Friday, September 14, 2018

Dissecting Ron DeSantis’ Environmental Plan and Abysmal Voting Record

Sierra Club Dissects Ron DeSantis’ Environmental Plan and Abysmal Voting Record in Congress

Earlier this week, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis released his environmental plan for Florida. Below is a brief overview of DeSantis’ plan and votes he’s taken that are in stark contrast to what he now proposes.

Sierra Club Florida Director Frank Jackalone released the following response:

“Ron DeSantis’ environmental plan for Florida is filled with empty promises, few facts, and fewer details, and he omits any reference to climate change, clean energy, or the State’s desperate need to manage growth again.  DeSantis’ plan attempts to greenwash his abysmal record voting against the environment 98% of the time in his three terms as a Member of Congress.  Floridians won’t support someone with DeSantis’ record for governor, which is why he’s so desperately trying to change his tune.”

A Close Look at Ron DeSantis’ Environmental Plan for Florida:

NOT ADDRESSED:  Climate Change, Clean Energy, and Growth Management - Missing from Ron DeSantis’ “plan to protect Florida’s environment” is a goal to combat climate change and transition Florida from dirty coal, oil and gas to clean renewable energy, especially our unlimited supply of solar energy in the sunshine state.   Also missing is a goal to restore State growth management in Florida and to put an end to Rick Scott’s deadly plan to create several new growth corridors in Florida that would double Florida’s population, eliminate wildlife habitat, and threaten our water supply.   Those omissions tells us that DeSantis would continue Rick Scott’s policies over the last 8 years that ignored climate change, failed to tap the State’s solar energy potential, and set the stage for rampant development in the remaining rural areas of the State.

Southern Storage and Everglades Restoration – DeSantis embraces The EAA “Southern Storage” Reservoir plan as the centerpiece of Everglades Restoration and stopping the discharges of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee to the Indian River Lagoon and the Gulf of Mexico.  Yet DeSantis fails to point out that the Reservoir is poorly designed and, according to the South Water Management District, will take 10 years to build. That won’t provide quick relief to coastal communities like Fort Myers and Stuart!   He’s embracing the watered-down, expensive, and problematic version of the EAA Reservoir that Governor Scott and the Water Management District designed.  At 23 feet high, the Reservoir would be deeper than Lake Okeechobee and a potential engineering nightmare.  Also, the Reservoir won’t provide clean water to the Everglades unless the State commits to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on something needed but not in Rick Scott’s plan:  the purchase of tens of thousands of acres of sugar land to create additional wetlands to clean the dirty water stored in the reservoir before it is released to the Everglades.

Additional Bridging for Tamiami Trail -   DeSantis pays homage to Everglades restoration by endorsing additional bridging of Tamiami Trail.  However, he’s Johnny Come Lately on this one.  Every decision maker of importance in Florida supports additional bridging for Tamiami Trail.   DeSantis is making a campaign promise out of something that is already a done deal.

Enforcement of Water Quality Standards – DeSantis creates a bogus issue by saying that the limited powers on clean water standard regulation controlled by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) needs to be shifted to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  That diverts discussion away from the main problem:  Florida DEP isn’t doing enough to enforce the Clean Water Act in Florida.  DEP has the job of setting limits for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution of Florida’s waters, not DACS.  Why isn’t DeSantis talking about the need to restore DEP’s enforcement funds and powers that Rick Scott took away?

Oil Drilling Off Florida’s Coast – DeSantis says that he will use his “unique” relationship with President Trump to ensure that oil drilling never occurs off Florida’s coast.   We are troubled that DeSantis is being vague here. Where does “off Florida’s coast” begin?  5 miles out from the beach?  10 miles out? 100 miles out?  Right now, drilling is prohibited 225 miles from Florida’s Gulf beaches and the oil industry is seeking to move drilling 100 miles closer to them.   That would still be 125 miles away from Florida’s coast and it would put Florida’s beaches and tourism industry at grave risk from being covered with globs of oil and tar mats after another spill like the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster. Would DeSantis oppose any new drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico even if it’s not right “off Florida’s coast?”  He doesn’t say.

