Sunset picture. Credit: Julie Hauserman
Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis released his environmental platform Wednesday, and long-time environmental leaders took a look and found it wanting.
DeSantis comes out strongly on two issues near and dear to Florida environmentalists: He says he’s against fracking and offshore oil drilling along Florida’s coastline, saying in a statement: “Starting day one, DeSantis will utilize his unique relationship with President Trump and his administration to ensure that oil drilling never occurs off Florida’s coastlines.”
Trump has proposed a dramatic plan that would open nearly all U.S. waters to drilling rigs. Florida has an existing ban through 2020 on offshore drilling in the Gulf, and military officials have long warned that allowing oil rigs could would compromise the security of coastal bases. Lobbyists for the petroleum industry are pushing to allow oil exploration along the Atlantic coast.
DeSantis’s other promises on water and land conservation would continue environmental policies that are already in place under Gov. Rick Scott, such as the long-running federal-state financial partnership to restore the Everglades. DeSantis notes that his friendship with Donald Trump will also help on that.
DeSantis says he wants to promote another policy that’s proven controversial – relying more on treated sewage water to meet the state’s water supply demand. He doesn’t mention water conservation measures.
He also says he wants to continue the government’s plan to build a huge South Florida reservoir and pump Lake Okeechobee water that’s polluted by sewage, fertilizer, and manure into it for storage. The idea is to stop the polluted water from flowing down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers to the east and west coasts, where it has turned rivers fluorescent green, wrecked tourism and property values, and spurred on massive sea life die-offs that are making headlines worldwide.
In Congress – where he represented the Jacksonville area – DeSantis opposed federal subsidies for South Florida’s sugar growers, breaking ranks with some of his colleagues. The subsidies to prop up prices for sugar crops still remain in place – at the same time, taxpayers are forking over billions to pay to clean up agricultural pollution that’s fouled the Everglades.
DeSantis’ platform doesn’t address how he views alternative energy sources like wind and solar, and the gubernatorial candidate did not mention the state’s wildlife.
DeSantis proposes putting more scientists on the case to study red tide outbreaks, pledges to come up with another state plan to protect Florida’s beleaguered fresh water springs, and, without mentioning the words “climate change,” promises to “work with local governments to prioritize sustainable growth and flood mitigation efforts and rising sea levels in South Florida.”
Missing from the plan, according to state environmental advocates, is any sort of strategy to cut pollution spewing out of industrial facilities and huge agricultural operations. Also not mentioned are solutions to the massive problem of septic tank pollution fouling the state’s underground freshwater supplies, or any plan to restore the huge funding cuts Scott made that have hobbled the state’s environmental agencies.
“These are the same policies from Rick Scott which caused the algae crisis,” charged David Guest, an attorney who has litigated Florida environmental cases for more than three decades.
Aliki Moncrief, executive director of the League of Conservation Voters, said her organization has endorsed DeSantis’s opponent Democrat Andrew Gillum. Of DeSantis’s environmental platform, she said:
“It almost reads like he’s applying for a branch manager for the branch of the Trump administration,” Moncrief said. “I mean, it’s like he’s rearranging the furniture while the house is burning down, and that’s just not good enough.”
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