Wednesday, August 15, 2018

It's Election Season, And Rick Scott Republicans Are Running From Pollution Woes Fast As They Can ... by gimleteye

Rick Scott was smart enough to be Florida governor for two terms and steadfastly avoid direct interaction with voters that could make headlines on TV news and social media. But he didn't expect severe, unremitting pollution to trip up his campaign for US Senate.

Last week, Scott ducked into the St. Lucie River for a quick photo op then disappeared faster than you can say, Houdini.

Houdini was the famous escape artist who succumbed to a common fatal infection with the words, "I'm tired of fighting." I don't think Scott is half the escape artist as Houdini, or, that the Republicans and Democrats and Independents of Florida are tired of fighting the rampant pollution that is destroying the "jobs" economy Scott professes to hold as his top priority.

The facts are clear enough. Scott killed the science capacity of the water management district and installed a governing board that uses millions in your tax dollars to spread fake news and propaganda. Its primary purpose is to shield the state's top polluters, Big Sugar, from scrutiny and criticism.

Under Rick Scott, enforcement actions against polluters have plunged precipitously. Scott, also, objected to the effort by the federal government to put limits on exactly the pollutants that are causing red tides and spreading marine death throughout south Florida, exposing residents and visitors to harmful algae called Cyanobacteria. It is linked to Alzheimer's. Now Scott is trying to blame the federal government for the state's pollution crisis.

Nice try, Rick, but you are no Houdini.

If you are a taxpayer, you are not tired of fighting. If you are voting age, this November you will crowd the polls like schools of fish looking for good water.

Remember the names of the polluters' friends in high office: Big Sugar is aiming Rick Scott to the US Senate. Adam Putnam, the current Agriculture Commissioner, is being promoted to governor, and Sugar's friendliest legislator, Matt Caldwell, is being pushed into the ag position being vacated by Putnam. These are the Toxic Trio and they DO NOT DESERVE YOUR VOTE.

Too bad it takes the massive pollution of Florida's waters to wake up voters. We've been heading to this perilous direction for a long, long time. Don't get tired of fighting. Get even. Vote.

Monday, August 13, 2018

District 8 County Commission Daniella Levine Cava ... by gimleteye

The Miami Herald published its primary endorsements on the weekend, including its support for Daniella Levine Cava, District 8 county commissioner.

It is important for voters to know there are TWO upcoming elections: a primary election on August 28th and a general election on Nov. 6th.

County commission races will be decided on August 28th. These are "non-partisan". One in particular attracts our interest: County Commission District 8.

This seat has been held by Daniella Levine Cava, who won a rare victory against an incumbent commissioner four years ago.

Daniella, as she is familiar to her constituents, brought considerable skills to the job of county commissioners as a long-time community leader. She has ably represented her district and showed leadership on countywide areas of concern, including public sector issues, transportation and the environment.

Daniella has been an advocate for expanding transit options within the developed sections of the county and opposed moving the Urban Development Boundary. She takes strong principled positions and is persuasive, even when she is in the minority.

We need more leadership like Daniella Levine Cava. She has earned the public trust and confidence.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Gov. Rick Scott Let Down Florida. You Don't "Fail Upwards" Into The US Senate ... by gimleteye

Environmentalists warned Rick Scott not to do it.

Now he pretends it didn't happen.

Now Florida is coated in toxic algae linked to Alzheimer's and other neurological diseases.

Rick Scott wants your vote for US Senator.

Don't give it to him.


ORLANDO, Fla. – With a large area of Florida imperiled by spreading toxic algae blooms, and as the death toll of marine life continues to mount at a staggering pace, State Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) on Friday called on Governor Rick Scott to immediately reverse his executive orders issued seven years ago which allowed unfettered deregulation of critical protections once safeguarding the state’s fragile environment.

“I call on you to take the first step in halting this unprecedented destruction by immediately reversing course on your orders to deregulate the environmental safeguards once in place,” wrote Senator Stewart in a letter delivered earlier today to Governor Rick Scott. “This massive and deadly algae bloom is not a sudden occurrence. It is the culmination of almost eight years of unleashed pollution into our waterways from a number of sources, which will take years to reverse. We cannot stop the poison already in the water, but we can take steps to stop the future destruction of our environment.”

Governor Scott issued his executive orders soon after taking office, which called for, among other things, the immediate suspension of all rulemaking by any of his agencies pending a review by the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform, which was established under his direct control. The office, in turn, was directed to examine whether any proposed and existing rules and regulations imposed “burdensome costs on businesses; and are justifiable when the overall cost-effectiveness and economic impact of the regulation…is considered.”

