Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Radical GOP Right Turns Florida Into A "Sacrifice Zone" ... by gimleteye

Today in the state legislature, the House is preparing to give Big Sugar the biggest prize it has ever obtained: capping its obligation to clean up its pollution of the Everglades. It is an even bigger gift than the Jeb! Bush collapse on the Everglades water pollution standard. In 2003, Bush claimed he was doing the work of Marjory Stoneman Douglas and sent his top environmental official to harangue from the steps of the federal court house in Miami. What Bush did a decade ago was to allow Big Sugar to weasel away from the obligation, written in the Florida Constitution, that holds the Everglades polluters are primarily responsible for cleaning up the pollution they cause.

What the House is planning to do, is to undo years of federal litigation and negotiation that resulted in efforts to hold the Great Destroyers accountable for their costs. It's a sad testimony to the power of the radical right that cast its spell, holding the state in a fog of amnesia.

The House action on behalf of Big Sugar is being stimulated by an army of lobbyists. The public interest has a few of its own, but not many and not likely to influence the outcome. The reason is that Tallahassee is a bubble. It operates as an enclosed political sphere with its own oxygen -- money -- and its own laws. Government has never been more divorced from the people. The result is a state being turned into a "sacrifice zone" for the radical right.

Protecting the rights of polluters is a key agenda of the GOP. That is not, however, how it is pitched to citizens, voters or to the media.

These are "reasonable" businessmen. These are "job creators". These are "men of faith". These qualities are etched in the marketing that pitched Rick Scott to the Governor's Mansion and a host of telegenic young Republicans whose main aspiration is to memorize talking points and deliver them seamlessly so that they, too, can reach and materialize on Fox News like Senator Marco Rubio.

Example A: the recent collapse of the US EPA to enforce nutrient standards across the state and instead bow to Tallahassee, whose proposed rules many environmentalists believe are even worse than what lead to the filthy waters that ring the state. In the St. Pete Times, lead Earthjustice attorney David Guest compared "(the) agreement to a deal to protect henhouses from "the Fox Consultation Council," because "the polluting industries have effective control of the state pollution prevention process in Florida."

Example B: In a recent report, the Orlando Sentinel documented the pollution crippling Florida's rivers. Some good it did, in Tallahassee. "Orlando's Wekiva has gotten sicker. The Indian River - the riverlike lagoon along Florida's east coast - has been rocked by persistent and destructive algae blooms. The Wakulla near Tallahassee is plagued with dark, tannic water. Health authorities warn nearly every year that algae blooms in the Caloosahatchee in South Florida are toxic.
"We have a definite trend toward degrading water," said Rae Ann Wessel, a defender of the Caloosahatchee and member of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation." That's just the beginning. We could add Florida Bay and Biscayne Bay to the mix and wouldn't be far off.

These are only two examples showing how Florida has been turned into a "sacrifice zone" for the radical right. We have our political equivalents in Miami-Dade County. Read, below, how County Commissioner Lynda Bell sought to use the commission to carve out exemptions for a few violators in the 8.5 Square Mile Area. It is as though she could undo, single-handedly, the county environmental agency, enforcement, and the law at the same time.

From the point of view of environmentalists, what is unraveling in Tallahassee and power centers like Miami-Dade is nothing less than decades of desperately difficult work, putting in place rules of the road that are continuously undermined by special interests. Government designed to fail is nothing less that contractors being subsidized to blow up roads and buildings that tax dollars then reward them to rebuild.

This wouldn't happen if voters paid attention to what underlies the misdirection of policies arising from the worst economic crash since the Great Depression. The radical right calls it "shrinking the size of government so it can be drowned in a bathtub". What it really is, is a good old fashioned putsch; a government takeover by polluters and the self-righteous radical right who wave the flag of democracy and pages of the Constitution to avoid accountability. Pollute, yes! Regulate, no! Shift wealth to insiders, yes! Let the rest, eat chiccarones. The radical right claims to be winners. What they are winning is the race to the bottom.


