Tuesday, June 30, 2020

GOVERNOR SIGNS POLLUTERS’ WATERWAYS ACT: Why is DeSantis Ignoring Blue Green Algae Task Force Recommendations?

June 30, 2020
Contacts: Ryan Smart, Florida Springs Council, smarts421@gmail.com, 561-358-7191
David Cullen, Sierra Club, cullenasea@aol.com, 941-323-2404
Lisa Rinaman, St. Johns Riverkeeper, lisa@stjohnsriverkeeper.org, 904-509-3260

JUNO BEACH—Governor DeSantis surprised no one today when he signed the misnamed “Clean Waterways Act,” SB 712, after it was escorted to passage in both chambers of the state legislature by Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein. 

Florida Springs Council, Waterkeepers Florida, and Sierra Club urged legislators to “fix” SB 712 and provided pragmatic amendments to make the bill more protective of water quality, but what Governor DeSantis signed today is the result of weakening, over and over again, the language to fit the needs of the state’s biggest polluters.
On June 18, 2020, the organizations sent a side-by-side comparison of the provisions of SB 712 and the Blue Green Algae Task Force recommendations to the Governor so that he could see, in black and white, for himself, that the claims made by the bill supporters do not hold water.  
Ryan Smart, Florida Springs Council Executive Director, responded with:  “SB 712 will only make our water quality problems worse in the long run. It provides political cover for a Legislature and Governor that refuse to make the tough choices necessary to address this crisis. SB 712 does nothing to reduce nutrient pollution in Florida’s many impaired, algae-choked springs.” 

Dave Cullen, Sierra Club lobbyist said:  “SB 712 is all promise and no delivery.  It preserves the Florida status quo: pretend that the requirements in law are working when they’re not, and kick the can down the road.  The bill fails to require polluters to reduce the damage they cause our waters enough to bring them back to health.  And what little it promises is dependent on future funding (good luck with that the next few years), and new rules which will have to be ratified by the same legislature that refused to pass a law that would actually do something important.”
Jen Lomberk, Vice-Chair of Waterkeepers Florida, added:  “The Blue Green Algae Task Force identified some huge issues that desperately need to be addressed by our state water quality managers. Currently Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) fail to incorporate projected changes in land use and hydrology, and the presumption of compliance for Best Management Practices (BMPs) and stormwater systems is not supported by scientific data. SB 712 doesn’t fix any of these problems; it just doubles down on the same broken water regulatory system that got us into this mess in the first place.”
Cris Costello, Sierra Club Senior Organizing Manager said:  “If you are celebrating the signing of SB 712 today, you have either sold out to or been taken in by the state’s major polluters.  This is no victory for clean water and certainly no victory for the state.  When the Governor and legislature actually listen to the Blue Green Algae Task Force, rather than ignore it, we will have something to applaud.”

On February 3, the Florida Springs Council, Waterkeepers Florida, and Sierra Club sent a letter to Senator Mayfield and other legislators asking for 18 amendments to SB 712 that would address the most serious flaws of the bill.  On February 12, in response to public comments made by Chief Science Officer Thomas K. Frazer regarding the bill, the same groups sent a twelve-page letter to Frazer that included a full and documented explanation of the bill’s many failures.  Responses, both formal and informal, from Senator Mayfield, DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein, and the Chief Science Officer failed to refute any of our arguments and continue to blithely ignore the glaring inadequacies of this legislation.

June 18, 2020: Side-by-Side Comparison between the Blue Green Algae Task Force Recommendations and the Provisions of Senate Bill 712:

February 20, 2020: Photos from Senate Appropriations Committee:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1bDyqhqvCG1RGRPzGbuTPdCqNhXObevz6/view?usp=sharing