Governor Scott’s undermining of the environment didn’t stop there. He also dramatically cut the amount of funding dedicated to safeguarding the environment, stripping state oversight of local development while slashing budgets for the Department of Environmental Protection and local water management districts, and cutting critical regulatory staff including scientists.
Among the results was a nosedive in enforcement activity against Florida’s polluters and lax attitudes by the state government towards non-compliance.

“There are multiple players responsible for the damage we now see culminating in the horrible damage to our water and our sea life,” wrote Senator Stewart, who is traveling to South Florida to meet with those impacted by the deadly blooms and is examining legislative action to help reverse the destruction. “Whether it stemmed from agricultural runoff, leaking septic tanks, or irresponsible disposal of hazardous waste, none of it occurred in a vacuum. But all of it can be traced back to an executive decision that said anything goes in the name of making money.”

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

IMPORTANT: another report why Adam Putnam DOES NOT DESERVE your vote ... by gimleteye

It only took serial algae blooms around the state, containing Cyanobacteria that can cause long-term brain damage, to wake up Floridians about who the Florida Legislature, Gov, Rick Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam really work for: Big Sugar.

Florida voters became immune to Big Sugar's influence on local and state politics -- it needs to organize the political ladder because rules and regulations can harm its profits. But the outbreak of dangerous, harmful algae for the third time in five years really rankled Floridians.

Big Sugar's candidate for governor is Adam Putnam, a Republican who has been cultivated by the industry as carefully as it tends its cane crop. (For our archive on Adam Putnam, click here.)

Remarkably, political money from Big Sugar has become toxic in this campaign cycle for the first time ever. All of the leading Democratic candidates for Governor and many Congressional candidates, including some Republicans, have signed the questionnaire pledging that they will not take Big Sugar money. That's a first, and for that, credit (if you would like to contribute to the organization, now is a very good time to do it!)

For reasons why, read this excellent report in the Tampa Bay Times.

This candidate for Florida governor is the only one taking money from Big Sugar
Tampa Bay Times

August 06, 2018 08:31 AM
Updated 6 hours 55 minutes ago

Florida politicians from both parties used to have a sweet tooth for campaign contributions from the state’s powerful sugar industry.

But now that Big Sugar is getting blamed for toxic algae blooms, a connection to the industry has turned into a political liability. This campaign season, only one person running for governor is still taking sugar’s money: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

So far sugar companies and their affiliates have given Putnam’s campaign and his Florida Grown PAC $804,000 in direct contributions, a reward for a reliable ally. He’s also received $7.6 million from five political action committees that receive a significant portion of their contributions from the industry, or one out of every five dollars he has raised.

Putnam also is the only gubernatorial candidate defending the sugar companies from accusations that they deserve some or all of the blame for the pollution-fueled algae blooms mucking up Lake Okeechobee and threatening to ruin beach communities on both coasts.

“I support our Glades communities,” he said during an April television interview with WPTV in West Palm Beach, speaking of the areas around the Everglades where sugarcane is grown. “I support giving them the opportunities to have good jobs ... And I think they’re a viable, vibrant part of our economy, and the water that leaves sugar farms is cleaner than the water that comes on to them.”

He said the challenges facing Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades and the coastline go beyond sugar and include everyone who has moved to a state once covered by wetlands. It’s not as simple as taking out “the bad guys,” he said.

Putnam’s GOP rival, Ron DeSantis, and all five leading Democratic candidates have been painting the sugar companies as corporate greed heads who don’t care what damage they do to the rest of Florida. DeSantis, a congressman unpopular with sugar companies since he voted against giving them federal price supports, told the GOP Sunshine Summit in June that Putnam and Big Sugar are “tied at the hip.”

For once, environmental groups are on the same side as DeSantis, even though he was endorsed by President Trump, whom they dislike. Kim Mitchell, executive director of the Everglades Trust, has dubbed the agriculture commissioner “Pay-to-Play Putnam.”

Putnam’s campaign spokeswoman couldn’t explain why he’s still taking sugar money at a time when the industry is so unpopular. Instead, Meredith Beatrice pointed out that some other candidates took sugar contributions in prior campaigns, then stopped.

Now, she said, the other candidates “are fueled by out-of-state special interests.” Beatrice said Putnam is “the only candidate who isn’t controlled by the Washington swamp.”