Anonymous said...

Let me get this right.

First Thing.
This post is all over the place.

Global warming is going to put Florida under water according to you and Wanless, so we should clean up the Everglades runoff in Tallahassee's Wakulla River wouldn't that be runoff from GA., AL. and MS.?
The Everglades now run north?

Anonymous said...

Is it too much to ask of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to actually take responsibility for enforcement of the Clean Water Act here in Florida? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in November that it will enforce the Clean Water Act and do what the state of Florida hasn't — set specific, enforceable numbers to limit pollution.

The EPA's standards are like easy-to-read speed limit signs.

Instead, the Florida DEP wants to substitute bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo that allows water to become unsafe before requiring pollution control. So, once again, Florida taxpayers will be back on the hook to clean up polluted streams and lakes in Florida.

The Mosaic Desoto Mine project is just the latest disaster that may soon occur in Florida. One of the most affected tributaries of the Desoto Mine is the largest tributary of the Peace River — Horse Creek.

Horse Creek is a stream that contributes to the potable-drinking-water resource in Charlotte and Desoto Counties. The Southwest Florida Management District describes it as being "famous for its scenic beauty and the purity of its water. Wildlife is plentiful, and the banks are lined with moss-draped live oaks."

It deserves better protection than allowing the permitting of three proposed phosphate strip mines.

Huge, industrialized projects such as three phosphate mines obviously will negatively impact and change the water in the Horse Creek, the Peace River and the Charlotte Harbor Estuary by increasing salinity, dissolved oxygen, and total nitrogen or phosphorus.

We urge our governor and lawmakers to not allow the Florida DEP to circumvent the U.S. Clean Water Act standards.







Anonymous said...

Today's bogus plan on water rules won't stop slime outbreaks

David Guest,Earthjustice Attorney (850) 228-3337

TAMPA - Florida's waterways will be covered with more slimy algae outbreaks if a deeply flawed plan announced today between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is allowed to go forward.
- The plan must be reviewed in federal court to ensure that it complies with the Clean Water Act.
- The public was cut out of the back-room dealings which led to the flawed plan.
"We have record numbers of dead manatees washing up on southwest Florida right now, in the prime of our tourist season," said Earthjustice attorney David Guest. "Where is the leadership? This is an absolute sell out. This bogus plan gives deep-pocketed polluters even more loopholes. And what do we, the public, get? More gross, slimy algae in the water."
The DEP and EPA's faulty plan fails to set enforceable limits on the amount of sewage, manure, and fertilizer allowed in Florida waters - especially in South Florida and the ailing Everglades. These pollutants spark slimy outbreaks which are harming Florida's tourism business, contaminating drinking water, killing wildlife, and threatening public health. Red tide and algae outbreaks are worsened by runoff containing sewage, manure and fertilizer - so-called "nutrient pollution."
"Obviously, the environmental regulators are bending to politically powerful polluters instead of protecting the public's right to have clean water to drink and healthy places to fish, boat and swim," Guest added.
The flawed plan also comes at a time when Gov. Rick Scott's Administration is firing experienced DEP staffers and replacing them with people who come from polluting industries.
The EPA first began working to set pollution limits for Florida in 2009 - part of a settlement in a 2008 Clean Water Act suit filed by Earthjustice in the Northern District of Florida on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. John's Riverkeeper, and the Sierra Club. The suit challenged the decade-long delay by the state and federal governments in setting limits for the pollution.
The public supports the EPA pollution limits. In response to a call for action, more than 40,000 citizens wrote the White House in 2012, urging the Obama Administration to stand firm on imposing effective federal standards for Florida waters. More than 18,000 people wrote the EPA this year, urging enforceable limits.

Anonymous said...

What the EPA is saying is every state should have the same water standards but isn't every state exposed to different environmental factors?
The blanket standards can work in a regional way. For example, the Pacific Northwest with it's ocean fueled storms is vastly different from the acid rain results of the Northeast. At some point the EPA needs to consider the logic of it's standards regarding surface water.