Three questions for the candidates running for governor: Environment

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Julie Hauserman photo

election logoToday on the Florida Phoenix, we start an election series where we ask three questions of the candidates for Florida governor, who face off in the Aug. 28 primary. Each day, we’ll cover a different topic of interest to voters. Today, we ask about the environment.

The Republican candidates – Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis – chose not to participate in the “Three Questions” series. The five Democrats running for governor responded, and we present their answers in alphabetical order.

  1. What did you like to do outside when you were a kid, and how about now?

Andrew Gillum:

I consider myself blessed to be a native Floridian, and to have grown up enjoying the natural beauty of our state. My six siblings and I spent many hours occupying ourselves outside. Today, when not on the campaign trail, I enjoy walks and playtime with my wife and kids on any of Tallahassee’s historic trails, and summer days in Cascades Park.

Gwen Graham:

Growing up, I loved riding horses and exploring Florida’s natural parks with my family. Today, I love taking my own family to Florida’s beaches, rivers and springs and want to ensure they’re protected for generations to come.

Jeff Greene:

I grew up in Massachusetts – Worcester Massachusetts, which is known as a blue collar working class town – and it was really neighborhoods. Before my parents lost everything, we had a house with a little back yard with pheasants flying in the morn

ing and landing on our lawn. I grew up with a lot of nature I used to go with my dad to ponds and bays and by the ocean so I definitely had a very outdoors upbringing as a young child. As an adult, whenever I go anywhere I like to go hiking. I’m an avid skier and tennis player – the outdoors is very much a part of my life.

Chris King:

I loved playing basketball. I like to say I “retired” after 12th grade. I remember playing basketball with friends from my neighborhood almost every day after school and all day long in the summer. I also loved going fishing with my grandfather.  He lived in Sanford and I spent many weekends and summer days with him fishing in the lakes around town. I really grew to appreciate Florida’s beauty and developed a deep appreciation for protecting our state’s environment after that.

Philip Levine:

When I was young I loved going to Hollywood beach, we’d swim and snorkel, and play paddle ball at Hollywood boardwalk. Growing up, I spent a lot of time outside working, whether it was washing cars or parking them. I always had a job and was always working outside. Now I enjoy running, tennis, and getting out on the water on the boat with my family.

2. Would you change the laws so that agriculture is required to clean up its pollution at the source to prevent algae outbreaks in lakes, rivers, springs, and the coasts?

 Andrew Gillum:

Yes. We’ve got to start holding corporate polluters accountable for agricultural byproducts at their source, and we’ve got to review the ways we discharge excess water and strictly limit sources of nutrient runoff. We need to have a serious conversation about ensuring Florida’s agricultural business interests are the kind of responsible corporate citizens we need them to be, through whichever means are necessary.

Gwen Graham:

Yes. I will work with the Legislature to finally pass laws that truly implement and enforce the state Constitution’s 1994 “Polluters Pay” amendment.

Jeff Greene:

Absolutely. If you do the damage you should pay to fix it. It should be on them. I mean, let’s face it: This blue green algae that we have now, it’s just horrible, people are getting sick,  the businesses that are being closed during this period and all the dead wildlife – it’s just very sad to see. You know the long term repercussions of these things, when people are seeing this on CBS news and seeing it all over the country and all over the world on CNN – they are sitting in Paris they are sitting in Tel Aviv, sitting in Hong Kong – those are people that might have been coming here for a trip to Disneyworld or  going to Miami Beach, Palm Beach, anywhere for tourism – and they see ‘Florida. Toxic. Algae.’ They see those three words and you know what they are thinking: ‘Let’s go somewhere else.’ These problems that are being caused have much greater ramifications than even what we’re hearing about locally.

Chris King:

As governor, I would use every tool at my disposal to make sure that Florida’s environment is better protected.  After more than twenty years of one-party rule in Florida, the state has, at best, ignored and mismanaged Florida’s environment, and at its worst, permitted certain powerful interests like Big Sugar to essentially write their own rules when it comes to the environment.  Florida desperately needs a governor who is not beholden to these special interests and will stand up and fight for what’s right and scientifically proven to be the right thing. As such, I absolutely will ensure that we regulate and minimize the amount of pollutants from agriculture and all other sources that are flowing into our waterways, particularly Lake Okeechobee, which, recently, has been the source of the toxic algae blooms on our coasts. Big industries, including agriculture, need to understand that not only are their actions causing environmental crises, but the algae blooms are a real threat to public health.  We cannot allow Floridians to have their health put at risk and natural surroundings to be destroyed.

