This is quite an about face from Stearns, the only Republican in the Florida congressional delegation who voted a few months ago (2-18-11) against the Rooney Amendment to the House Continuing Budget Resolution. The Rooney amendment, rejected by the Senate, would have stopped EPA from enforcing the Clean Water Act in Florida. Here's what Stearns told the Florida Times Union at the time of his bold vote:
"I am very concerned about preserving the Silver River in my hometown [Ocala] as well as the Ocklawaha and the St. Johns rivers in my district...Although I don't want to see the EPA develop these burdensome and expensive regulations, I do want the EPA and the State of Florida to work together in developing an economical solution to protecting our waters."
Sierra Club praised Stearns for showing "significant courage, risking retaliation not only from the polluters' cabal and agricultural interests in his rural district in North Florida, but also from the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives which attached dozens of anti-environmental riders to the Continuing Resolution."
Fast forward to August 2 when Stearns announced his upcoming field hearing in Orlando. Stearns sang a different tune in his new press release:
“Although the EPA originally accepted the standards set by Florida, under outside pressure the EPA decided to impose its own standards; numerous studies in Florida indicate that the Washington-imposed standards will have a devastating impact on Florida’s job creation, economy, and certain agencies.”
It looks like the retaliation Sierra Club predicted was, indeed, too intense for Stearns. He caved to the pressure, and one can only wonder what did the trick. Was it campaign contributions, robo calls from the tea party or a threat from deep-pocketed polluters that they would find a serious opponent to run against him in the next election?
Click on "Read more" below for Stearns' announcement of his field hearing. It's clear he's now taking sides and no longer sees a role for EPA to make sure that Silver River, the St. John's River and the Ocklawaha River are cleaned up and protected.
- Frank Jackalone, Senior Organizing Manager, Sierra Club