This letter was originally published 9.19.11 in the Daytona News-Journal Online at
It reflects growing concern being voiced by many which is certainly part of the reason for the CEO-governor’s low approval in recent polls. The worry is rightly focused on just how the reduced protection for our natural resources is ultimately, perhaps permanently, going to affect the future of our State and our children who will have to deal with the consequences.
It is dangerously shortsighted to allow the perhaps permanent loss of natural Florida in exchange for jobs that, in the long term, will not stay because Florida will no longer be an attractive place to work, live and raise children. Unfortunately, the ill-advised, inexperienced, uninformed, incuding our leaders in Tallahassee, aren’t listening … so far … but the drum beat is rising.
It is reprinted here with the permission of the author, James C Orth. Mr. Orth is the Executive Director, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER. (www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org)
Don't weaken environmental rules
By JIMMY ORTH, JacksonvilleSeptember 19, 2011 12:05 AMDespite the fact that most environmental regulations often provide economic benefits that far outweigh the costs, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and many of our state legislators are working to eliminate or weaken important safeguards that protect our natural resources and human health. Unfortunately, they also fail to acknowledge the significant economic impact from algae blooms and pollution that hurt businesses, cost jobs, impact human health, reduce property values and our tax base, and diminish recreational opportunities and our quality of life.Eliminating environmental safeguards -- ignoring costly pollution problems that threaten human health and hurt local communities -- is a radical proposition that will have devastating consequences for our state.These policy changes are also reflected in the budgets and priorities of the agencies charged with managing and protecting our natural resources, such as the St. Johns River Water Management District. The water management district has abandoned efforts to produce an updated water supply plan, once said to be an essential road map to the future. It has also eliminated or significantly cut back on water quality monitoring, research, and critical water conservation and restoration projects, and ended an important rulemaking process that would have established sensible water conservation requirements for permit applicants. Plans are now under way to expedite the permitting process, despite the fact that over-development has played a big role in our current economic problems. Less than a year ago, the SJRWMD was sounding the alarm that we are fast approaching the sustainable limits of the aquifer. However, the district recently issued an unprecedented consumptive use permit to JEA, Jacksonville's water and electrical utility, that could eventually result in a 40 percent increase in groundwater withdrawals by the utility.While our water management districts certainly had room for improvement, Scott and his colleagues are making matters worse, resulting in agencies that are less capable of managing and protecting our already imperiled water resources. Instead of stimulating our economy, they are enacting policy changes that are actually counter to the economic interests of our state and its citizens and do nothing to address the root causes of our economic woes.The bottom line is that our economic well-being is inextricably linked to how effectively we protect our environment and preserve our natural resources. Safeguarding our air, waters and natural lands is simply a prudent and wise economic investment in the future of our state and a more sensible and defensible approach to economic recovery.Orth is executive director of the St. Johns Riverkeeper organization.