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The Climate 202

Why Florida Republicans don’t want drilling off their own coast

The Climate 202

Good morning and welcome to The Climate 202, where we apparently cover “climate psoriasis,” according to Autocorrect.

In today’s edition: The Environmental Protection Agency moves to block a controversial controversial gold-and-copper mine in Alaska, and California becomes an outlier among Colorado River Basin states amid intense water negotiations. But first:

Florida Republicans support drilling — just not off their own coast

Last week, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) took to the House floor with an unusual request: He asked his colleagues to block oil drilling off the coast of his home state.

“Offshore drilling is broadly opposed by coastal communities in these areas, by local governments,” said Gaetz, a conservative who has clashed with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

The request was unusual because Gaetz — and most other Republicans on Capitol Hill — have generally supported drilling on federal lands and waters. Indeed, GOP lawmakers have spent the past two years blasting President Biden for limiting U.S. fossil fuel production to fight climate change.

But in Florida, politicians of both parties have long opposed drilling off the coasts, saying it could jeopardize military activities in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and harm the state’s tourism industry, which was devastated by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Environmentalists have accused Republicans from Florida of hypocrisy, saying they’re using NIMBYism — “not in my backyard” sentiments — to block drilling that they would support someplace else. 

“When it comes to getting real about the climate crisis and moving beyond NIMBYism, what we really need to be looking at is ways to phase out drilling in all U.S. waters,” said Hunter Miller, the senior field representative for Florida at Oceana, a conservation group.

However, Gaetz and other GOP lawmakers from Florida insist their positions are not in conflict. They note the state is home to the 120,000-square-mile Gulf Test Range, which the military uses for munitions testing and training activities.

“The Gulf of Mexico test range is the only place in the world where we do live-fire, over-sea munitions testing,” Gaetz said in an interview Monday. 

“It is a terrible idea to shoot experimental missiles over oil rigs,” he added.

(Don’t) drill, baby, drill

Gaetz was speaking on the floor last week during the debate over the Strategic Production Response Act, a GOP bill that would bar Biden from releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve unless he opens up more federal lands to oil and gas leasing.

  • Gaetz offered an amendment to the bill, which the House adopted, aimed at maintaining a 10-year moratorium on oil and gas leasing off the coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
  • President Donald Trump announced the moratorium in 2020 during a campaign appearance in Jupiter, Fla., reversing an earlier pledge to open those waters to oil exploration.

Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) last week reintroduced the Florida Shores Protection and Fairness Act, which would similarly enshrine the Trump-era drilling moratorium in law. 

  • The measure is backed by Gaetz and fellow Florida Republican Reps. John Rutherford, Neal Dunn, Maria Elvira Salazar, Carlos A. Gimenez, Brian Mast, Bill Posey and Mario Diaz-Balart.
  • On the other side of the Capitol, Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, both Florida Republicans, have co-sponsored the measure in that chamber.
‘The people … don’t want it'

Scott is no stranger to this issue: When he was governor of Florida, he helped persuade Ryan Zinke, the interior secretary, to reverse the Trump administration’s earlier pledge to open more of America’s coast to drilling to foster “energy independence.”

In an interview Monday, Scott noted that offshore drilling is deeply unpopular among his constituents, with more than 60 percent of Florida voters supporting a constitutional amendment that banned the practice in 2018.

“The people in Florida don’t want it,” Scott said. “We’ve got to protect the coastline. We’re a big tourism state, and the oil spill in 2010 was devastating to our state’s economy.”

When asked why he backs drilling elsewhere, Scott replied, “People can decide that for their states.”

Miller of Oceana said he welcomed such sentiments — to a certain extent.

“We of course applaud efforts to protect our oceans from offshore drilling,” he said. “But we would caution our Florida delegation to support other communities that have really well-documented opposition to drilling, as well.”

Agency alert

EPA may have dealt ‘final nail in the coffin’ to Alaska’s Pebble Mine

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday announced that it has used the Clean Water Act to block a controversial gold-and-copper mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, one of the world’s largest salmon spawning grounds, Timothy Puko reports for The Washington Post. 

The agency said it vetoed the project, known as the Pebble Mine, because it determined that mining discharge would cause unacceptable damage to the region’s fisheries. Environmentalists, congressional Democrats and Alaska Native groups cheered the decision and declared the project to be history.

“This is the final nail in the coffin for the Pebble Mine,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), adding that the mine “would have devastated Bristol Bay salmon” and the thousands of families that depend on that fishery.

Pebble Limited Partnership, the U.S. subsidiary of the Canadian company behind the Pebble Mine, slammed the move and signaled a future legal challenge.

“This preemptive action against Pebble is not supported legally, technically, or environmentally," John Shively, the partnership’s chief executive, said in a statement. “As such, the next step will likely be to take legal action to fight this injustice.”

Pressure points

California is at odds with 6 other states in Colorado River negotiations

Six Western states that rely on the Colorado River on Monday agreed on a model to dramatically cut their water usage, Felicia Fonseca and Suman Naishadham report for the Associated Press.

But California, the largest user of water in the Colorado River Basin, was the lone holdout. Officials said the Golden State would release its own proposal.

The rift comes amid bitter months-long negotiations between the seven states over how to cut water consumption by 2 to 4 million acre-feet — up to a third of the river’s annual average flow — as directed last year by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation

After missing a mid-August deadline set by Reclamation, the states regrouped to reach consensus by the end of this month. If they fail to agree on dramatic cuts, water levels in the nation’s largest reservoirs — Lake Powell and Lake Mead — could be too low to flow through hydroelectric dams and generate power.

New Jersey to offer first-ever credits for low-carbon concrete

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) on Monday signed a bill that gives companies tax credits for making concrete with lower carbon emissions, becoming the first state to offer such incentives, Stephen Lee reports for Bloomberg Tax. 

Under the law, concrete makers in New Jersey can receive a credit of up to 5 percent of a project’s total concrete cost if they deliver low-carbon materials. Companies that deliver concrete using carbon capture, utilization and storage technology can receive a tax credit of up to 3 percent of a project’s total concrete cost. 

Concrete is responsible for roughly 7 percent of carbon emissions globally, according to the clean-energy research group BloombergNEF. Most of its emissions come from making cement, a highly energy-intensive process in which clay and limestone are heated to more than 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit to turn them into a binding agent for sand, gravel or other coarse materials.

“This is an example of a win-win,” said Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. “It’s good for the environment and good for business by positioning New Jersey at the forefront of a growing low-carbon concrete industry.”

In the atmosphere


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