."

Betsko identified herself as a Democrat who has voted for Dean in the past. She is among the 75 percent of Florida voters who approved Amendment 1, the so-called water and land amendment, in the November 2014 election. Conservation groups across Florida are emphasizing the same message in phone calls and on social media.

March 27, 2015

Official Naked Politics poll* results: Amendment 1 is for land buys

* Not even close to scientific.....

On Wednesday, Naked Politics asked you, dear reader, why you voted for Amendment 1. Thanks to get-out-the-vote efforts by the Florida Senate Democrats on one side of the issue (buy more land), and Associated Industries of Florida on the other side (land and water maintenance), the votes poured in. 

By a 2-1 margin, the side advocating for the purchasing of more land carried the day.

Here are some of the reader comments. See if you can tell which side is relying on the same talking points.

Continue reading "Official Naked Politics poll* results: Amendment 1 is for land buys" »

March 26, 2015

Jon Stewart: No 'climate change' for Scott but how about a 'surprise pool party'?

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, got some national TV airtime last night — but maybe not for what he’d like.

In a Daily Show segment on Gov. Rick Scott’s alleged ban on the phrase “climate change,” Jon Stewart showed last week’s Senate committee meeting, chaired by Latvala, when lawmakers gave Bryan Koon, chief of emergency management, a ribbing for refusing to say...those words.

Said, Stewart, focusing in on Latvala, who almost fell out of his chair from laughter: “I think that one guy needs the Heimlich!”

But don’t worry, Gov. Scott, Stewart has some suggested phrases to replace “sea level rise” in the Florida vernacular: Let’s try “moisture inconvenience,” “statewide jacuzzi-fication” or maybe get ready for a “surprise pool party.”