Friday, September 12, 2014

Dirty politics and dirty water go hand in hand, in Florida … by gimleteye

"Florida can better regulate its water than bureaucrats in D.C.," said GOP Congressman Steve Southerland at a news conference last month in Tallahassee, with Putnam at his side. Baloney. The two were urging Congress to pass a change to water rules that further hampers the EPA to protect people, the economy and environment.

It is a trend that Democrats have failed to resist. The assertion of states rights -- in particular against federal regulation of the environment -- animates corporate polluters and their mouthpieces in Florida like no other issue.

For instance, last year the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries both lobbied very heavily against EPA involvement in regulation for pollution of Florida waters by excess fertilizer runoff. Instead of hard, fast numerical standards for pollution, Florida has new standards that are unlikely to ever be effectively enforced because they are written so loosely.

While coastal residents on the St. Lucie River and Caloosahatchee are spitting mad about the consequences, even they -- mostly Republican voters -- don't put two and two together. For example, how this marketing of states rights matches the aims of the biggest polluters in Florida, Big Sugar, with the biggest private industrial conglomerate in America, Koch Industries and its affiliates. Both support the erosion of environmental accountability straight through Florida law down into the local counties where rules and regulations are also set up so that polluters can evade accountability, shifting the costs of pollution to taxpayers.

It's too bad that more Floridians won't cast their vote against Republicans who violate the basic tenet of conservatism: full cost accounting for toxics in our air and water.

The problem is not "bureaucrats in D.C.", the convenient bugaboo and scapegoat.

The problem isn't the EPA.

The problem is government-designed-to-fail. And the proponents of government-designed-to-fail are those same congressmen and secretaries of agriculture like Adam Putnam who slammed a door in a Tampa Bay Times reporter's face when confronted with questions about being wined and dined on a hunting trip by U.S. Sugar, to the King Ranch in Texas.

Dirty water politics organizes in the clubs and back rooms and hunting lodges where ordinary voters are excluded. In November, it is time to throw the cronies out -- back into the private sector where they can do whatever they want, free from the intrusion of government.

Congressman Southerland's assault on behalf of corporate polluters in Florida has national ramifications and shows what is at stake in the November elections. If control of the US Senate shifts to the GOP, there will be very little to hold the polluters back from getting what they want.

You can't claim to be conservative and at the same time stand for shifting the costs of pollution to taxpayers.

Editorial: Dirty water politics
Ocala Star Banner
Published: Thursday, September 4, 2014 at 6:30 a.m.

A proposed rule that would clarify what bodies of water fall under federal regulation has created a political firestorm here in Florida, pitting dozens of environmental groups against a powerful coalition of big business, big agriculture and conservative politicians.

The idea originally was to bring clarity to what waters and wetlands fall under Environmental Protection Agency purview, as ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress. But so far, the only thing that is clear is that the opposition, led by Congressman Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, are more concerned about protecting big business and agriculture interests than protecting our state's steadily deteriorating rivers, lakes and springs. Southerland has introduced a bill in Congress, disingenuously named …
the "Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act," or H.R. 5078, that would virtually strip the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of any authority over Florida waterways and wetlands. Instead, Southerland would hand that power to the states.

"Florida can better regulate its water than bureaucrats in D.C.," Southerland said at a news conference last month in Tallahassee, with Putnam at his side.

The congressman and commissioner cannot expect anyone to take that statement seriously. Certainly even they know that Florida's waters are increasingly polluted from Pensacola to the Everglades, with our own Silver Springs serving as ground zero for a growing citizen-led water-quality movement.

The fact is, the proposed rule is not a "power grab" nor would it include "puddles and ditches to farmland ponds" as Southerland claims in his own verbal overreach.

In fact, EPA officials say the rule clarification would change very little in terms of current regulation of farms, forestry or development.

Yet, not only does Southerland's bill seek to strip the EPA and the Corps of regulatory authority, it would shut off all public comment on the rule.

Even more curious is why Marion County's own congressional representatives, Republicans Rich Nugent and Ted Yoho, are co-sponsoring this misguided and reckless legislation.

Southerland's and Putnam's credibility on this issue, not to mention Gov. Rick Scott's, is questionable at best, considering all three were exposed last month for going on a hunting trip to the King Ranch in Texas that was hosted and at least partially paid for by Big Sugar, arguably the biggest of Florida's corporate polluters. The state's recent track record on water — slashed water-management budgets, relaxed water standards, lax enforcement and declining water quality and supply — hardly gives us reason to trust Florida's leaders to do right by our wetlands and waterways. And besides, the U.S.. Corps that regulates wetlands development in Florida is located in Jacksonville, not D.C., and is staffed by Floridians.

Putnam, Nugent and Yoho should be embarrassed to be carrying water for some of Florida's biggest polluters. They should be working, instead, to clean up our endangered waterways, like Silver and Rainbow springs, and to stop the steady depletion of our aquifer. That would be in the best interests of their constituents and their state. Yet, they seem more interested in serving their biggest donors than addressing Florida's biggest environmental problem. Go figure.


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Anonymous said...

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