Nelson: EPA nominee’s ties to oil industry are threat to Florida

Feb 16 • 532 Views • View Comments

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U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) took to the Senate floor today to announce that he will be voting against the Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s nomination to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

Nelson, a long-time opponent of allowing oil rigs too close to Florida’s coast, says that the nominee’s close to ties to the oil industry are a real threat to Florida’s environment and tourism-driven economy.

“Ever since I was a young congressman, I have been fighting to keep oil rigs off the coast of Florida,” he said. “And an EPA administrator with such close ties to the oil industry is deeply concerning for the people of Florida.”

Pruitt’s past campaigns and the PACs that support him have received over $200,000 from energy industry companies and employees since 2010.

Last week, more than 400 former EPA employees sent a joint letter to Congress urging senators to reject Pruitt’s nomination to run the agency.

“Floridians can’t afford such a risk and they shouldn’t be forced to take this risk, and therefore, I will vote no on Mr. Pruitt’s nomination to be EPA administrator,” Nelson concluded.

Below is a transcript and here’s a link to watch video of Nelson’s remarks on the Senate floor today:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson
Remarks on the Senate Floor
February 16, 2017

Sen. Nelson: Mr. President, I want to speak about this nomination from the standpoint of our state, our state of Florida, because we’re famous for sugary white beaches, fertile fishing grounds and unique environmental treasures, such as the Florida Everglades.

This precious natural resource and resources, it needs our protection and our stewardship. In fact, Florida’s multibillion-dollar tourism industry is driven by the fact that people come to our state to enjoy these kinds of environmental treasures.

I’ve just come from a meeting of our American Hotel, Motel and Lodging Association with multibillions of dollars of investment all over Florida. Well, what happens if the guests don’t come? That’s a major investment that is lost.

And, oh by the way, a few years ago during the BP oil spill where the oil only got on as far east from Louisiana as Pensacola Beach and some oil in Choctawhatchee Bay and Destin and some tar balls as far east as Panama City Beach, but not any farther. And, yet, the visitors didn’t come because they thought the beaches were covered with oil.

Well, right now Florida’s unique environment is threatened by several environmental challenges from the threat of fracking in this honeycomb of limestone filled with fresh water that supports the peninsula of Florida, to algae blooms that have plagued much of Florida’s Treasure Coast this last year, to the red tide in the Tampa Bay area, and to Burmese pythons in the Everglades. And that’s just a little bitty partial list of the plagues.

So to deal with these challenges, states such as ours depend on the EPA as a back stop.

Mr. President, I’m here to express my concerns for the president’s pick to lead this agency.

It’s been well documented that the president’s pick is a friend of the oil industry. There’s nothing wrong with that, but this is an industry that has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions to Mr. Pruitt and the PACs supporting him over the years.

Mr. President, ever since I was a young congressman, I have been fighting to keep oil rigs off the coast of Florida. In the first place, there’s not a lot of oil out there. But Florida’s unique environment, from what I just told you about, the BP oil spill, its tourism driven economy and, oh by the way, the largest testing and training area for the United States Military in the world, the gulf of Mexico off of Florida, as well as all of the testing ranges on the east coast and how about rockets coming out of the Cape Canaveral Air Force station and rockets coming out of the Kennedy Space Center.

All of those — you can’t have oil rigs down there. It makes Florida incompatible for all of those reasons with offshore oil drilling. And an EPA administrator with such close ties to the oil industry is deeply concerning for the people of Florida.

But, Mr. Pruitt’s ties to big oil aren’t the only concern that we have in Florida. During his confirmation hearing, Mr. Pruitt said he believes that his views on climate change are immaterial to the job of the EPA administrator. Whoa! EPA administrator is directly involved in things that involve climate change. I can’t think of a more relevant issue for our EPA administrator to be concerned because Florida is ground zero when it comes to the effects of sea-level rise. And this is not projections. This is not forecasts. This is measurements over the last 40 years in south Florida — the sea has risen five to eight inches.

And, oh, by the way, where is three-quarters of the population of Florida? It’s along the coast. We’re already seeing regular flooding at the mean high tide in the streets of Miami Beach and they are spending millions on infrastructure in order to get those pumps working to get the water off the street, raising the level of the streets. And we’re seeing the saltwater, which is heavier than fresh water seep into what I described supports the peninsula of Florida, a honeycomb of limestone filled with freshwater and the seawater is seeping into the fresh water. Cities are having to move their city well field further to the west because of saltwater intrusion and it only gets worse.

The threat Floridians face every day is a result of this sea-level rise is very real. And it’s critical that we have an EPA administrator that understands there are things that are happening because of climate change. It’s not immaterial to the job of the EPA administrator. It’s very relevant.

Mr. President, Mr. Pruitt’s history of questioning science, especially when the facts conflict with his friends that he surrounds himself with about the effects of science. So whether it’s protecting Florida’s livestock from deadly parasites or protecting the air we breathe, science informs policy decisions that affects all of us. Clean water. Clean air. It affects public health to national security to the environment.

Yet we continue to see troubling reports about scientists being muzzled from the state level all the way up to the federal level and the EPA so it just seems that this is unacceptable. Our scientists should be freed to publish scientific data and not be muzzled. They should be able to publish their reports without fear of losing their jobs or to be censored for using phrases like climate change.

And that’s why I recently sponsored legislation to protect our scientists from political interference. The Scientific Integrity Act would ensure that federal scientists can communicate their findings with the public. It requires federal agencies to implement and enforce scientific integrity policies and ensure that procedures are in place so that if those policies are violated, it is known and there’s a procedure to deal with that.

So I just conclude, Mr. President, by saying Floridians and our state of Florida can’t risk the health of our environment or our economy on an EPA administrator who pals around with folks that do all of what I talked about, that questions our scientists or denies the true threat that we face from sea-level rise and climate change. Floridians can’t afford such a risk and they shouldn’t be forced to take this risk, and therefore, I will vote no on Mr. Pruitt’s nomination to be EPA administrator.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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