Republican lobbyist and campaign consultant Towson Fraser said he didn’t think Putnam’s ties to sugar would hurt him in the long run because so many people who work in agriculture will still vote for him. Meanwhile, Ben Wilcox of the government watchdog group Integrity Florida said he’s glad to see so much attention being paid to who’s financing the candidates.

“So much cash flows into these campaigns that we need to hold people accountable for who their funders are,” said Wilcox. He said politicians ought to be like NASCAR drivers who emblazon the names of their sponsors on their cars.

The big question, Wilcox said, is what Big Sugar expects from Putnam in return. No one from either U.S. Sugar or Florida Crystals, the state’s biggest sugar companies, responded to numerous calls and e-mails seeking comment.

Putnam grew up in the Central Florida town of Bartow, known for cultivating citrus and producing cattle — not sugar. State records show he began taking money from the sugar industry as far back as 1996. That’s the year he was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives at age 22, becoming the youngest legislator in state history.

He continued accepting contributions from sugar during his 10 years in Congress, and through his election as state agriculture commissioner in 2010 and subsequent re-election four years ago. Throughout his long career in office, he has consistently supported the same positions as the sugar companies:

Florida Pheonix: more on Maggy Hurchalla v. George Lindemann Jr.

The gargantuan battle between a David versus Goliath (in this case, Maggy Hurchalla against a billionaire, George Lindemann Jr.) has turned into a not-so-quiet fight for First Amendment Rights. The organization for which I serve as a voluntary board member, Friends of the Everglades, recently sought to join as an intervenor in the case. At Eye On Miami, we've written extensively on Hurchalla, a hero of Florida's environmental movement. Read on, from the Florida Pheonix.

A 77-year-old South Florida environmentalist speaks out and gets sued, harrassed. She won’t back down

August 6, 2018
Diane Roberts

In Martin County, all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. You may express your opinion–about a dodgy water deal, say, or damage to certain wetlands–but if you challenge the wrong billionaire, if you urge your elected representatives to take action thwarting the plans of said billionaire, you may find yourself hauled into court, financially imperiled, and told that your free speech rights are not what you thought they were, Constitution be damned.

Maggy Hurchalla, longtime warrior for Florida’s environment, daughter of legendary Miami News reporter Jane Wood Reno, and sister of Janet Reno, the first woman to serve as Attorney General of the United States, has been ordered by a court in Martin County to pay the very, very rich George Lindemann Jr. $4.4 million.

Here’s the upshot: in 2008, Lindemann cut a deal with the South Florida Water Management District and the Martin County Commission to mine some of the 2200 acres owned by his company Lake Point, digging up rocks to use in construction and using the resulting pits to store dirty water. The plan was to someday donate land to the county for stormwater treatment. Lindemann sees himself as a Good Guy, though in his rich-brat youth (aged 31), he did prison time. Supposedly a serious contender for the US Equestrian Olympic Team, in 1990, he paid a horse hit man to electrocute his thoroughbred Charisma: he wanted to collect the $250,000 insurance. Lindemann would rather not talk about that. He’d rather you know that he’s given more than $10,000 to Audubon and chairs the board of trustees at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach. Can’t blame him there: nobody likes a horse-murderer.

In 2011, Lindemann and Lake Point hit upon the bright idea to sell the water on their property through New Jersey-based American Water, the nation’s largest private utility company. Moving 35 million gallons of H2O every day would net large money. Except Lake Point forgot that water is a public resource. The people own it; and you can’t sell it without the right permits–which Lake Point failed to acquire. Lindemann told the Tampa Bay Times that Lake Point wasn’t charging for the actual water. The company was merely storing and cleaning it, keeping the water happy till it could go quench the thirsts and wash the bodies of aging boomers and Russian ex-pats flocking to the Treasure Coast. Also, Lake Point was supposed to be creating man-made wetlands to filter and clean the water. But it didn’t. Some at SFWMD didn’t seem to care: ever since Rick Scott became governor in January, 2011, he’d made it clear to the water management districts that they should be business friendly. Very friendly. Out went the scientists and in came the cronies, determined to monetize like hell.

Next thing you know, the Palm Beach Post went and wrote about the water deal. Maggy Hurchhalla took a dim view. She started speaking out against it, and accusing Lake Point of damaging wetlands. She sent emails to the Martin County Commission, expressing her opposition. The water district and Martin County backed out of the deal, so Lake Point sued them, subpoenaing emails between Hurchalla and the county commission. Lake Point sued Hurchalla, too, accusing her of lying about the wetlands and “coaching” at least one commissioner, giving “expert” advice on how to extract themselves from Lake Point and (shades of Hillary Clinton!) deleting some of the emails sent to her. Hurchalla’s crime? “Tortious interference,” or, in human-speak, trying to intentionally and unfairly damage a business–a classic SLAPP suit charge.