Philip Levine:

Yes. Under Governor Scott, the Department of Environmental Protection has become the Department of Environmental Exploitation. As governor, I will empower them to do their job and ensure scientists and experts are leading the charge.

3. What would you do to promote cleaner energy sources like solar and wind?

 Andrew Gillum:

Florida is the Sunshine State — we should be the world leader in creating jobs and opportunity through solar energy production. Instead, we rank behind places like New Jersey and Germany. As governor, I’ll prioritize the development of clean, renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and biomass — creating a business climate for good, clean energy jobs that can’t be outsourced. I’ll establish a renewable portfolio standard, re-initiate the solar rebate program so popular under Governor Crist, and put scientists in charge of our state’s energy and climate policies. In Tallahassee I’ve led on this issue — the same week that Donald Trump was pulling us out of the Paris Climate Accord, I was breaking ground on a new 120-acre solar farm.

Gwen Graham:

First, I will implement a renewable energy standard that makes our state less reliant on fossil fuels and continues President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to transition away from coal. Second, I will appoint consumer advocates and commissioners who believe in science to Florida’s Public Service Commission to give solar companies a chance at competition. Finally, I will work with Democrats and Republicans in the legislature to end Florida’s ban on power purchasing agreements to give consumers and homeowners more choice in where their electricity comes from.

Jeff Greene:

We just finished a 30,000-square-foot addition (on the nonprofit school we founded) which is being powered by almost 100 percent my solar energy. Right now, I’m driving myself – I don’t have a driver – in my Tesla, which is what I drive. My wife has a Tesla also. So, you know, we live clean renewable energy, that’s how we’d like everyone to live and I would love to see Florida – as the state that really, arguably has the most to lose from global warming of almost any state in the country – …we should be the greatest example of good behavior for the rest of the world. You know, how can we say ‘Follow the Paris Accord,’ because we know about greenhouse gas emissions and sea level rise – well, we need to be the ones who stand up and say ‘Look at the example of what we’re doing, how we’re living in Florida.’ The world needs to – everyone has to sign on.

Chris King:

It is pretty crazy that Massachusetts has more solar jobs than Florida. There is incontrovertible scientific proof that human activity is leading to climate change and rising seas. We should do everything in our power to promote cleaner energy sources, as they are one of the best lines of defense that we have to mitigate and hopefully reverse climate change.  Unfortunately the Tallahassee political establishment is unable to even utter the words “climate change” and deny that human activity is largely responsible for climate change.

As governor, I would have a comprehensive policy to combat climate change and rising seas and promote clean energy in the state.  First, I think it is important to signal our goals and show people in the clean energy world that we mean business. As such, as governor, I would announce Florida’s commitment to comply with the Paris Climate Accord and work to create a 21st century clean energy economy.

Philip Levine:

My administration will do everything within its power to find innovative ways to transition our state to renewable energy. It’s time we end the chokehold big businesses has on energy and end the anti-competitive policy Florida has adopted in recent years, it hinders progress and holds us back. We must encourage and incentivize the use of renewable and sustainable energy, and the growth of companies in the clean energy sector.

Solar startups and companies have been popping up at an amazing rate. Solar Co-ops are allowing people to save money and better our environment with renewable energy. Initiatives like these are a model I would look to expand.

As Mayor of Miami Beach, our city joined the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 initiative—a pact to move cities toward being 100% reliant on renewable energy sources. As Governor, we will take that statewide and move Florida into the future.

My administration will explore reinstating Florida’s renewable energy consumer subsidies, requiring Florida’s utility companies to allow virtual net metering and community solar energy.

Also, Florida will join with California, New York and Washington, many major cities, and progressive US corporations, by pledging to meet the targets set by the Paris Climate Accords—as the federal government turns its back on science, Florida will join the states that are leading on this issue. I will have the courage to stand up to the big utilities by having Florida establish a Renewable Portfolio Standard that puts this state on track to meet those accords.

I will mandate power purchase agreements for solar deployment in the State University System and the Florida College System. These agreements will be models for the development of community purchasing mechanisms.

As we shift Florida’s energy grid into the 21st century, we will need capable and effective leaders to implement these policies.

My administration will create a Chief Energy Office and a Chief Energy Officer to manage the innovative energy initiatives across the state. The Office will develop a statewide plan to meet its goals under the Paris Accords, grid modernization, study best practices for subsidies, and develop a distributed energy generation plan to reduce the need for new power plants and increase security, an important aspect of resilience.

 

Julie Hauserman
Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book is Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles.

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