Rubio’s record on cap and trade

Despite plenty of evidence highlighting Marco Rubio’s record in fighting Charlie Crist’s efforts to impose cap-and-trade in Florida via executive order, The Miami Herald is alleging today that Rubio was ultimately supportive of cap-and-trade (!).

Miami Herald fails to tell the whole story

Despite plenty of evidence highlighting Marco Rubio’s record in fighting Charlie Crist’s efforts to impose cap-and-trade in Florida via executive order, The Miami Herald is alleging today that Rubio was ultimately supportive of cap-and-trade (!).

This is an important issue. In order to set the record straight, today’s Miami Herald article requires a careful dissection:

MIAMI HERALD: “… Rubio voted for a bill backed by the governor requiring state officials to devise such a [cap-and-trade] plan.  As the leader of the Florida House in 2008, Rubio presided over a unanimous vote in favor of directing the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop ground rules for companies to limit their carbon emissions.”

FACTS: The timeline is important here.  Originally, the Legislature passed a 2007 energy bill that did not include anything about cap-and-trade. However, just before announcing his climate change summit, Crist vetoed because it “does not go far enough” and “added too many bureaucratic layers that would get in the way of curbing greenhouse gas emissions…”  (St. Petersburg Times, 6/21/07)

Crist then proceeded to sign an executive order to “set up a cap-and-trade system for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s utilities…” (“Crist Picks Green Over Red: The Governor Is Well Aware His Warming Initiative Is Unpopular With Some In His Party,” St. Petersburg Times, 7/12/07)

Within days, Marco Rubio announced his opposition to the then-popular governor’s plan when he “lashed out at Gov. Charlie Crist’s clean energy initiatives this week, calling them expensive ‘European-style big government mandates’ that could have ‘negative consequences’ for Florida.’”  (Miami Herald, 7/25/07)

Then in 2008, the House passed the bill referenced in today’s Miami Herald article. When it passed, most acknowledged that the bill blocked Crist from his ambitious plans:

– “… the House was unwilling to go too green. The Department of Environmental Protection would not be able to adopt California’s more-stringent motor vehicle emissions standards without legislative approval, under a provision Republicans added to the bill.  (“Far-Reaching Energy Measure Clears House, But Future Iffy,” Palm Beach Post, 4/29/08)

– “The Republican-led House and Senate delayed the start of the emissions standards until 2010 and gave themselves veto power over the final rules. … also gave itself veto power over the Department of Environmental Protection’s proposed cap-and-trade program that would limit carbon emissions in Florida, impose penalties on polluters and sell credits to green companies, an issue utility companies and businesses lobbied.” (“Crist’s Green Plan A Work In Progress,” Miami Herald, 6/25/08)

The Miami Herald – the same publication responsible for today’s article – reported that

“it ended up being watered down.”  (“Crist’s Green Plan A Work In Progress,” Miami Herald, 6/25/08)

– “Crist’s [cap-and-trade energy policy] plans were shredded by the Republican Legislature.”  (Miami Herald, 8/7/09) 

– “Holly Binns, director of Environment Florida, a nonprofit environmental watchdog group, is less encouraged. … ‘The thing that worries me the most is that all these initiatives have to get final approval from the Legislature, which is where good legislation often goes to die.’”  (“Crist’s Green Plan A Work In Progress,” Miami Herald, 6/25/08)

MIAMI HERALD: “‘Rubio is a total flip-flopper,’ said Gerald Karnas, Florida director of the Environmental Defense Fund. ‘Under his leadership, progressive energy legislation passed the House.’ … ‘That’s a bit disingenuous,’ said Jay Liles of the Florida Wildlife Federation, who lobbied for the bill along with Karnas and other environmental activists. ‘For Rubio to say that all along he knew it wouldn’t really come to pass is illogical. He set the stage for [cap-and-trade] to happen.’”

FACT: Consider the sources of these perspectives, particularly the first who once praised Crist for hitting “a grand slam, putting Florida on the map as a true leader on global warming,” and was named to the Governor’s Florida Action Team on Energy and Climate.  (“Environmental Defense Named To Serve On Florida Action Team On Energy And Climate Change,” Press Release, 8/13/07)

Also consider that the environmental lobby was especially dismayed at the Legislature’s actions and what they meant for the future of cap-and-trade in Florida.  At the time, the Miami Herald reported, “Holly Binns, director of Environment Florida, a nonprofit environmental watchdog group, is less encouraged. … ‘The thing that worries me the most is that all these initiatives have to get final approval from the Legislature, which is where good legislation often goes to die.’”  (“Crist’s Green Plan A Work In Progress,” Miami Herald, 6/25/08)

MIAMI HERALD: “Rubio said Thursday that his position on cap-and-trade — which allows companies that don’t reach emission caps to trade pollution permits — hasn’t changed. The law’s requirement that the plan return to the GOP-led Legislature for final approval appeased the business lobby and, Rubio said, was guaranteed to stop it in its tracks.”