The county and the water district settled. Hurchalla refused. Lindemann’s lawyers intimated there was something sinister about Hurchalla’s deleting emails, which is news to all of us private citizens who delete emails, even (perhaps especially) from politicians. Circuit Judge William Roby seemed to have made up his mind before Hurchalla had her say in court. At a meeting he called with her and her lawyer, he opined that she would lose the case and presented her with a draft apology. She could confess her transgressions and promise to never diss Lake Point again. Hurchalla declined. And lost.

She lost because Judge Roby let Lake Point lawyers imply no innocent person would delete emails. And because he instructed the jury that intentional “interference” in a contract, criticizing it, advocating for its demise, whatever, is culpable. This is insane. As Barbara Petersen, President of the First Amendment Foundation, says, “If the judgment against Maggy is allowed to stand, it will have a huge chilling effect on citizens throughout Florida. We want citizens to engage with their government and what this SLAPP judgment says is its okay to engage so long as you don’t criticize, so long as you support rather than oppose development funded by deep pockets.”

Since the ruling against her, it’s been harassment piled on top of harassment, freezing and garnishing her accounts and seizing property–two weather-beaten kayaks and a Toyota with north of 207,000 miles on it, so far. Lake Point’s white shoe lawyers also demanded IRS statements and bank records, which got posted by the Martin County Clerk’s office without redacting her social security number and other personal information. One of these lawyers insisted she reveal the value of her “furs and jewels.” Hurchalla laughs: “I don’t seem to have any furs or jewels.” He then wanted to know if she’d had her wedding band appraised.

“Instead of encouraging civic engagement,” says Peterson, “the Hurchalla case warns us to keep our mouths shut and fingers off the keyboard.” There’s your lesson, Floridians: don’t cross rich people.

Maybe Maggy Hurchhalla hurt his feelings. Lindemann clearly thinks he’s a good guy, a green guy: he donated some land along Soak Creek up in Tennessee and was named the 2017 Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s “Conservationist of the Year,” damn it! Maybe he’s so accustomed to getting his way he simply must wreak disproportionate revenge on anyone who tries to thwart him. He wants to teach Maggy Hurchalla a lesson. But she’s not going away. And she’s not sorry for revealing that George Lindemann isn’t an environmentalist, just another in a long line of plutocrats pimping out Florida. Maggy Hurchalla is more interested in principle than money: “I can’t think of anything better to do when you’re 77 years old,” she says, “Than defend the First Amendment. Can you?”

Diane Roberts is an 8th-generation Floridian, born and bred in Tallahassee, which probably explains her unhealthy fascination with Florida politics. Educated at Florida State University and Oxford University in England, she has been writing for newspapers since 1983, when she began producing columns on the legislature for the Florida Flambeau. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Times of London, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Oxford American, and Flamingo. She has been a member of the Editorial Board of the St. Petersburg Times–back when that was the Tampa Bay Times’s name–and a long-time columnist for the paper in both its iterations. She was a commentator on NPR for 22 years and continues to contribute radio essays and opinion pieces to the BBC. Roberts is also the author of four books, most recently Dream State, an historical memoir of her Florida family, and Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America. She lives in Tallahassee, except for the times she runs off to Great Britain, desperate for a different government to satirize.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Rick Scott, Adam Putnam, and Matt Caldwell: Turbulent Waters For Florida's Toxic Trio ... by gimleteye

In the winter of 2016, polluted water from Lake Okeechobee turned from brown to guacamole green, thick with toxic algae carrying cyanobacteria to downstream communities, putting people and businesses in harm's way. In the summer of 2018, it is happening again. Right before midterm elections.

Gov. Rick Scott. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. State Representative Matt Caldwell. All are seeking to move up the political ladder in November on the Republican side of the slate. Rick Scott is aiming to unseat Bill Nelson, the Democrat incumbent, in the US Senate. Adam Putnam is running to be Florida's next governor. Matt Caldwell, to take Putnam's chair in the state agriculture hierarchy. The ladder is real, and it is constructed carefully by the state's shadow government: Big Sugar.

There are a handful of Big Sugar players, and a much larger circle of influence peddlers, but there are two billionaire families who are the mainstay of the Big Sugar cartel; the descendants of Charles Stuart Mott who own US Sugar Corporation and the Fanjul family, owners of Florida Crystals and a vertically integrated, transnational sugar empire.

