Following President Obama's call to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to work closely with states, industry and the public to reduce carbon pollution and to come up with new standards for coming and existing power plants, EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe took up the challenge with a visit to Fort Lauderdale Thursday.
Perciasepe addressed a group of business leaders, elected officials and the public at the fifth annual Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit, an event that began Wednesday that included the Keys, at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center.
"The work in Southeast Florida has really caught the attention of the country and it is a powerful partnership evolving here to deal with the issues we all face," Perciasepe said in the first of two presentations at the two-day summit, which concluded Friday.
"It would be irresponsible if this region hadn't risen up to see how it could be more resilient and more prepared," he said.
The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact was created by Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties in January 2010 to "coordinate mitigation and adaptation activities across county lines."
It's designed to allow local governments to set their agendas for adapting to climate change while providing a means for state and federal agencies to engage with technical assistance and support.
As part of adaptation in the Keys, Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers has been focused on raising the height of roads wherever possible.
Overall, the four counties have designed an organization to develop annual legislative programs and jointly advocate for state and federal policies and funding; and to dedicate staff time and resources to create an action plan to include mitigation, such as Carruthers' idea for the roads, and adaptation strategies.
The Obama administration's Climate Action Plan sets a goal to reduce carbon pollution by three billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 through efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings.
Perciasepe stressed "resilience" frequently.
"We want to work with the electric-generation industry and see how resilience can be built into there, how to make electric distribution systems more resilient," Perciasepe said.
Power plants, he said, are the largest individual sources of carbon emissions domestically, accounting for 40 percent of our carbon pollution. "That's more than the entire transportation system -- cars, planes, trains, buses and boats all together."
Among the areas the EPA is looking at: More wisely managing stormwater.
"What we do with that rainwater, traditionally, is we get it off quickly as possible into storm drains. The idea of filtrating it back into the groundwater and how we manage stormwater and the drainage system in this country is an important building block in resilience," Perciasepe said.
In the Keys as part of constructing their sewer systems to replace septic tanks and cesspits, unincorporated Monroe, Marathon, Islamorada and the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District put into their sewer plans stormwater upgrades.
"There is a link between quality of life and dealing with these issues. You have to look at a modern, sustainable, forward-looking energy future," Perciasepe said.
The EPA plans to put together a proposal in the spring defining ways in which the country can follow the president's Climate Action Plan.
"In a cost-benefit analysis, for every dollar invested in clean air there's a return of $4 to $8 dollars in benefits," Perciasepe said. "One of the greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century is working to solve climate change. Future generations of Floridians must build this consensus in moving forward."
Keynoter staff supplemented this report.