FACT: To its credit, the Miami Herald points out the pro-business nature of the bill’s insistence on requiring legislative approval before any plan can be put in place. Would the business community be “appeased” by a pro-cap and trade bill?

 MIAMI HERALD: “By 2008, as Crist’s poll ratings held strong, Rubio called a federal cap-and-trade system ‘inevitable’ and said Florida should be at the forefront.

FACT: In speeches and interviews, Rubio observed that the U.S. was headed toward emissions caps. However, in reading the Herald’s take, one might think Rubio called for Florida to be on the forefront of imposing cap-and-trade on its people.

But these statements are not support for cap-and-trade as policy.  Instead, they were commonsense observations based on the fact that both Barack Obama and John McCain (the likely presidential nominees at the time) were supportive of such policies.

As a state leader, what Marco Rubio advocated was for Florida to put itself in a position to comply with a potential federal mandate in a way that would minimize the negative impact of such a mandate. And he stressed his desire for Florida to be on the forefront of the resulting technological advances and compliance technology.

MIAMI HERALD: “Crist garnered national publicity for convening a climate change summit with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and issuing executive orders in 2007 that set targets for greenhouse gas emissions. Rubio maintained Thursday that the legislation had the effect of neutering Crist’s executive orders. ‘We took the power out of his hands and put it into the hands of the Legislature,’ he said. ‘If we passed no legislation, his executive orders would have become law.’”

FACTS: Rubio’s not the only one who has made this claim:

The Miami Herald once reported it as well in writing that “Crist’s [cap-and-trade energy policy] plans were shredded by the Republican Legislature.” (Miami Herald, 8/7/09)

– The St. Petersburg Times noted, “The bill also included a ‘safety valve’ to keep carbon from getting too expensive, which arguably weakens the system since the price is meant to be a deterrent to polluting.” (“Crist Amped By Energy Bill, But Green Impact Is Faded,” St. Petersburg Times, 5/6/08)

– At the time, the Miami Herald reported, “Holly Binns, director of Environment Florida, a nonprofit environmental watchdog group, is less encouraged. … ‘The thing that worries me the most is that all these initiatives have to get final approval from the Legislature, which is where good legislation often goes to die.’”  (“Crist’s Green Plan A Work In Progress,” Miami Herald, 6/25/08)

MIAMI HERALD: “‘That’s not true, said Mike Sole, Crist’s appointed secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.  ‘An executive order would not have been able to implement a cap-and-trade system on its own. We needed the legislative authority,’ Sole said.”

FACTS: It is important to note that Charlie Crist has been rebuked by the Supreme Court several times for overstepping his authority on other issues.  On this particular issue, he never consulted with the Legislature when he signed his executive orders, with the St. Petersburg Times reporting that “Crist said he talked to legislative leaders then about what his goals are but has not consulted them about the orders he will sign Friday.”

“One of Crist’s predecessors, Bob Graham, warned that the governor is close to overstepping his authority.  Using an executive order to revamp the state’s energy policy, rather than trying to get a law passed by the Legislature, ‘might push the envelope,’ warned Graham, a Democrat who served two terms as governor before being elected to the Senate. He could not recall another instance where a governor tried to make such a major policy change using an executive order.”  (“Crist Picks Green Over Red: The Governor Is Well Aware His Warming Initiative Is Unpopular With Some In His Party,”St. Petersburg Times, 7/12/07)

MIAMI HERALD: “The department could present a cap-and-trade plan as early as January, but Sole said it’s not ready. Since Crist began campaigning for the U.S. Senate and weathering attacks from conservatives, he has backed off his cap-and-trade crusade.  ‘Cap and trade is complicated,’ Sole said. ‘We need to make sure it’s a good fit for Florida and that we do it in a smart way.’”

FACTS: This statement helps prove our point on this issue.  In 2007, Crist issued an executive order requiring the department to create a cap-and-trade system for Florida using emission standards Crist chose.

But under Marco Rubio, the Legislature passed a bill requiring them to document the economic, consumer and employment costs of such a plan and then bring that plan to the Legislature for approval before they could move forward.

This has slowed the process in a way that virtually guarantees Florida will not be passing any cap-and-trade plan anytime soon.

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