March 12, 2015

How one Florida congressman reacted to state's distaste for using 'climate change'

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, took to Twitter on Thursday to jab Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott over his administration's aversion to using the terms "climate change" and "global warming" in writing. (The state says it's not true.)

John Kerry takes on Rick Scott over avoiding 'climate change'

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that elected officials who ban the words "climate change" are unwilling to face the facts, a non-so-subtle dig at Florida Gov. Rick Scott's administration.

Kerry, a longtime champion of combatting climate change, said the officials were ignoring the scientific facts.

"Now folks, we literally do not have the time to waste debating whether we can say 'climate change,'" Kerry said during a speech at The Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank. "Because no matter how much people want to bury their heads in the sand, it will not alter the fact that 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is happening and that human activity is largely responsible."

Kerry did not refer to Scott by name but said that he had read in the last "couple of days" reports about the ban.

More here.

March 11, 2015

Florida's aversion to 'climate change' extended to other agencies

via @fcir

No one told Bart Bibler not to use the terms “climate change” and “global warming” during his six months on the job at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Then, on March 4, he walked into a Florida Coastal Managers Forum, a teleconference with representatives from other state agencies.

When he introduced himself, Bibler congratulated everyone for the “exciting” work being done to address the impact of climate change, and then he mentioned his opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline project.

“The reaction was mostly shock,” Bibler said. According to Bibler, the forum moderator, Ann Lazar, said she hoped his advocacy on the conference call wouldn’t result in cancellations of future ones.

“Obviously, she's nervous I had violated this unwritten policy of talking about climate change,” Bibler said. “I didn’t get the memo.”

Lazar declined to comment.

DEP officials put Bibler on a two-day leave. The letter of reprimand chastised him for expressing his personal views about the pipeline. It also stated that a summary of the meeting Bibler supplied to his supervisor “gave the appearance that this was Ann's official meeting agenda that included climate change.”

More here.

Fact-checking Rick Scott on environment, sea level rise claims

Gov. Rick Scott’s record on the environment has faced renewed scrutiny after a news report stated that administrators in his Department of Environmental Protection were banned from using the terms "global warming" or "climate change."

Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, which broke the story, cited former DEP officials who said they had been told verbally to avoid such phrases.

"We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’ " said Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection from 2008 until 2013. "That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel."

After the report appeared, FCIR responded to critics who noted that the phrase "climate change" can be found on DEP’s website. FCIR explained that the majority of the documents predated Scott and that DEP’s servers host reports from other agencies and that the unofficial censorship system is porous.

The Washington Post then reported that a DEP official underlined the phrase "climate change" in a scientist’s paper multiple times, and she was told to remove it.

In the past, Scott has largely dodged questions about climate change using the refrain "I'm not a scientist." (Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has also used that phrase.)

Scott and his administration have denied that any such policy existed.

"It's not true," Scott told reporters in Hialeah March 9, without going into specifics.

Instead, Scott repeated familiar broad talking points about his environmental accomplishments without addressing whether any of them would address climate change.

"Let's look at what we've accomplished," he said. "We've had significant investments in beach renourishment, in flood mitigation. Look at what we've done with the Everglades: We settled a lawsuit over the Everglades. That litigation had been going on for decades. We put money in the Tamiami Trail, to raise that, to push water south. We've had - I think we've had record investments in our springs."

Here’s a look at some of PolitiFact Florida's previous fact-checks of Scott’s claims about the environment and his progress on environmental-related promises.

March 10, 2015

Billionaire environmentalist's PAC wants Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio to denounce Florida climate change 'gag order'

@PatriciaMazzei

A political committee run by a billionaire environmentalist wants Miami's two possible Republican presidential contenders to denounce -- within 48 hours -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott's administration for banning the use of "global warming" and "climate change."

"Pretending a problem doesn't exist won't make it go away -- Floridians deserve real leadership on this issue," read identical letters to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush from the NextGen Climate political committee. "If you remain silent, your priorities will be exposed and you'll make clear where you stand on this critical issue."

The request is likely to carry little weight with Bush and Rubio. NextGen Climate, run by billionaire Tom Steyer, poured $16 million into the Florida governor's race last year to defeat Scott and campaign for climate-change policies, but Scott was still reelected.

Rubio has said climate change is real but remains skeptical that humans contributed to it, despite broad agreement among scientists that global warming has accelerated due to the burning of fossil fuels. Bush has not spoken about the issue recently but his spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal last month that he too questions to what extent humans are to blame for climate change.

Following the report by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, Gov. Scott has denied that any gag order exists but won't go into specifics. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that another Florida scientist was told to reword "climate change" in one of her studies.

March 09, 2015

Columnist Fred Grimm: None of this climate change stuff. Just happy talk

via @grimm_fred

Unfair! It’s so unfair how our governor has been disparaged across social media.

As if Rick Scott was some kind of anti-science, Koch brothers sock puppet, just because his administration forbade state workers from employing — let’s face it — some pretty depressing terminology.

“Climate change” and “global warming” are not terms apt to help Floridians kick their Xanax addiction.

Just two measly terms, mind you. When it comes to state censorship, Scott’s administration is a piker compared to the Chinese Politburo, which has forbidden hundreds of search terms on the Chinese Internet including “Dalai Lama” and “sea cucumber Holothuria,” something Scott ought to consider adding to his own blacklist. What with rising sea levels, folks wading through the flooded streets of Miami Beach don’t want to be thinking about fat, black, squishy invertebrates underfoot.