Red Tide – DeSantis says he’ll put together a blue ribbon panel and ask them to study the causes of red tide.   We think this is a waste of time and money because red Tide and other harmful algae blooms have been studied to death.  Scientists, government officials, and the public know that the best way to reduce the severity and size of red tide and other algae blooms is to end discharges from Lake Okeechobee, and stop the fertilizer, sewage, septic tank, and manure pollution that gets dumped into Florida’s waters all over the state.  Florida’s crippled coastal tourism industry can’t wait several years for more studies to be completed.

Beach Restoration – DeSantis says he will find innovative technologies and funding opportunities to combat beach erosion.  This is nonsense.   You can’t stop beach erosion without reversing the climate change which is causing sea level rise and more frequent and stronger hurricanes.  Of course, he could borrow a page from Donald Trump’s playbook and build a massive seawall around the whole state of Florida at an unspeakable cost; but nobody would want to live or visit here if DeSantis did that.  If he’s talking about beach renourishment, that’s a losing strategy. As seas rise and stronger hurricanes strike, the new sand will quickly wash away each year until rising seas overtake Florida’s barrier islands and coastal cities.

Rising Seas – Curiously, DeSantis promises to single out South Florida as the place he wants to make resilient from rising seas.   What about the rest of the state?  Rising Seas affect all of Florida, not just South Florida.  DeSantis would prioritize flood mitigation efforts, and stays silent in his new plan about taking State action to address the climate change that produces the sea level rise, increased heat, ocean acidification, and stronger hurricanes that threaten to make Florida unlivable.  However, just last month on a campaign stop in Englewood, “DeSantis argued climate change is not a problem state government can help mitigate…and seemed to question whether climate change and rising seas are caused by human activity,” according to the Sarasota Herald Tribune (  DeSantis sounds exactly like Rick Scott and Donald Trump, and that means continued inaction to save our coasts from rising seas.

Water Supply – DeSantis wants to protect Florida’s water supply from over-pumping, contamination, and salt water intrusion.  The goals are important, but his solutions don’t do enough to address those problems.  While using reclaimed water is a necessity, the bigger problem is increasing water withdrawals from urban sprawl.   We won’t stop over-pumping of our water resources unless the State restores growth management and limits new consumptive use water permits.  The main contamination problem is nutrient pollution and DeSantis fails to discuss what he would do to stop pollution at its source.  Finally, saltwater intrusion is caused by rising sea levels; it’s a losing battle in a few decades if we don’t convert to clean energy and combat climate change now.

Fracking Ban – We’re happy to see that DeSantis has joined Mayor Gillum and a majority of the Florida State Senate in supporting a ban of fracking in Florida.  We will note that he neglects to use the words “oil” and “gas” in his statement and we hope that his intention is to ban fracking for both.

Florida’s Springs – DeSantis wants to “continue the legacy of restoring and protecting Florida’s springs.”  We have to ask, what legacy?  Florida’s springs have been in continuous decline due to over-pumping, development, and nutrient pollution.  The “legacy” has been one of abuse and destruction of our springs.  He says he will work with all stakeholders to develop a comprehensive program to reduce nitrogen pollution of Florida’s Springs.   That’s great, but we would like to know what he would do beyond convening a few conference calls.

Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment (Amendment 1) - DeSantis says that he would use Amendment 1 dollars not just for purchasing and managing new conservation lands, but also for various existing projects including “…water quality, beach restoration, and conservation of state parks.”  It sounds like he’s siding with the Legislature in its appeal of the Florida Circuit Court ruling that said voters intent was to use Amendment 1 funds exclusively for new land conservation purchases and management of those lands.  If DeSantis sides with the Legislature in its attempt to overturn the Court decision, it would be bad news for future land conservation efforts in Florida.

