About Me

My photo
He started his career in the family real estate and hotel business in Florida from which his concern for the environment steered him in public life. He has served six Florida governors and two presidents in many positions, including terms as chairman of the Florida Department of Air and Water Pollution Control, and Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Beyond his government service, he helped found 1000 Friends of Florida and has served as both president and chairman of the board of the organization. He currently or has served on the boards of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Geographic Society, Yellowstone National Park, Everglades Foundation and Hope Rural School.

Monday, May 11, 2015

David Guest - Palm Beach Post - May 10, 2015

Commentary: Proposed bills entrust water protection to worst offenders

The toxic green slime that killed pelicans, dolphins, fish, and manatees in South Florida two summers ago is back, lurking in Lake Okeechobee, where, as we all know, it will likely spread to the coasts once the government starts releasing water to lower the lake’s level.

It is important to remember that Lake Okeechobee belongs to all of us. But our lake has become a private sewer for agricultural corporations. Instead of strengthening laws to keep agriculture’s polluted runoff out of our water, some politicians in Tallahassee are trying to rescind the currently required state pollution permits altogether. Their new scheme would replace permits with — incredibly — voluntary compliance.

This is like some bad dream, and it will be a forever nightmare for everyone who lives near the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, where the pollution flows to the coasts. We know this toxic algae kills wildlife and makes people and animals sick, causing flulike symptoms, skin lesions and respiratory problems. Why on earth would we make it easier for these polluters to dump this stuff on us?

This is a get-out-of-jail free card for polluters, and the public shouldn’t stand for it.

At Earthjustice, we have represented citizens groups for decades in legal battles against polluters, trying to require common-sense controls on the toxic slime that’s wrecking our natural areas. It is simply not right for one class of water users to pollute the resource for the rest of us, and then stick us with the cleanup bill.

The water policy legislation was near a vote in the Statehouse right before the House abruptly adjourned. The lobbyists for these big agricultural corporations created a world of double-speak to obscure the fact that they are trying to get away with no regulation. This wholesale destruction of the pollution permitting system was buried in a giant bill that included many other aspects of state water policy, including protections for our springs. It’s the old Tallahassee bait and switch.

Under the legislation, polluters would merely have to write a plan that says they are trying not to pollute — no more permits, a mere promise would be enough. The state admits that it has only a handful of inspectors available to check up on these voluntary pollution plans, and the inspectors would have to get special permission to come on-site to see whether the company is actually doing what it said it would do.

Give us a break! This is a recipe for more green slime in Lake Okeechobee, and more nauseating pollution and fish kills on the east and west coasts.

The Big Ag lobbyists will be in the front row when the Legislature reconvenes for its special session in June, trying to get this nefarious legislation passed in a hurry. We need to tell our legislators that we want them to protect our interests by stopping this political move to repeal water pollution permits. When you think of the heartbreaking images of dead pelicans, dolphins, fish and manatees we’ve witnessed in South Florida, think about what the Legislature should be doing to stop it. Instead of controlling pollution, these politicians are trying to legalize it.

We need to tell our legislators clearly and loudly: When our water is at stake, a polluter’s promise just isn’t good enough. The state simply has to be able to impose consequences when a polluter doesn’t comply with clean-water requirements.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Environmentalist Nat Reed Slams Rick Scott: "I'm Getting Scared About Our State"

By Jessica Weiss

Environmental activists say Amendment 1 must be implemented to protect the Everglades.
Environmental activists say Amendment 1 must be implemented to protect the Everglades.
Photo by Flickr user Eric Salard

Legendary Florida environmentalist Nathaniel Reed has added his voice to the chorus of disapproval of Florida's Legislature. He says the body's failure to enact key legislation — as the house quit early over a Medicaid funding fight — has made the state “the laughingstock of the country.”

Among the many bills that died as a result were laws to put into motion Amendment 1, which dedicates millions of dollars to acquire and restore conservation and recreation lands. “We’ve never had such a nonfunctioning legislature as we have now,” Reed tells New Times

Reed, who is now 81 years old, would know. He has served seven Florida governors and was assistant secretary of the interior for Fish & Wildlife and Parks in the Nixon and Ford administrations. He serves as chairman of the Commission on Florida's Environmental Future and sits on the board of directors of the Everglades Foundation.

Because of what many say are worrying trends in conservation across the state, 75 percent of Florida’s voters took matters into their own hands last year when they voted for Amendment 1, which would divert millions to Florida Forever, a fund for conservation land acquisition.
Amendment 1 is supposed to set aside about $750 million a year for land purchases to “keep drinking water clean, protect our rivers, lakes, and springs, restore natural treasures like the Everglades, and protect our beaches and shores — without any increase in taxes,” according to Florida’s Water and Land Legacy. No implementing legislation was required; the legislature simply needed to divvy up the funds.

Though environmental leaders had been preparing for cuts to the $750 million figure, they didn’t expect complete inaction in appropriations for the program.

Now, Reed says that progress made under the governorships of Bob Martinez, Bob Graham, Lawton Chiles, and Jeb Bush is being lost all too rapidly under the administration of Rick Scott — where “growth is God again.”

Reed stresses the critical importance of funding a range of projects, such as getting more fresh water to flow south to the Biscayne Aquifer, the vast basin beneath South Florida that supplies drinking water to a huge portion of the state’s population. Because of development projects in the path of the water’s flow, not enough fresh water is getting to the aquifer. As sea level continues to rise, the drinking water of South Florida’s 7 million people is at risk.

“The governor has said twice that water must go south, yet he hasn’t done a single thing to accelerate that process,” Reed says. “Our children are going to pay for it.”

Reed says we should all be worried about the “growth-at-all-costs” mindset of the current administration.

“To them, whatever green land is left is developable,” he says. “I’m getting scared about our state.”

Lawmakers still have a chance to address Amendment 1 funding during the special session of the legislature that will begin at some point this spring.