Last week, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio parachuted into the most befouled toxic part of the state he represents: Florida's solidly Republican and Tea Party friendly, Martin County.
More accurately, Senator Rubio arrived to a press conference by boat after a tour of the toxic water nightmare afflicting the St. Lucie River and Caloosahatchee. These waterways course through GOP districts. Voters have every reason to be furious. Sold on the premise that pollution regulations are overly burdensome and harm job creation, Floridians are now confronting the real prospect that coastal real estate values are what have really been harmed by Republican shape-shifters.
Rubio and his entourage, some of whom held hands to faces to avoid gagging from the stench of toxic algae, went from yacht to dock, careful not to get caught by the sort of unscripted moment that found Gov. Rick Scott on cell phone video at a Starbucks, where a young interlocutor called him "an asshole", or, Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam who last week silently pulled a bill he had been supporting to lower water quality standards in Florida even further.
The 24/7 news cycle looks for car wrecks, moral collapses, and villains. For decades, Big Sugar has managed to avoid being tarred, feathered and pilloried by conservative critics of its massive corporate welfare. That is no simple feat: to perpetuate a political status quo based on corporate welfare while using Florida waters as industry sewers while steadily lowering toxic standards and enforcement, all in a state that trends Democrat in national election cycles.
This time is different. This time core Republican voters sold a bill of goods on the benefits of limited government can see, quite literally, how their pockets have been picked by polluters.
So the goal of Rubio, Gov. Scott and Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam is simple: point the finger at upstream sources of pollution, north of Lake Okeechobee, at sources of pollution east and west of the lake -- septic tanks from ordinary taxpayers -- anywhere but south, where Big Sugar resides and from whence cometh their help: massive campaign contributions to keep the status quo in place.
The other reason Senator Rubio boated in: the GOP presidential candidate who garnered only 15% of the state-wide presidential primary vote, has a 6% lifetime rating from the national League of Conservation Voters.
In 2015, Rubio had a 0% rating from the LCV. Think about it: it takes hard work to get a zero percent rating from the LCV. It means, in effect, that one rejects every premise of environmental protection as a matter of federal legislation. And, of course, when disaster strikes as it is striking in Florida today, who does one blame? The federal government. (In contrast to Rubio, Florida's U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, Dem, had a 84% rating in 2015.)
The TCPalm reported:
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said last Friday three things need to happen immediately to tackle the algae crisis, but none of them include buying land to send Lake Okeechobee water south to reduce discharges.An equal number of reports?
The Republican said lawmakers should look at storing more water north of the lake because that’s where most pollution comes from. He would change his mind about the land purchase if “science leads us to believe that it’s a major contributor to making things better,” and added he’s concerned buying land would take away money from existing projects.
“I’m not against it for purposes of being against it,” he said. “I get conflicting reports because I have an equal number of scientists that say we’re not against the southern land buy but it’s the northern land that we really need because that’s where a lot of nutrients are coming in.”
Rubio launches into the standard defense of his staunchest allies and campaign contributors: Big Sugar. When asked about the massive amounts of money he has taken from Big Sugar, Rubio refuses to answer, as if history is nothing compared to what he is ready to do right now. And what is he prepared to do? To be empathetic. "I'd be angry too!" Rubio says, if he lived in the stench without acknowledging his culpability in creating conditions for the stench in the first place.
Here is why Marco Rubio had to glide in by water to face Martin County voters: thrusters big enough to help Rubio pivot on the worst environmental record in Congress haven't been invented yet.
Here is how Senator Rubio earned his 6% LCV rating: denial. Rubio defaults to the extremist, pro-polluter agenda fortified by fake science. There are no equal number of reports to challenge the certainty of 207 scientists that vastly more acreage must be allocated to marshes to store and clean dirty water so Florida's estuaries don't get puked on and the Everglades and Florida Bay can someday revive.
Yesterday, Gov. Rick Scott offered his intention along the same diversionary tactic as Rubio's: Florida will create a state grant program to fix homeowner septic tanks downstream of Lake Okeechobee. Inconveniently, NASA photos from space were also broadcast on the same day, showing the toxic algae bloom covering the lake upstream of all those pesky residential septic tanks.
In the TC Palm, scientist Gary Goforth recently wrote:
Since Jan. 30, this black water (from Lake Okeechobee) has carried more than 35 million pounds of sediment into the river, more than 2 million pounds of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and toxic algae. Water from the lake is dirtier than it was in 2013 — a result of the state's neglect in holding accountable those responsible for cleaning up water coming off their lands. With the passage of a 2016 water bill, our elected officials in Tallahassee have virtually ensured that the lake will not meet its water quality goals for decades, as deadlines were pushed back at least 20 years.Where, one might ask, are the Democrats? Last week, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson called for eminent domain proceedings in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Tim Canova, challenging Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Broward County, is making Florida's water quality catastrophe a key campaign theme.
Where is Hillary Clinton on Florida's catastrophe? Marco Rubio knows, but he is not saying.