Charlie Crist's missed opportunities on the environment

Kendrick Meek accurately calls himself the only U.S. Senate candidate who's been consistently against offshore drilling.

Governor Charlie Crist's return to his earlier position against drilling near Florida's coast has aided him during the Gulf oil spill crises as an independent sort who runs against the dominant political position of  his(former) party, but as St. Pete Times Business columnist/reporter Robert Trigaux alludes to this morning, he's truly dropped the ball in trying to move the state forward on the whole energy efficiency/climate change front.

Trigaux bemoans how unexceptional state leaders have been when it comes to being progressive on energy legislation, and he's certainly correct in that assessment.  Part of his disdain is reflecting on our leader over the past 3 1/2 years, Charlie Crist:

Whether Charlie Crist wins or loses his campaign for U.S. senator, his saddest legacy as governor may be his inability to persuade the Legislature to start making Florida a state with more diversified energy sources, and attracting those businesses to make it so.

The sad thing is is that Crist was in the vanguard of Republicans, along with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who is now an independent) in being progressive in trying to combat climate change when he first took office in January of 2007.

In both 2007 and 2008, Crist convened major climate conferences, but strangely, canceled plans for one in 2009.

2009 was also the year that Crist refused to veto SB 360, an extremely controversial growth management bill that was not only opposed by many citizens, but by a slew of local cities and counties.

In 2007, Christ set out an executive order directing the state to set a 20 percent renewable energy goal for utilities by 2020.  In 2009, a  similar proposed "renewable portfolio standard" (RPS) passed the Senate but wasn't taken up by the House, and Crist did little to rally lawmakers to get behind it.  This year, no state Senator re-introduced that bill, and in the House, a bill that would set a 5% RPS never got out of committee.

So what happened, you might ask?

Critics would say two words - Marco. Rubio.  When he came on the scene over a year ago and started snipping at the governor from the right, all of a sudden Governor Crist seemed to lose interest in being the "environmental governor."  And it was actually before Rubio came on the scene that he shifted to a pro offshore drilling opinion (all the better to align himself with his party's standard bearers, John McCain and Sarah Palin on that front).

Obviously, he's only one man, but there is something called leadership.  Unbelievably, some Crist supporters give him a pass on dropping the ball here, claiming that it was just politics that precluded him from being being gr

Yet, where is he today, one could ask?  Although twice Democrats have called for a special session to try to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot banning offshore drilling, Crist has done nothing, saying he didn't see the votes there in the House.

As Susan Glickman with the NRDC and other groups tells Trigaux today, some 29 other states have clear energy policies, while the Sunshine State has nothing close to that.

As Alex Sink takes on Bill McCollum or Rick Scott this fall in televised debates, hopefully this issue will be front and center.

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.