Both the Mott descendants and the Fanjuls spend heavily to make rules and regulations work their way while claiming a public benefit: "farming for families to put the food on your table". They never say that sugar is not a food but a substance more addictive than cocaine when consumed in excess. But that is another story.

Big Sugar deeply cares about the political ladder because laws and regulations are a key variable in its profit. Florida's sugar industry uses politics to minimize risk that laws and regulations can lower profits below expectations.

Big Sugar calibrates campaign money, including dark pools allowed after the 2010 Citizens United decision by the US Supreme Court, as carefully as it laser-measures its fields, from seeding to harvest, from back bench to committee leadership. It carefully externalizes its costs on the environment, from sulfur magnifying into methyl mercury to phosphorous and nitrogen runoff to cyanobacteria, from ditches into public waterways, from post crop burning to ash plumes to respiratory illnesses in farming communities where frightened residents are too intimidated to complain.

In 2012 Big Sugar picked Matt Caldwell from the legislative crowd. Caldwell, a state representative from Lehigh Acres -- one of the areas in southwest Florida hit hardest by rampant speculative construction and the mortgage excesses triggering the great recession of 2007/ 2008 -- successfully executed a US Sugar Corporation strategy to unseat a popular county commissioner in Lee County, Ray Judah. Big Sugar t-boned Judah with dark money. Judah was a lone Republican calling for Big Sugar to fairly shoulder the costs of its pollution caused through fertilizer and additives designed to extract the absolute last penny from crop yields. Caldwell was head of a political committee that launched $1 million of dirty ads in the last weeks of the campaign against Judah.

For his success, Caldwell was elevated to Big Sugar's de facto majority whip in the Florida House where, in 2013, he pushed a new law extending to thirty years, Big Sugar's leases on public lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area. That was the same year as a major toxic algae outbreak in the Caloosahatchee River, a key connector between Lake Okeechobee and Florida's tourism-dependent west coast.

At a moment the public clamored to buy more sugar lands for surface water treatment and storage to avoid the mess of downstream toxics waste puking on rivers and private property and small businesses owned by ordinary taxpayers, Caldwell went with Big Sugar. Now he's aiming to replace Adam Putnam who Big Sugar is promoting to Florida governor.

Adam Putnam's family farm was purchased by a state agency - the South Florida Water Management District - at five times the appraised value conducted only a year earlier. The Palm Beach Post reported in 2012: "Adam Putnam — former congressman, current commissioner of    agriculture and widely viewed as the future of Florida politics — became a very rich man in 2005 when taxpayers spent $25.5 million on 2,042 acres of his family’s ranch that had been valued at $5.5 million a year earlier..."

Putnam ferociously opposed the intervention by the federal US Environmental Protection Agency in establishing state-wide nutrient limits. Nutrients being the primary cause of the toxic puke, including vast amounts of legacy pollution when Big Sugar used Lake Okeechobee as its septic tank. Big Sugar has waged a decadal war to boot federal laws from overseeing its pollution. "States rights!"

In the Palm Beach Post, Rick Cerabino noted yesterday, "“Eight years ago, the federal Environmental Protection Agency called for specific numeric limits on pollutants from farmers, municipal wastewater and stormwater utilities operations, and other polluters of state waters. In a letter responding to the EPA, Gov. Scott, Attorney Gen. Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and the state’s legislative leaders wrote that Florida couldn’t afford the “onerous regulation” of reducing man-made pollution in its waterways. “We each ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility and hear from numerous constituents about concerns of an overbearing federal government that’s placing burdensome regulations on Florida’s families and employers,” the letter said.“

And Rick Scott. Scott came to Tallahassee in 2010 without any prior experience in government.

Scott became extraordinarily wealthy through expertise navigating the edges Medicare reimbursement practices. The company he founded, Columbia/ HCA, was hit with the largest Medicare fraud fine ever in 1997. Scott left the company four months after the federal investigation began, but paid no political price for whistling past the HCA graveyard. Which is why, he believes, he can do it again with the toxic mess he substantially helped create.

Once in Tallahassee Scott immediately sought to build a political infrastructure. Among those offering a helping hand; the special interest with institutional experience and memory longer than most who served in the legislature: Big Sugar.

One of Scott's commitments, straight out of the box: terminate a deal consummated by his predecessor, Charlie Crist, to purchase ALL the lands of US Sugar Corporation in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Originally, about 187,000 acres. Because the EAA is highly compartmentalized by ownership (and by design), the US Sugar lands would not of themselves have solved the problem of wetlands treatment marshes on the scale necessary to fix the toxic algae problems. But in aggregate, the lands if they had been purchased by taxpayers even at the enormous costs -- would have been a massive lever to rearrange the Everglades Agricultural Area for the purpose of encouraging a sustainable economic future based on public health instead of sugar cane production.

