Rep. John Wood told House subcommittee members on Thursday that he doesn’t consider carbon dioxide to be a pollutant and if they think it is, “then everybody zip up their mouths and don’t exhale the rest of the meeting.”
Wood, a Republican from Winter Haven, was answering questions on his bill that would require legislative ratification of a possible future plan by the state to reduce carbon emission from power plants in response to proposed federal rules.
Rep. Dwight Dudley of St. Petersburg, the ranking Democrat on the House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee, questioned Wood about the cost of health care resulting from air pollution when Wood responded.
“But CO2 (carbon dioxide) in my opinion is not a pollutant,” Wood said. “God gave us CO2 to grow plants, for us to exhale — everything else.”
Carbon dioxide does occur naturally in the environment and is produced by microorganisms, plants and animals. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says human activities since the Industrial Revolution have altered the balance of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.
“Yes, CO2 is a wonderful thing, but too much of a good thing can kill you,” Jeff Chanton, a Florida State University oceanography professor, told Florida Politics on Thursday He was among a group of scientists who met this past summer with Gov. Rick Scott to discuss climate change.
In 2014, President Barack Obama proposed the federal “Clean Power Plan” to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. Wood says the Legislature should require ratification because of the potential cost to Florida consumers.
Wood said sea level rise is a concern to Florida, but he added that the proposed federal carbon dioxide rules will provide minimal help in addressing the issue. He later cited information provided by a lobbyist for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which Sourcewatch describes as an industry front group.
Democrats on the subcommittee said HB 849 was unnecessary and was intended to delay action in response to the federal initiative.
“This is just an additional piece of evidence regarding the lack of leadership of the Legislature on crucial issues such as energy policy,” Dudley said. “The tail is wagging the dog instead of moving forward.”
But Rep. Dane Eagle, a Cape Coral Republican and subcommittee chair, said the Legislature would be doing a disservice to its constituents by not asking for the Legislature to have input on the issue.
HB 849 requires ratification unless obtaining that approval from the Legislature would prevent DEP from submitting a state implementation plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a timely manner.
The passed along party lines with opposition from the four Democrats on the committee. The bill has three more committee stops.
Bruce Ritchie (@bruceritchie) covers environment, energy and growth management in Tallahassee.