Oops. Didn’t mean to type “rising sea levels.” Sorry, Gov. Slip of the keyboard.

More here.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott won't say if global warming is a problem

@PatriciaMazzei

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday denied that administrators in his Department of Environmental Protection were banned from using the terms "global warming" or "climate change."

"It's not true," Scott told reporters in Hialeah.

The Miami Herald published a story a day earlier by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting citing former DEP officials who said they had been told verbally to avoid the phrases. The department and Scott's office had said no such policy existed.

But when pressed Monday, Scott did not go into any specifics. He would not say whether the department considers global warming to be real, whether it's preparing for it or whether he thinks it's a problem.

Instead, the Republican governor talked about his administration's work on the environment, without directly addressing which projects might have been needed to deal with climate change.

"Let's look at what we've accomplished," he said. "We've had significant investments in beach renourishment, in flood mitigation. Look at what we've done with the Everglades: We settled a lawsuit over the Everglades. That litigation had been going on for decades. We put money in the Tamiami Trail, to raise that, to push water south. We've had -- I think we've had record investments in our springs."

"I'm into solutions, and that's what we're going to continue to do," he added.

Asked three more times about the issue, he essentially repeated the same answer.

An overwhelming majority of scientists agree that the Earth is getting warmer and that humans have contributed directly to the change by burning fossil fuels for energy. Running for reelection last year, Scott said he was not sure climate change was caused by human activity. He once answered a question on the subject by saying, "I'm not a scientist."

Florida is considered the state in the country most susceptible to sea-level rise. State Democrats emailed a fund-raising pitch to supporters Monday noting Scott's climate-change position. The email was titled, "is he serious?"

"Climate change is scientific fact, and Rick is misleading Floridians about how dangerous this problem is! Will you help us hold him accountable?" read the pitch from the Florida Democratic Party.

Scott was in Hialeah to plug a $41 million Department of Transportation project to widen Northwest 57th Avenue.

"This is going to make it better for the families that live here, also better for the people that come through this area," he said. "We have to continue to invest in transportation if we're going to to get tourists to move here."

March 08, 2015

Rick Scott has a position on climate change: His agency ordered the words banned

JimHarper-03e-Climate-FCIR-jvbvia Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

The state of Florida is the region most susceptible to the effects of global warming in this country, according to scientists. Sea-level rise alone threatens 30 percent of the state’s beaches over the next 85 years.

But you would not know that by talking to officials at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state agency on the front lines of studying and planning for these changes.

DEP officials have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

The policy goes beyond semantics and has affected reports, educational efforts and public policy in a department with about 3,200 employees and $1.4 billion budget.  

“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’” said Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the DEP’s Office of General Counsel in Tallahassee from 2008 to 2013. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”

More here.

Photo: In 2013, Jim Harper, a nature writer in Miami, had a contract to write a series of educational fact sheets about how to protect the coral reefs north of Miami. ‘We were told not to use the term climate change,’ he said. ‘The employees were so skittish they wouldn’t even talk about it.’ JOHN VAN BEEKUM FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

March 07, 2015

Miami-Dade asks Florida for money to buy rare forest eyed for Walmart

via @jenstaletovich

An endangered forest where a developer wants to build a Walmart has a new suitor: Miami-Dade County.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Commissioner Dennis Moss said Friday the county would like to purchase 88 acres near Zoo Miami, hoping to derail plans by a Palm Beach County developer to build a shopping center on the land featuring the box store, an LA Fitness, restaurants and apartments. The development plans, announced last year, set off blistering protests from residents and environmentalists.

“We feel it’s the right thing to do,” Gimenez said after announcing the purchase plans in a meeting with the Miami Herald editorial board.

However, the deal hinges on whether the county can obtain money under Amendment 1, a state constitutional amendment to help buy endangered land now being haggled over in the Florida Legislature, Gimenez said. And it also depends on whether developer Peter Cummings wants to be courted.

In a letter to Gov. Rick Scott on Friday, Gimenez and Moss asked for money — but not a specific amount — spelling out the significance of the property, which is part of the last, largest intact tract of rockland outside Everglades National Park and is home to a menagerie of endangered bats, butterflies and plants. Pine rockland, a globally imperiled forest, once covered 185,000 acres in the county, the letter said. It now grows in fragmented chunks on just 3,700 acres.

More here.

March 01, 2015

Diaz and Garcia bill would strip fees from rock miners

via @jenstaletovich

South Florida rock miners would be spared millions of dollars they now pay to protect wetlands and the state’s largest drinking water supply on the fringes of Miami-Dade County under a bill making its way through the Legislature.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. and Sen. Rene Garcia, both Hialeah Republicans, would cut fees by 83 percent, ending what was supposed to be an insurance policy for the county against the risk of contamination posed by rock mining. But now, after nearly a decade with no contamination detected in the water, the bill’s sponsors and rock miners, who contributed tens of thousands of dollars to politicians in the last two years, say it’s time to reduce the fee and simply monitor water quality.

The issue began when a chain of lakes was created along the county’s suburban flank in the 1950s as miners dug up rock for construction. South Florida’s water table is so close to the surface that the pits quickly filled with water. The state, trying to mitigate the damage to wetlands, began collecting fees in 1999 that have steadily increased over the years as concerns spread to water quality.

Under the legislation, fees now set at 60 cents for every ton of rock mined would drop to 10 cents. Story here.