Conservation groups, enormously frustrated by the failure of the state to complete the US Sugar purchase -- its critics said, "we don't have the money" -- proceeded to mount a statewide ballot referendum to secure that money and more, around $1 billion per year. In 2014 Amendment 1 passed the threshold of more than 60% voter approval. "The 2014 amendment... was approved by 75 percent of voters, sends 33 percent of revenues from a tax on real-estate documentary stamps to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund." Then Gov. Rick Scott proceeded, with the Republican leadership, to thwart the will of the people by refusing to allocate the money for its stated purposes. (Environmental groups sued in state court and won, four years after the referendum was passed.)

The net effect: rather than pursuing a course that more than 200 qualified scientists believe is necessary -- addition of significant acres of land for water treatment and cleansing marshes -- Scott paved the way towards a 2017 fix that is really a Big Sugar Trojan Horse; a $2 billion "Everglades" reservoir that won't be complete for at least a decade and will likely trigger violations of existing water quality law, imposed on the state by a federal consent agreement after more than a decade of litigation in the 1990's.

In other words, Scott killed the real chance to protect Florida's waters, rivers, bays and Everglades and substituted with one that serves Big Sugar's interests. In another early act as governor, Scott gutted the science budget of the South Florida Water Management District. In doing so, he neutered the state capacity to investigate, explain and show the science of pollution of state waters and the linkages between toxics in farming and cities and the Everglades. In effect, Scott made it so that the public couldn't get good information from qualified scientists because he fired them -- most of them. Then he stacked the governing board of the water districts -- his right under state law -- with Sugar-friendly advocates, some of whom delighted in denigrating critics.

According to a recent report, "During the seven years under Governor Rick Scott, environmental enforcement has hit a modern nadir, with 2017 registering some of the most anemic results on record, according to a new analysis released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The upshot is that not only is Florida’s environment bearing a greater pollution load, but also its Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is losing revenue as well as its capacity to monitor--let alone deter--eco-offenses. Apart from the 2017 results in isolation, the Scott record shows a deep, across-the-board nosedive in Number of Cases in virtually every enforcement category."

Big Sugar wants to elevate Rick Scott to the US Senate. There is only one risk to its plans for the Toxic Trio -- Scott, Putnam and Caldwell -- that Big Sugar can't control: the weather.

And it is the weather, once again, that threatens to force Big Sugar to rebuild its political ladder. Not yet. But maybe. The summer of 2018 is shaping up to be a complete disaster for coastal communities bearing the brunt of highly toxic algae out of Lake Okeechobee.

The US Army Corps of Engineers held a public hearing on the toxic algae outbreak while scarcely a hundred feet away a dying manatee clung to one already dead. July 30, 2018 
Yesterday, the US Army Corps of Engineers -- the federal partner in charge of the canal infrastructure investment that is built around relieving Lake O water levels when there is too much rain -- held a meeting in Cape Coral, Florida. Only a few hundred feet away, a dying manatee clung to the corpse of another; killed by cyanobacteria in the red tide.

The Toxic Trio have nothing to say, because everything they have done as elected officials has set in concrete the measures needed to keep science and disclosure of fact at bay. They have closed off options that could save public health, Florida's waters, and a tourism-based economy in favor of sugar industry profits. They don't want the public to know any more than Big Sugar thinks the public needs to know.

Go anywhere near cyanobacteria mixed in with red tide, you are at risk of serious neurological disease including links to later-development of Alzheimer's. But Florida won't do the science and won't disclose the data and won't clearly outline the steps necessary to protect public health, because Big Sugar doesn't make money that way. Big Sugar deploys phalanxes of lobbyists, downtown lawyers, and for-hire media professionals so it can continue to extract the last penny from its crop, grown on nearly 400,000 acres, never mind the MILLIONS of Floridians, their families, guests and visitors who put tens of billions into the state economy. Oh, they say, "We are doing MORE than our fair share. We reducing phosphorous hugely!"

