Tuesday, June 30, 2020


For Immediate Release                                     
June 29, 2020
Contact: Deborah Foote, 850.727.4039, deborah.foote@sierraclub.org


TALLAHASSEE, FL. (June 39, 2020)- When it comes to home rule, Governor DeSantis seems conflicted. On one hand, he delegates authority to deal with a pandemic outbreak to counties and to decide on school reopenings to local school districts. But when it comes to protecting Florida’s Coral Reef, he sides with corporate interests, despite the millions of taxpayer dollars spent on reef preservation and restoration.

By signing Senate Bill 172, Governor DeSantis harms home rule, strips Key West of its reef protection sunscreen ordinance, and jeopardizes one of Florida’s most precious and unique natural resources.

This action is directly contrary to Florida’s Coral Reef, a new awareness campaign and website created by the Governor's Florida Department of Environmental Protection and twenty-five partner organizations, including NOAA, Florida State Parks, the Coral Restoration Foundation, and others. The website urges the public to “Check sunscreen active ingredients. Some chemicals commonly found in popular sunscreens have been shown to negatively impact marine life.” This message is reflective of a widely accepted body of science which shows oxybenzone and octinoxate damage the health and reproduction of coral reefs. Alternatives to these chemical sunscreens are affordable, effective, and widely available.

SB 172 is a direct attack on home rule and the City of Key West’s coral reef protection ordinance. Coral reefs in southeast Florida have an asset value of $8.5 billion, generating $4.4 billion in local sales, $2 billion in local income, and 70,400 full and part-time jobs. They also are imperiled.

“When the state should be doing it all it can to protect this valuable natural and economic resource, the Governor has done the opposite. Apparently local governments can be trusted to manage the pandemic response, but not to keep harmful sunscreen off of store shelves. Where is the logic in that?” Deborah Foote, Sierra Club.

“SB 172 is yet another example of the legislature forcing a one size fits none solution for Florida communities. Rather than taking a stand for local control and environmental protection, the Florida Legislature and Governor DeSantis have stripped Floridians of the ability to protect one of the state’s most precious ecological and economic assets, the Florida Reef Tract.” Holly Parker Curry, Surfrider Foundation.

“Local democracy is critical to the health, safety, and prosperity of our communities. Floridians must have the power to craft and implement our own local solutions. On SB 172, Governor DeSantis had a choice. He could stand with the communities who are working to protect their cherished coral reefs and their local economy, or with the greedy corporations who value their profits over the environment. By signing this bill into law, he stood with the latter.” Ida V. Eskamani, of Organize Florida