With a large area of Florida imperiled by spreading toxic algae blooms, and as the death toll of marine life continues to mount at a staggering pace, State Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) on Friday called on Governor Rick Scott to immediately reverse his executive orders issued seven years ago which allowed unfettered deregulation of critical protections once safeguarding the state’s fragile environment.
“I call on you to take the first step in halting this unprecedented destruction by immediately reversing course on your orders to deregulate the environmental safeguards once in place,” wrote Senator Stewart in a letter delivered earlier today to Governor Rick Scott. “This massive and deadly algae bloom is not a sudden occurrence. It is the culmination of almost eight years of unleashed pollution into our waterways from a number of sources, which will take years to reverse. We cannot stop the poison already in the water, but we can take steps to stop the future destruction of our environment.”
Governor Scott issued his executive orders soon after taking office, which called for, among other things, the immediate suspension of all rulemaking by any of his agencies pending a review by the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform, which was established under his direct control. The office, in turn, was directed to examine whether any proposed and existing rules and regulations imposed “burdensome costs on businesses; and are justifiable when the overall cost-effectiveness and economic impact of the regulation…is considered.”
Governor Scott’s undermining of the environment didn’t stop there. He also dramatically cut the amount of funding dedicated to safeguarding the environment, stripping state oversight of local development while slashing budgets for the Department of Environmental Protection and local water management districts, and cutting critical regulatory staff including scientists.
Among the results was a nosedive in enforcement activity against Florida’s polluters and lax attitudes by the state government towards non-compliance.
“There are multiple players responsible for the damage we now see culminating in the horrible damage to our water and our sea life,” wrote Senator Stewart, who is traveling to South Florida to meet with those impacted by the deadly blooms and is examining legislative action to help reverse the destruction. “Whether it stemmed from agricultural runoff, leaking septic tanks, or irresponsible disposal of hazardous waste, none of it occurred in a vacuum. But all of it can be traced back to an executive decision that said anything goes in the name of making money.”