Rick Scott talks about "jobs". Adam Putnam talks about "jobs". Matt Caldwell talks about "jobs". But they didn't see the weather coming.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Juliana v US, the federal lawsuit Trump and the GOP despise, just jumped another major hurdle ... by gimleteye

In other news, global heatwave continues to smash records:

- Tbilisi: 41°C
- Baku: 43°C
- Yerevan: 42°C
- Iran: 53°C
- Montreal: 37°C
- Ottawa: 47°C
- Denver: 40°C
- Los Angeles: 44°C (111°F) and all of Southern Ca
- Scotland: 33.2°C

It’s a hot new world and getting hotter. Republicans fiddle while the planet is burning. (If you think — as some Republicans do — that we “can’t afford” to address climate change or that government intervention is “unconstitutional”, just wait until the planet is 10% hotter or more, than it is today.)

For Immediate Release:
July 30, 2018
Philip Gregory, 650-278-2957, ​

To set up interviews with youth plaintiffs, contact: Meg Ward, 503-341-8590, ​

U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Youth Plaintiffs, Allows ​Juliana v. United States ​to Proceed to Trial

Washington, D.C. -- Today, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the 21 youth plaintiffs in ​Juliana v. United States,​ the constitutional climate lawsuit filed against the federal government. The Court denied the Trump administration’s application for stay, preserving the U.S. District Court’s trial start date of October 29, 2018. The Court also denied the government’s “premature” request to review the case before the district court hears all of the facts that support the youth’s claims at trial. The Supreme Court’s decision follows the July 20 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals, also in favor of the youth, denying the government’s highly unusual second petition for writ of mandamus.

The Court ​stated​: “The breadth of [the youth’s] claims is striking” and ordered the District Court to take the federal government’s “concerns into account in assessing the burdens of discovery and trial, as well as the desirability of a prompt ruling on the Government’s pending dispositive motions.” On July 18, 2018, the District Court expressed its intent to issue a ruling on the government’s motions promptly.

Julia Olson​, ​executive director and chief legal counsel of ​Our Children’s Trust​ and co-counsel for youth plaintiffs said:

“​This decision should give young people courage and hope that their third branch of government, all the way up to the Supreme Court, has given them the green light to go to trial in this critical case about their unalienable rights. We look forward to presenting the scientific evidence of the harms and dangers these children face as a result of the actions their government has taken to cause the climate crisis.”

Sunday, July 29, 2018

How did the end of the world become “old news” NY Mag

NOTE: Wake up, voters. It is time to turn the tables on our national response to climate change. Our house — the one we share — is on fire as David Wallace-Wells notes in NY Mag.

Republicans, contrary to your interests, are more intent on locking down their prerogatives and privileges than they are in solving the problem of what to do when none of those prerogatives and privileges can be protected because the planet that sustains us, starts crumbling.

The Republican Electeds and their funders know. They know that crop cycle failures can happen on a massive scale, and they don’t have any answer or prescriptions as the likelihood sharply rises just based on common sense observations like David Wallace-Wells’.

Principled conservatives have a choice: vote DEM this November. It is time to re-plant the yard.

How did the end of the world become old news?
David Wallace-Wells

The fire this time (in Sweden). Photo: Mats Andersson/AFP/Getty Images
There has been a lot of burning lately. Last week, wildfires broke out in the Arctic Circle, where temperatures reached almost 90 degrees; they are still roiling northern Sweden, 21 of them. And this week, wildfires swept through the Greek seaside, outside Athens, killing at least 80 and hospitalizing almost 200. At one resort, dozens of guests tried to escape the flames by descending a narrow stone staircase into the Aegean, only to be engulfed along the way, dying literally in each other’s arms.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Bullsugar primary candidate questionnaire and endorsements ... by gimleteye

The advocacy group Bullsugar has tapped into public focus on the massive pollution of Florida's rivers, bays, estuaries and Everglades as a result of mismanagement of the state's water infrastructure, primarily to benefit Big Sugar.

Repetitive toxic algae blooms are triggering enormous damage to the state's prestige, to its tourism-related and fishing industries and to public health. Cyanobacteria is linked to severe health risks including neurological disease like Alzheimer's. USA Today reports: "Eighty-six percent of Floridians are concerned about the toxic algae blooms plaguing the state’s east and west coasts, according to a university poll released Wednesday. Among the 800 registered voters polled July 20-21, 53 percent said they are "very concerned" and 33 percent said they are "somewhat concerned," the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative said in a news release."

Bullsugar's endorsements come as primary season approaches. Notably, for the Democratic primary in the governor's race, Bullsugar favors four out of five candidates who affirmatively responded to the Bullsugar questionnaire.

Candidates were asked to respond to five questions including one on Big Sugar money campaign contributions.

