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Troubled Waters: Accountability


As Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, states in Troubled Waters, “No one’s being held accountable for their pollution. Agriculture’s getting off the hook. Industry’s getting off the hook. Our state government has basically opened up the doors to allow the polluters to come in and re-write the rules, and re-write the laws.”

An editorial from the Tampa Bay Times further elaborates on the state of environmental policy in Florida: "This is what Floridians have come to see under Scott's DEP — an agency that has worked hand in hand with the governor to dismantle the regional water boards, weaken clean water standards and second-guess the experts, local authorities and the science behind regulatory decisions. Former employees say the layoffs, and DEP's hiring of industry consultants into upper management ranks, reflect the Scott administration's interest in appeasing the development community."

Troubled Waters delves into numerous cases that highlight the influence of politics, lack of accountability and failure of our elected leaders to protect our waterways and environment.

Land and Water Legacy Amendment


In 2014, the Water and Land Conservation Amendment (aka Amendment 1) passed with a whopping 75 percent of the vote. The amendment was supposed to put aside nearly $10 billion in tax money over 20 years to be used for purchasing environmentally sensitive land and protecting water resources. Its title was clear: “Dedicates funds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands.”

However, the Florida Legislature has failed to follow through with its responsibility to follow the state constitution and the will of the voters. Instead of buying conservation land, the Legislature used the money to pay for existing employees and ordinary agency expenses at the Departments of Environmental Protection, State, Agriculture and Consumer Services, and at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

As a result, several environmental organizations, including St. Johns Riverkeeper, have been forced to take legal action to hold our elected officials accountable. Learn more.

More Carcinogens in Your Water

At a time when Florida’s waterways are suffering from pollution problems and toxic green sludge, our Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is proposing to increase the allowable limits of numerous toxic compounds that are discharged into our state’s waterways. Many of these chemicals are dangerous carcinogens.

To make matters worse, two of the seven Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC) seats were vacant – the environmental community and local government positions – when the ERC voted 3-2 to approve the proposed rule changes. One of those commissioners who voted to approve the revised criteria was Craig Varn, a “lay citizen” representative on the Commission. Varn was appointed to the ERC by Governor Scott in May 2016 after resigning as the Special Counsel on Water Policy and Legal Affairs for FDEP in April. Now, the criteria must go to the EPA for final approval. Learn more.

The Debacle in DeBary

The City of DeBary wanted the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) to transfer ownership of 102 acres of the Gemini Springs conservation property to the city. Instead of retaining it for conservation, city leaders were planning to use the property for a private development of 2,400 residential units and 258,000 square feet of non-residential space and a stormwater retention facility. The Chairman of the SJRWMD Governing Board, John Miklos, purportedly gave assurances to the DeBary officials that the deal would be approved. Miklos' company, Bio-Tec Consulting Inc., was working for the City to help acquire the required permits and approval from the SJRWMD and other regulatory agencies for the land transfer and proposed development project. Local residents and environmental groups fought back and won. Learn more.

Resources:
Forced Resignations Weaken Water Agency, St. Johns Riverkeeper

Special Report: Deregulation under Gov. Scott mars environment, newspaper investigation finds, TCPalm.com 5.16.15

Water district awash in secrecy, Sun Sentinel 9.17.15

Critics say budget cuts, hand-picked leaders have hurt water districts, Ocala Star-Banner 10.15.15

Bob Graham and Nathaniel Reed: Bad policies pose historic threats to Florida environment, Orlando Sentinel 1.30.13

Protecting Florida's polluters, Tampa Bay Times 1.4.13

State Failing to Protect Our Waterways, St. Johns Riverkeeper 

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