Is no one standing up for water quality?

Posted on August 8, 2016 by Linda Young

Some people will do anything to win. Even cheat right out in front of everyone, knowing that they will be exposed. That’s what happened last week, right here in Florida. Brazen, unapologetic manipulation and cheating to serve the needs of a handful of politically powerful people.
We could likely all point our finger at several people who are guilty, but the one I’m talking about is our governor, Rick Scott. Mr. Scott has been weakening Florida’s water quality standards since he took office six years ago. Just as Jeb Bush did to a slightly lesser degree during his eight years in the Governor’s office. One of the major changes Scott has been trying to make for the past six years has to do with toxic chemicals that are dumped in Florida’s waters.
In my last column, I explained that the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC) was about to vote whether to allow Scott’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to increase the amount of 23 toxic chemicals that can be dumped on a daily basis — into our waters designated for water supplies, shellfishing, swimming and fishing. Eighteen of those chemicals are known carcinogens.
Three years ago, DEP tried to get approval from the ERC for almost the same bad idea and it was rejected. This time, our governor and his agency took no chances. Two of the seats on the seven-person commission are unfilled. Florida law requires that all of the major polluter sectors and ordinary lay people all have a representative on this panel that approves or disapproves major environmental regulations. The members are appointed by the Governor. So, instead of filling the empty seats which were reserved for an environmentalist and a local government person, Scott left them unfilled. A third position that was for a lay person was just filled in May. The person Scott picked, Craig Varn had just left his job at DEP as the top attorney for the whole agency. Not exactly an unbiased lay person.
So when DEP offered their pro-polluter regulation to the ERC, those empty seats were two votes that would likely have made a big difference in the outcome. Like I said though, our governor wanted to make sure that he didn’t fail to come through for his corporate friends. The three attorneys on the commission all voted for increasing toxics in our waters. The two scientists (one a retired brigadier general) voted against it. One of the attorneys is from Pensacola which sadly has some of the most contaminated water ways in the state. Ms. Walton voted for the new water quality criteria, which include for instance, limits on PCB’s which Escambia and Pensacola Bays have so much of that the mullet and crabs are not safe to eat for most people. If the new criteria are approved by the US EPA, the water quality criterion for PCBs will become two times higher than it is today.
That’s just one example of what this bad idea is about. Some 90 chemicals were either changed or became regulated for the first time in Florida. Everyone of them are set to be less protective of human health than the US EPA recommends. Newspapers across the state have been screaming about this, as have lots of local governments, politicians and thousands upon thousands of ordinary citizens who like to drink water, fish and swim.
Our governor has not offered any apologies for his new, less healthy policy nor for his blatant cheating to get this finally passed. It is probably a waste of time to complain to him. If you are offended by this you can contact the US EPA and share your thoughts with them. They get the final decision. The people to contact are: Annie Godfrey at and Betsy Southerland at