Bullsugar favors Congressman Ron DeSantis in the Republican primary for governor. In the polls, DeSantis leads a well-funded (Sugar) campaign of Ag. Secretary Adam Putnam.

In the non-partisan District 8 county commission race, Bullsugar endorsed Daniella Levine Cava.

On the Democratic side, in Miami-Dade County, Bullsugar endorsed:

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in Congressional District 26
Matt Haggman in Congressional District 27
Julian Santos, Florida Senate District 36
Jason Pizzo, Florida Senate District 38
Ross Hancock, Florida House District 105
Joseph Dotie, Florida House District 108
Ryan Torrens, Attorney General
David Walker, Agriculture Commissioner

For the Republican primary:
Denise Grimsely, Agriculture Commissioner
Michael Ohevzion, Congressional District 27
Ronda Rebman-Lopez, Florida House District 115

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Blunders by the Toxic Trio: Rick Scott, Adam Putnam, and Matt Caldwell created this Florida water crisis ... by gimleteye

Inconveniently for Florida's Toxic Trio: Rick Scott -- running for the US Senate against incumbent Bill Nelson, for Adam Putnam -- the Ag Secretary running to succeed Scott as governor, and for Caldwell -- a state representative aiming for Putnam's job as Ag Secretary -- Florida's weather is conspiring against claims they deserve your vote. They don't.

The immediate crisis -- far from the first -- is the reappearance of highly toxic cyanobacteria in algae blooming in the diseased heart of Florida: Lake Okeechobee. Both Florida's rivers -- the St. Lucie and the Caloosahatchee -- carry water out of the lake towards a million residents and tourism businesses on the east and west coast of the southern half of the state. It happened in 2013 then again in 2016 and now.

The water has to go somewhere, when rain levels cause the lake to rise, and the US Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District release those billions of gallons of toxic water downstream. The water could be treated and cleansed if it was allowed to filter through wetlands sufficient in space and volume, south of the Lake. Those lands belong to some of the wealthiest welfare recipients in the US Farm program: Big Sugar. And every year Big Sugar takes its winnings from the electeds and spends millions to ensure that the state legislature, executive mansion, Congress and even the presidency is locked and loaded to shoot down any serious effort to share the adversity caused by Florida's manufactured water crisis.

Florida Gov. Scott, Ag. Secretary Putnam and legislators like Matt Caldwell had the answer in the palm of their hands, and they let it slip away. Now they want your vote.

Taxpayers could be on the road to salvation, but the toxic trio closed the road and built an exit ramp to more wastefulness and more environmental harm and more threats to public health and safety. They did this is three ways.

First, Scott and his co-conspirators killed the deal to buy US Sugar lands because it was opposed by its sometimes competitor, the Florida Crystals/Fanjul family empire. Second, Caldwell, Putnam and Scott created a new law that extended lease terms without competitive bidding on at least 23,000 acres of public lands to sugar farmers. Those lands could have been deployed to cleansing the cyanobacteria-laced waters, but the toxic trio bent to Big Sugar's will. Third, the toxic trio endorsed a new law that prohibits the state from eminent domain in the Everglades Agricultural Area while, at the same time, funds a multi-billion dollar reservoir that even the US Army Corps of Engineers doubts will work or be cost effective.

The bottom line is that billions of taxpayer dollars and years of civic efforts have been squandered while governmental processes slowly grind toward common sense: more water storage lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area. From the Now Or Neverglades Movement to the nation's premier science review agency, the National Academies of Sciences, the eventual solution to taxpayer and property owners woes is clear: buy the land that is necessary to fix Florida's water crisis.

Anyone paying attention knows that Big Sugar is at the heart of Florida's water crisis. The industry excels at muddying the waters, pointing fingers in every direction, but cyanobacteria doesn't lie. It is lifted into air we breathe and is linked to severe and incurable neurological diseases like Alzheimer's.

Remember the Toxic Trio when you go to the polls in November: Scott, Putnam and Caldwell do not deserve your votes.

The next step is simple: Fund Everglades restoration
July 23, 2018 06:30 PM
Finally, on July 25, after 18 months of silence, the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force is scheduled to convene in Washington, D.C., to discuss next steps for Everglades restoration. As Floridians know, the intergovernmental restoration effort is the world’s largest infrastructure project that will, when complete, bring economic and environmental benefits for a vast region that ranks 13th in the nation in population and economic output.

The congressionally chartered Task Force, co-chaired by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the state of Florida, fosters the necessary collaboration needed to line up funding, engineering capability and science to get restoration done. The Task Force meeting could not come at a more important time. Several issues require immediate attention.