Setting the Record Straight: Gainesville Sun Confuses Facts, Omits Information in Environmental Editorial

June 12, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Gainesville Sun recently ran an editorial entitled “Gutting the EPA.” The editorial left out information on the work the Department of Environmental Protection does to protect Florida’s natural resources. We’ll take this opportunity to Set the Record Straight.

First, here are some important facts the Gainesville Sun Editorial staff omitted from their narrative:

  • DEP is nationally recognized for its water quality restoration and protection programs, bringing cutting edge science and research to our environmental decisions to better protect our waterways. The State of Florida has used this science to take clear and decisive action and we have made the financial commitment to implement these efforts.
  • Over the last two years, Governor Scott has championed record funding for Florida’s springs, partnering with the state’s water management districts and local communities to leverage $35 million in grants into $106 million of projects. Last year alone, projects were funded to provide 36 million gallons of water per day back to aquifers and eliminate 2.7 million pounds per year of nutrient pollution from entering springs.
  • The investment by the State of Florida to complete projects under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan is $1 billion ahead of our federal partners which is intended to be a 50/50 cost-share effort.
  • Ahead of any federal rule, Florida’s power plants already have reduced their carbon emissions. Since 2005, they have reduced their carbon emissions rate by 23 percent, and 14 percent since 2010. These same plants have reduced other pollutant emissions by more than 75 percent over the last decade, and 37 percent since 2010. These are some of the lowest rates in the country.

Next, here are a few of the inaccurate and misleading claims made in the piece:

CLAIM: “Under Scott, Florida has slashed funding for environmental protection, water management and land conservation.”

FACT: Over the last two years, Governor Scott has championed record funding for Florida’s springs, partnering with the state’s water management districts and local communities to leverage $35 million of grant funding into $106 million in projects. Last year alone, projects were funded to provide 36 million gallons of water per day back to aquifers and eliminate 2.7 million pounds per year of nutrient pollution from entering springs.

In addition, the Governor’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2015-2016 recommends creating a dedicated source of funding for Florida springs that will provide more than$220 million over the next four years. When leveraged with local funds, this will create a total investment of half a billion dollars by the end of the Governor’s second term. The Governor’s proposed budget includes $50 million in Fiscal Year 2015-2016, and more than $1.6 billion over 20 years for springs restoration.

Since 2011, the state has delivered on a number of key Everglades issues. One of the major projects is Governor Rick Scott’s landmark water quality plan. The Governor’s $880 million plan was passed by unanimous bipartisan support in 2013 to ensure compliance with the state’s stringent criterion for phosphorus flows to the Everglades Protection Area.

Florida’s investment to complete projects under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan is $1 billion ahead of our federal partners — a plan that is intended to be a 50/50 cost-share effort.

CLAIM: “Yet, Scott fought greater limits on pollution . . .”

FACT: DEP is nationally recognized for its water quality restoration and protection programs, bringing cutting edge science and research to our environmental decisions to better protect our waterways. Florida has used this science to take clear and decisive action and we have made the financial commitment to implement these efforts. State-established numeric nutrient criteria, state-set water quality restoration goals and plans for our springs, state-set Minimum Flows and Levels for our springs, and state fully funded Everglades restoration are but a few areas that clearly demonstrate our state-led efforts often surpass those of the federal government.

Florida not only compares well with federal programs, but other states’ programs as well. Thirty percent of the nation’s water quality data comes from Florida – that’s more than double the next highest state. This data and the expertise of our word-class scientists allowed the department to develop the nation’s most comprehensive rules controlling nutrient pollution, which the EPA approved. Florida is one of only four states nationwide to establish these standards.

Based on this same data and science, the department adopted regulatory goals (TMDLs) for all priority springs and the first springs-related restoration plan, or Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP), for the Santa Fe River basin in February 2012, which encompasses 81 springs. Another nine BMAPs are under development for Jackson Blue, Kings Bay, Rainbow, Silver, Suwannee, Volusia Blue, Wakulla, Weeki Wachee, and Wekiva spring systems, a total of more than 300 additional springs. These restoration plans identify the projects and strategies to reduce pollution or eliminate pollutant sources. Under the leadership of Governor Rick Scott, the department has also been able to secure unprecedented levels of funding specifically to implement the projects necessary to restore the state’s impaired springs.

Additionally, since 2011, the department, with the state’s five water management districts, has set 27 Minimum Flows and Levels (MFLs) for springs, which is almost three times the number set from 2007 – 2010. These MFLs are established to protect springs and other water resources from significant harm that might result if not enough water is reserved for the natural systems.

CLAIM: “In the absence of state action, the EPA has developed regulations to cut carbon emissions from power plants and other sources. The rules give states the power to develop their own plans to reduce emissions, but Florida has so far sat on its hands.”

FACT: Floridians breathe some of the cleanest air in the country. In fact, emissions in Florida continue to decline, and are the lowest on state record. Florida’s power plants have reduced their emissions by more than 75 percent over the last decade, and 37 percent since 2010.

Ahead of any federal rule, Florida’s power plants also substantially reduced their carbon emissions.  They have reduced their carbon emissions rate by 23 percent since 2005, and 14 percent since 2010. Although EPA has proposed regulations to cut carbon emissions from power plants, it has not finalized them. All of the emissions reductions already realized in Florida have happened without this federal rule. Once the EPA rule is final, DEP will review and consider the next best steps for Florida.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s principal environmental agency, created to protect, conserve and manage Florida’s environment and natural resources. The department enforces federal and state environmental laws, protects Florida’s air and water quality, cleans up pollution, regulates solid waste management, promotes pollution prevention and acquires environmentally sensitive lands for preservation. The agency also maintains a statewide system of parks, trails and aquatic preserves. To view the department’s website log on to http://www.dep.state.fl.us.

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