In My Opinion

Muddying the waters far from home

 

chiaasen@MiamiHerald.com

Your tax dollars hard at work:

The state of Florida has joined a lawsuit aimed at blocking a massive cleanup plan for Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay.

And, no, you can’t make this stuff up.

Last week, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a brief — paid for with your taxes — attacking the legality of the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint.

The plan was devised by six bay area states, the District of Columbia and the federal government. Its mission is to improve water quality in the rivers, streams and estuaries of the Chesapeake region.

A federal judge upheld the terms of the so-called blueprint, which will limit the amount of pollution being dumped, but the ruling is being appealed.

Why would the state of Florida try to obstruct the cleanup of public waters hundreds of miles away from our own? Because Bondi and Gov. Rick Scott are complete tools.

They aren’t suing on behalf of the citizens of Florida; they’re suing on behalf of big agricultural and development interests that don’t want the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency enforcing clean-water laws anywhere.

Among the lobby groups trying to dismantle the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint are the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Home Builders and those famously civic-minded folks at the Fertilizer Institute. They want us to trust them to regulate their own pollution, and to hell with the EPA.

Quietly these industries recruited Florida and 20 other states — most led by Republican governors, of course — to join the lawsuit attacking the Chesapeake Bay plan. Among the other shameless meddlers are Kansas, Alaska and Indiana.

“To say we are outraged is a vast understatement,” said Will Baker, president of the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “We find it almost beyond belief for any state outside of the Chesapeake Bay watershed to try to sue to stop us from cleaning up our waters. What are they afraid of if we have clean water in the Chesapeake Bay?”

Here in Florida, Bondi and Scott didn’t hold a press conference to announce they were joining the Chesapeake litigation. In fact, they’d be much happier if nobody knew about it except the special interests for whom they’re pimping.

Imagine the widespread anger down here if the state of Maryland or Pennsylvania sued to halt Everglades restoration. That’s how people up there feel about what we’re doing to them.

There’s a perverse irony in the fact that the Scott administration is spending public dollars to defend polluters up North while our own most precious waterways are being poisoned.

Fertilizer runoff from lawns and other pollution has killed thousands of acres of sea grass in the Indian River Lagoon, and it’s the prime suspect in a steep rise in deaths of manatees and bottle-nosed dolphins.

The rapid decline in water quality poses a serious threat to the marine-based economy of the Treasure Coast, affecting everything from boat sales to riverfront real estate. Residents have protested, organized and begged for help from Scott and the Legislature.

Meanwhile, whenever it gets rainy, the Army Corps of Engineers continues to pump fertilizer-laden water from Lake Okeechobee eastward down the St. Lucie River toward the Atlantic Ocean, and westward down the Caloosahatchee to the Gulf of Mexico.

The people living around Stuart dread the dense algae blooms that suffocate the oysters and drive away sea life whenever that scummy green-black torrent from Lake O arrives. It’s a catastrophic violation of the federal Clean Water Act, committed by a federal agency on a seasonal basis.

Instead of suing the Corps to halt the dumping, Scott and Bondi are wasting Florida’s legal budget fighting faraway projects like the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint, which is actually a model of sensible cooperation between the states and the feds.

Scott and Bondi don’t care. Both are up for re-election this year, and are banking on hefty donations from developers and Big Agriculture. That’s the only reason they stuck their noses into this lawsuit.

A vote for either one of them is basically a vote for the Fertilizer Institute. Remember that in November.

In the meantime, speaking for all other Floridians, I’d like to apologize to the concerned citizens of Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware and Washington, D.C.

We had nothing to do with this ridiculous lawsuit. We know first-hand the terrible impact of water pollution, and we truly want your Chesapeake Bay to be clean.

Pay no attention to our clueless governor and attorney general. We try not to.

Read more Carl Hiaasen stories from the Miami Herald

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