Clean Air – DeSantis claims that Florida has some of the cleanest air in the country and he would work to keep it that way.   He neglects to mention that Florida has several trouble spots that need help from the State.  EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee reports that several Florida communities such as Tampa Bay, Orlando, and Pensacola have many days a year of unhealthy air.  Hillsborough County this year got an “F” from the American Lung Association for dangerous ozone levels.  Additionally, for six months each year many communities in central and south Florida get blasted by smoke and ash that winds blow in following the massive daily burning of sugar cane fields.

Sierra Club’s Analysis of Ron DeSantis’ Environmental Record in Congress:

Environmental Record:
       LCV Score (Link):
      Lifetime: 2%
      2017: 3%

Key Votes and Issues:

       Protecting Beaches/Oceans:
      Voted Yes on H.R. 200: Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act (Link)
      Undermines successful fisheries management and the science-based conservation tools that prevent overfishing
       Attacks on EPA
      Voted Yes on H.R. 1431, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2017
      This bill would undermine the ability of the Science Advisory Board to provide independent, objective, and credible scientific advice to the EPA. All industries to prolong the scientific review process.
      Voted Yes on amendment to H.R. 3354, Dept. of Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2018
      This amendment would reduce the EPA’s budget by approximately $1.9 billion, weakening the agency’s ability to enforce clean air, clean water, and public health safeguards.
       Clean Water/Supply of Water:
      Voted Yes on H.R. 953, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2017.
      This bill would eliminate Clean Water Act safeguards that protect communities from toxic pesticide exposure that occurs when pesticides are discharged directly into bodies of water without any meaningful oversight or public transparency. While this legislation has been framed as a response to the Zika and West Nile viruses, it is simply a handout to pesticide manufacturers and other corporate interests, and it is unnecessary in addressing the Zika virus or other mosquito-borne health threats.
      Voted Yes on H.R. 1654: The Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act
      This bill would undercut the process to conduct and environmental review and public input on water projects in the West. This bill additionally undermines NEPA, and allows the fast-tracking of project proposals without extensive environmental impact assessments.
      Voted Yes on amendment to H.R. 4923: The Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015
      This amendment would repeal provisions in the Clean Water Act that establish limited exemptions for discharge from farming practices.
       Clean Air:
      Voted Yes H.R. 1119: Satisfying Energy Needs and Saving the Environment
      This bill would exempt waste coal burning power plants from meeting certain clean air standards, including undoing limits on hydrogen chloride and sulfur dioxide, causes of respiratory issues.
       Protecting State Lands, Parks, Springs, and Air:
      Voted No on amendment to H.R. 3354, Dept. of Interior, Environment, and other Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2018.
      This amendment would prevent  federal public lands from being transferred to private owners  in violation of existing laws
       Banning Fracking in the State of Florida:
      Voted Yes on H.R. 2728, the Protecting States' Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act.
      This bill would prohibit the federal government from setting baseline protections from fracking if a state has even minimal, unenforceable guidelines in place. The bill would place fracking oversight under a patchwork of inadequate state regulations and also delay the Environmental Protection Agency’s congressionally mandated study on the impacts of fracking on drinking water, keeping important information on contamination away from families living near oil and gas drilling operations.
      Voted Yes 2231 Offshore Energy and Jobs Act
      This bill would expand offshore drilling production off the coasts of South Carolina, Virginia, California, and Alaska’s Bristol Bay
      Voted No on amendment to H.R. 2231: Offshore Energy and Jobs Act.
      This amendment would have permitted states (including Florida) to prohibit  drilling within its boundaries. (Link)
       Climate Change:
      Voted Yes on H.Con.Res.119 which expresses a resolution stating Congress believes a carbon tax would be harmful to U.S. economy

Paid electioneering communication paid for by Sierra Club Florida Political Action Committee, 1990 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL 33712