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José Javier Rodríguez files flurry of bills to address climate change

“Responding to climate change comes down to looking out for everyday Floridians.”

As lawmakers descend upon Tallahassee for committee meetings ahead of the 2020 Session, Sen. José Javier Rodríguez is releasing a group of bills aimed at addressing and curbing climate change.

Rodríguez, a Miami-Dade Democrat, filed a quartet of bills Monday addressing the issue.

“Responding to climate change comes down to looking out for everyday Floridians since it affects every aspect of our lives from our health to the economy,” Rodríguez said in a statement.

“The legislation I am proposing is all aimed at making sure the State of Florida moves quickly and boldly to take climate seriously, to protect and prepare our residents and to make sure we’re doing our part not to contribute to its causes.”

Rodríguez has long been a proponent of tackling the climate change problem. The 2019 Legislative Session marked the second consecutive year where Rodríguez donned rain boots every day of Session in order to bring attention to the issue. Those boots also displayed a message reading “#ActOnClimate.”

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The first measure (SB 286) would create a tax credit for carbon farming. That process aims to not only to cut carbon emissions, but also to keep carbon stored inside a farm’s soil.

The approach is still somewhat new and has not been fully proven. But advocates argue that farmers can engage in practices that will release less carbon into the atmosphere, instead keeping it stored in the soil, which could help slow the process of climate change.

Rodríguez is also aiming to encourage homeowners to utilize renewable energy. Another bill (SB 288) would clarify the definition of “public utility” to ensure property owners who produce renewable energy are not subject to regulation as a utility.

Florida does offer some incentives for utilizing solar energy, such as various tax breaks. But homeowners who generate solar power are barred from selling that power to others.

Rodríguez would remove that ban for property owners operating a device “with a capacity of up to 2.5 megawatts on his or her property and who produces and provides or sells renewable energy from that device to users located on the property.” That mirrors a bill he filed in 2019 which died in committee.

The remaining two bills push for more research and planning into solving and stemming the effects of climate change.

One piece of legislation offered by Rodríguez (SB 278) tasks the Department of Health with preparing an annual “climate health planning report.” That report would “assess the threat to human health which is posed by climate change and to develop strategies to help this state’s communities prepare for the health effects of climate change.”

The department would focus on effects to the state’s water quality, food production and housing market, among other areas. The report would then provide short- and long-term policy priorities aimed at addressing those effects.

Another measure (SB 280) would set up an annual conference to estimate the economic impact of climate change on the state. That report would be delivered to the Governor and legislative leaders.

Those efforts tack onto legislation filed previously by Rodriguez aiming to require sea-level impact studies before the construction of state-funded infrastructure projects near the coast (SB 178) and another effort to ensure the state’s energy comes from 100 percent renewable sources by 2050 (SB 256).

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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