In the wake of a historic election cycle, Floridians are left wondering what will change in coming weeks, months and years for a state besieged by high unemployment and other, perhaps less publicized problems facing the state, like degrading wetlands and heavily polluted waters. What can we expect in the way of environmental policy from an all-GOP cabinet and legislature?
Newly elected Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam has been outspoken about his view that proposed EPA standards for how much waste can be dumped into Florida waters would be too costly to implement.
Governer-elect Rick Scott has also spoken out against the criteria. In a meeting with the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Scott told the board of directors that he would “not advocate anything that would keep [them] from doing business.”
From the association’s newsletter, The Harvester:
On EPA’s proposed numeric nutrient criteria for Florida waters, Scott said the federal government should not be dictating water quality standards. … Putnam referred to the unfairness of EPA’s proposed numeric nutrient criteria for Florida waterways, saying that they are not based on science and put North and Central Florida at a disadvantage with the rest of the country and with South Florida, where the standards will be delayed for a year. The EPA has since delayed implementation of the standards for 30 days.
Lately, pressure from industry heads and politicians has been somewhat effective; both the freshwater and saltwater criteria have been delayed already. But, according to Florida Department of Environmental Protection Press Officer Dee Ann Miller, Florida government officials can only go so far in their fight against the criteria.
“This is a federal rulemaking set pursuant to procedures by the Environmental Protection Agency,” she says. “Ultimately, the regulations are set by the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. As such, state government entities are not part of the official decision making process on the regulations. State government officials and organizations can comment (and have commented) on the regulation as part of EPA’s procedures.”
Environmental heads have already begun to make their stance on the midterm elections known. Kyle Ash, senior legislative representative for Greenpeace USA, issued a statement on the congressional elections:
Industry dollars have made a mockery of democracy in America, polluting not only our air, water and communities, but nearly every political campaign. Dirty energy magnates like the Koch brothers spent more of their fortunes, earned on the backs of American communities, to elect congressional candidates who will support their destructive profit motives. …
Although many Senators- and Representatives-elect have professed horrifying positions on the protection of endangered species, our national parks, and even basic rights of Americans to live in a clean environment, they have also maintained a commitment to fiscal responsibility. If these positions are genuine, the newly elected should slash the billions of taxpayer dollars wasted every year in subsidies for wealthy coal and oil companies like BP.
Ash also said that House Speaker-to-be John Boehner should be held accountable for implementing harsher standards on pollution, and that newly elected politicians in general need to practice what they preach:
In this election, we have repeatedly heard damaging rhetoric about fundamental environmental protections. Now is not the time for knee-jerk reactions on matters of such import and urgency to the health of our nation. No matter where it comes from, we need leadership to defend our environment from what are sure to be vicious industry attacks in the coming years.