Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Gold Standard

Judge Alan Gold’s bold plan to save the Everglades: ‘Make it so.’

Judge Alan Gold, 66, meant business when he ordered Environmental Protection Administration Administrator Lisa Jackson to his courtroom in Miami. He wanted her to fly down from DC to explain what he called the “glacial delay” in cleaning up Phosphorus in the Everglades. It was a bold, if theatrical, move that got people’s attention. Gold knows that despite decades of promises, the state and federal governments wouldn’t save the Everglades unless an alligator was nipping at them. Enter Gold. While the appeals court ruled that Jackson didn’t need to book a flight to Miami, her agency did comply with Gold’s order to release its plan.

The EPA’s blueprint calls for expanding the 60,000 acres of Stormwater Treatment Areas, shallow plant beds that suck up Phosphorus, by another 42,000 acres by 2020. The land would come from
what the state already owns and some from the recent U.S. Sugar deal. (Note to Governor-elect Rick Scott: Don’t sell any land.)

The EPA called their plan “thoughtful and science-based.”

The environmentalists said it wasn’t enough.

And State water managers were so angry with being stuck with a $1.5 billion bill, they held a press conference accusing Gold of “interfering” with their careful intergovernmental negotiations.

Time’s Up!

The truth is that the only metric that matters is how much of the low-phosphorus Everglades is disappearing daily because of nutrient overload. More than 100,000 acres Everglades is covered in cattails, the nutrient-loving plant that turns its wetlands into virtual dead zones. The Loxahatchee National Wildlife refuge has become a refuge as much for polluters as for wildlife. If state and federal policy makers are really concerned about protecting taxpayers, then they should be more aggressive about making the polluters pay for the damage they’ve caused. As the major phosphorus contributors, Big Sugar and the Kissimmee River cattle ranches are the major phosphorous contributors and thus major destroyers of the Everglades with governments acting as enablers and colluders. It’s time that Government get to work to end the dumping of Phosphorus and force polluters to pay for the efficient, natural removal of the remainder.

Judge Gold’s vigor to save the Everglades sounds a lot like another famous Everglades adjudicator, Judge William Hoeveler, prematurely thrown off of a similar Phosphorus case several years ago for speaking to the press (Note to Gold: please don’t press the comment button.)

Gold has announced he’s going to retire in January although serve with “senior status.” While we don’t think that means he’ll be letting go of the Everglades case, it is clear that he is running out of patience. And so are we.

-- Jonathan Ullman, South Florida/Everglades Senior Organizer