Scott’s policies disastrous for environment
With a horrific red tide killing marine life and tourism on Florida’s southwest coast, and with toxic green algae bringing misery to the Treasure Coast and Fort Myers area on a now-annual basis, it’s understandable that Gov. Rick Scott would want to run away from his environmental record.
Voters shouldn’t let him.
From the moment the health-care multimillionaire swept into office on 2010’s Tea Party anti-tax, anti-regulation wave, he began slashing the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), cutting budgets, skilled staff and inspections.
The SFWMD, which had a $1.4 billion budget in 2007, is now an $814 million agency. Scott’s administration cut $700 million out of all the state’s water-management districts after his first year and crippled their ability to levy taxes. His justification — giving average property owners tax relief — is a sick joke; the state’s 15 biggest industries, like Florida Power & Light and the Walt Disney Co., got to pocket a combined $1.2 million annually, but homeowners save less than $3 per $100,000.
What got slashed?
The state’s network for water monitoring shrank from 350 monitoring sites to 115, according to Florida International University’s Southeast Environmental Research Center. Enforcement of anti-pollution regulations slowed to a crawl. The DEP pursued almost 1,600 enforcement cases in 2010, but a mere 220 in 2017, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
In 2012, Scott repealed a law requiring septic-tank inspections. Now, only 1 percent of Florida’s 2.6 million septic tanks get inspected, and scientists say that pollution from leaking septic tanks adds fuel to toxic algae blooms.
The result: Nitrogen and phosphorus loads are on the rise in Lake Okeechobee. Combined with agricultural run-off, this is the root of the toxic bluegreen algae — and almost certainly a contributor to the unusual endurance of the red tide, the worst of which is occurring near Fort Myers at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River, one of the exit points of Lake O’s waters.
Yet Scott is trying to fool voters into thinking that Sen. Bill Nelson, the Democrat whom Scott is trying to unseat on Nov. 6, is to blame for the algae blooms. A Scott ad released Friday contends Nelson has done “nothing” for “Lake O.” It’s supposedly Nelson’s fault that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hasn’t limited water discharges or fixed the Herbert Hoover Dike.
This is nonsensical double-talk. The dike’s condition and the rate of discharges have nothing to do with the pollutants in the water in Lake Okeechobee. Letting all that phosphorus and nitrogen into the water to begin with — that’s the problem. And that’s on Scott.
The same Scott, by the way, who didn’t buy an available 153,200 acres of U.S. Sugar land, which would have given that water someplace else to go. Backing off that deal, in 2015, was a blow to Everglades restoration.
The list goes on. In 2011, Scott abolished the Department of Community Affairs, which protected the state from bad development and gave the environment a vote in land-use decisions. He slashed funding for land conservation under the Forever Florida program, and later enthusiastically joined in the Florida Legislature’s nickel-and-diming of Amendment 1, the wildly popular ballot measure that is supposed to be generating hundreds of millions of dollars each year for environmental protection.
Most egregiously, the governor of the state most endangered by sea-level rise allegedly barred the very mention of climate change (although the climate denier denies that, too).
In sum, Scott “has regularly put the wishes of corporate polluters above the needs of Florida’s environment and families,” states Kevin Curtis, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Coalition Action Fund.
“He’s sided with a fringe group of climate change deniers, defunded popular and bipartisan conservation programs, and undermined the enforcement of air, water and climate protections.”
This governor should not escape judgment for these past eight years. And any Floridian who cares about the environment — or simply gags from the stench of the algae blooms — should demand answers for such a putrid environmental record.
Any Floridian who cares about the environment — or simply gags from the stench of the algae blooms — should remember who has been in charge.
Gov. Rick Scott administration cut $700 million from water-management districts and crippled their ability to levy taxes.