The Republican dominated Florida legislature has not responded to a crisis. Over 160 miles of Florida’s beautiful, once pristine coastline, is being destroyed by “Big Sugar”. The bottom line is, the coast is ruined because Republicans could care less about destroying the environment . . . as long as Florida’s sugar industry is protected.
According to Environmental News Service:
On Florida’s southeast coast, the St. Lucie River, its estuary, and the Indian River Lagoon are slimed with algae that grows from excess sewage, manure, and fertilizer runoff released locally and from Lake Okeechobee to the north. Most of the nutrient pollution entering Lake Okeechobee comes from tributaries in the northern Everglades that take runoff from the Everglades Agricultural Area, which grows most of the sugarcane in the United States.
This toxic waste coming from the sugar industry is dangerous to anyone who comes in contact with it. It’s like something from a horror movie. Environmental News Service further reports that, “Published scientific research has confirmed the widespread presence of a type of cyanotoxin linked to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s-like symptoms in Florida coastal waters, yet no testing for that cyanotoxin was performed by the DEP [Department of Environmental Protection].”
Members of environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the Florida Oceanographic Society, say state and federal officials have known about this for over 30 years. The sugar industry, while releasing toxic waste into the ground water, raised the St. Lucie River estuaries to highly toxic levels.
In 2008, before Governor Crist left office, he tried to negotiate a buy-out of U.S. Sugar Corporation land to the tune of $1.75 Billion dollars. The proposed agreement between the South Florida Water Management District and the United States Sugar Corporation involves the public purchase of nearly 300 square miles spanning four counties in South Florida.
The tragedy could have been prevented. Crist’s proposal was lauded by MyFlorida.com as a “Momentous Strategy”and by www.myfloridaclimate.com as a local cure for “Global Climate Change.” Apparently the Florida GOP felt it was more important that the proposal be used to stop Charlie Crist from becoming a U.S. Senator when he ran against Marco Rubio. The rest is history.
Recently, environmentalists have been arguing that “Big Sugar” should clean up the mess they have made in the Everglades these past decades. Beginning March 6, 2013, “One day into Florida’s legislative session,” reports the Sun Sentinel, “environmentalists and Big Sugar are already squaring off over proposed changes to Everglades restoration requirements.
However, the battle was short-lived. The Tampa Bay Times noted that, “Florida Legislators used a bill to change wetlands regulations to block a lawsuit against the state for approving two no-bid, 20-year lease agreements with sugar and vegetable farmers. The leases were challenged in court by the Florida Wildlife Federation, which alleges the leases allow the sugar growers to continue to farm without reducing their pollution levels.”
House bill 999 passed with the lease provision added to it. The bill changed environmental regulations and passed the House with a 106-10 vote and the Senate with a 39-1 vote. It was stripped of a provisions that “put a three-year ban on local fertilizer ordinances and a measure to prevent local governments from imposing local wetlands regulations.”
The end effect of HB 999 is the crises destroying the St. Lucie River estuaries. The GOP-controlled Florida Legislature, once again, sided with big business and failed to protect their constituency.
Richard Andrew is a guest blogger for Ring of Fire.