This Republican Florida Lawmaker Wants to Ban Fracking as This U.S. Rep. Wants to Abolish the EPA
Under President Donald Trump, a GOP-controlled legislature and a potentially conservative judicial branch, it's becoming increasingly clear that the federal government will put environmental regulations and the fight against climate change on the wayside.
Instead, it may be up to local and state governments to lead this good fight.
Florida is a great example of this. Around the same time that a House Republican from the Sunshine State is proposing a bill to "permanently" abolish the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a bipartisan group of state lawmakers have introduced legislation to ban fracking in the state.
Florida congressman drafts bill to "completely abolish" the EPA https://t.co/QfBv8oKDpP https://t.co/HiIwPRfZmG— HuffPost Politics (@HuffPost Politics)1485898863.0
First the bad news. According to an email obtained by The Huffington Post, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has drafted a bill to shutter the EPA and is seeking support from his colleagues for the measure.
"Today, the American people are drowning in rules and regulations promulgated by unelected bureaucrats; and the Environmental Protection Agency has become an extraordinary offender," the Republican junior congressman wrote to his colleagues.
"Our small businesses cannot afford to cover the costs associated with compliance, too often leading to closed doors and unemployed Americans," he continued. "It is time to take back our legislative power from the EPA and abolish it permanently."
Gaetz's proposed legislation would abolish the EPA by Dec. 31, 2018, "to allow our state and local government partners to implement responsible policies in the interim."
"As conservatives, we must understand that states and local communities are best positioned to responsibly regulate the environmental assets within their jurisdictions," he wrote.
"I ask for your support in eliminating this abusive and costly agency," he wrote, adding that the deadline to co-sponsor was Feb. 3 at Noon.
Gaetz, who currently represents the 1st District of Florida, has a history of opposing environmental regulations as he considers them job killers. When he was a state lawmaker, he worked for years to repeal a requirement that all gasoline sold in the state contain some ethanol. After his bill succeeded in 2013, he hailed it as "one more mandate off the books."
Now the good news. In Gaetz's home state, state lawmakers are pushing bipartisan legislation that would prohibit the use of fracking in the state.
As InsideClimate News noted, even though Republicans across the country are largely in favor of the controversial drilling process, Republican State Senator Dana Young of Tampa filed a bill on Jan. 23 to ban fracking in her state of Florida. Fellow Republican Legislator Mike Miller of Orlando filed a companion bill in the state House of Representatives on the same day.
"This bill is concise and straightforward: It bans fracking of all types in Florida," Young said at a news conference in Tallahassee last.
Young's bill has a bi-partisan group of co-sponsors, including Sen. Jack Latvala (R), Sen. Gary Farmer (D), Sen. Linda Stewart (D), Sen. Keith Perry (R), Rep. Janet Cruz (D) and Rep. Mike Miller (R).
Thank you @DanaYoungFL for your leadership on banning #fracking in #FL! https://t.co/n1x7kUJMLQ— FCV (@FCV)1485266897.0
Michelle Allen, a Food & Water Watch Florida organizer, told EcoWatch that the measure has "the most bipartisan support a fracking ban bill has yet to have."
Many Floridians are opposed to fracking due to its potential risk of water contamination. Last week Martin County became the 14th county to pass an ordinance prohibiting fracking, joining Alachua, Bay, Brevard, Broward, Citrus, Indian River, Madison, Martin, Pinellas, Seminole, St. Lucie, Volusia, Wakulla and Walton counties. Another 23 counties have passed resolutions opposing fracking in the state.
"The fight against fracking has kicked into high gear in Florida," Allen said. "It's clear now that even conservative state legislators see the dangers of fracking to public health and the environment."
Oil and gas industry advocates insist that the technique is safe. "The United States is the leading producer of oil, natural gas and refined product in the world, and the decades-old technique of hydraulic fracturing has led to lower energy costs for consumers and improvements in the environment," Florida Petroleum Council Executive Director David Mica told SunSentinel. "Sen. Dana Young's proposed ban could undermine the benefits that Florida families and consumers are seeing today."
Meanwhile, environmentalist and public health advocates have applauded the legislation.
"We strongly support Senator Young's fracking ban bill to protect the drinking water of Floridians and our natural resources from the dangerous practice of fracking," said Sierra Club Florida lobbyist Dave Cullen.
Kim Ross, the president of Rethink Energy Florida, had similar sentiments. "We're excited by the bi-partisan support for banning fracking in Florida. The citizens have long seen that fracking is a risk Florida cannot afford for its environment, its tourism-based economy, and its communities," Ross said. "We look forward to working with these Senators to get a strong ban bill on Governor Scott's desk."
Jennifer Rubiello, state director for Environment Florida, praised Senator Young "for listening to her constituents and Floridians across the state who want a ban on fracking."
"A ban on fracking will ensure our communities, our health, and our environment are better protected. Floridians should celebrate this bill, pick up their phones, and tell their state senators to support it," Rubiello said.
Mary Gutierres, the executive director of Earth Ethics, an organization based in the Florida panhandle that could be fracked in the future said the bills are a step in the right direction.
"We need to ensure that our environment and public health are protected from the hazards that fracking poses," she said.
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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