Florida — you blew it in the primaries but you should still vote for these candidates and this is why

The day after the Florida primaries (August 30th of this year), I cussed a lot. I was really mad at Florida. Florida blew it. They had made their bed so they could sleep in it. But then I thought what any person raised in the Catholic Church would think — maybe this was our fault, the tree huggers and fish lovers. Maybe it was my fault. Maybe I didn’t explain it well enough. Maybe people just didn’t have the time, they followed the crowd that mostly doesn’t vote in primaries. Maybe most people think that the big ticket items — the president — will have the biggest effect on water quality in Florida.

The president does have a huge say in what happens to the environment — especially in the face of climate change. So if you vote for clean water candidates but Trump is at the top of your ticket, none of the clean water candidates even matter. When it comes to local water quality issues and you aren’t voting for someone who will work to uproot decades of environmental work (ahem Trump), it is mostly your state and local governments that have the final say in your water quality these days. And that is because of the Clean Water Act (which would be thrown out the window in the chance of a Trump presidency — making your water even dirtier than it is now).

The Clean Water Act does two major things that impact your water quality — it mandates that the Environmental Protection Agency regulate pollution from point sources, such as wastewater treatment plants. It also mandates that the EPA know how filthy your lakes, rivers, and streams are, but if that filth is not coming from a point source, they are hands off. So, if pollution is coming from urban and agricultural runoff, that responsibility is left to the states and the local governments.

The Clean Water Act was passed in the 70’s by Richard Nixon when republicans at least feigned concern about the environment. Lakes were literally lighting themselves on fire they were so filled with oil residue.

For Florida, it will be the state senators, representatives, and the governor who will have the greatest impact on water quality. Not the president. Here are a few bills that are related to water quality and are largely influenced by local and states politicians:

Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan: half funded by the state legislature and half funded by the federal legislature. The federal funding for CERP comes from another bill called the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Any projects in CERP that will cost over $25 million have to be approved by WRDA every two years. That means your federal representatives will also have to go to Congress and convince Congress to sign off on this bill on your behalf. If they don’t feel strongly about water quality or they have an interest to make sure that environmental bills aren’t passed, guess what? The rest of Congress doesn’t really care either. They aren’t representing Florida, so why should they stick their neck out for you? Vote for you representative wisely (that’s why I’d pick Patrick Murphy for the U.S. Senate). The other half of the funding for CERP comes from the Florida senate and Florida house of representatives and is signed off by the governor. So these guys matter, too.

The latest version of WRDA has passed the house and is sitting in the senate. WRDA is supposed to be passed every two years but has only been passed twice since 2000. Supposed to be eight times, ended up being two. That means Everglades restoration has essentially moved at a sloth’s pace.

The urgency and speed of Everglades Restoration progress looks like this.

Legacy Florida Bill: This is yet another example of why it matters who you vote for at the state senate and representative level. This bill passed in April provides for $200 million a year for Everglades restoration. Seems like a good amount, right? Because of how slowly we acted on Everglades projects in the last 16 years, the National Resource Council estimates that Everglades restoration will take 40 years (from now!!) and cost much more than originally anticipated. Like $8 billion more for a total of $16 billion. Furthermore, progress towards Everglades Restoration has mostly focused on the fringes of the Everglades. The National Resources Council warns that if we don’t speed up the pace of Everglades restoration, the window for restoration will close and it will be impossible to open again.

On the left — what the Everglades flow used to look like. In the middle — what it looks like now. On the right — the goal for flow after CERP is implemented in a thousand years. Read more here.

Florida Forever Amendment 1 (2014): Approved by over 75% of voters in 2014, this amendment on the state ballot was meant to allocate $200 million dollars to land acquisition for conservation. The legislature decides how to spend the money. In 2015, they spent $17.5 on conservation, but the rest on staplers, salaries, and what David Guest of Earthjustice called “accounting gimmicks.”

Water Quality Standards for Florida — remember when Florida allowed major increases in carcinogens in Florida’s waters in July of this year? Many of those chemicals happened to be by-products of fracking because the oil and gas industry wants to frack in Big Cypress National Preserve. Allowing an increase in the chemicals is step 1 in moving towards fracking. The Environmental Regulations Commission passed this change in allowed chemicals in surface waters. The Environmental Regulations Commission of Florida is made up of seven representative citizens, hand-picked by the governor and approved by the Florida Senate. Rick Scott left the environmental representative seat and municipality representative seat vacant for over a year, so the increase in carcinogens was allowed despite two representative seats being vacant. A Stanford student actually sits in one of the seats during an environmental regulations commission meeting over the approving of these chemicals in Florida waters here.

So, you want to restore the Everglades and don’t want to wait until you’re 70, do you? You want to save Florida Bay? You want fish in your estuaries? You must vote in the primaries. A lot of slimy people made it onto the ballot this year for Florida’s state senators and representatives, but there are a few that you should consider if you are an environmental voter:

Federal:

  • President: Come on now, America
  • Senate: Patrick Murphy (D)
  • Congressional District 18: Brian Mast (R)

State:

  • Florida Senate District 25: Joe Negron (R)
  • Florida Senate District 18: Bob Buesing (D)
  • Florida Senate District 39: Anitere Flores (R)
  • Florida Senate District 13: Linda Stewart (D) or Dean Asher (R)
  • Florida House District 103: Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich
  • Florida House District 49: Carlos Guillermos Smith (D)
  • Florida House District 93: Ken Keechl (D)
  • Florida House District 85: Robert Simeone (D)
  • Florida House District 84: Larry Lee Jr. (D)
  • Florida House District 79: John Scott
  • Florida House District 76: Charles Messina (No party affiliation)
  • Florida House District 52: Thad Altman (R)
  • Florida House District 78: Heather Fitzenhagen (D)
  • Palm Beach County Commission District 3: Dave Kerner (D)
  • Palm Beach Town Council: Bobbie Lindsay

Amendments:

Don’t see your local representatives up there? Show up to the primaries next time.

And, no, Trump will not do a damn thing for the environment. Hillary is the only option if you are an environmental voter. Sorry if that makes you sad.

“If I spray hairspray in my apartment and it’s all sealed and they say it affects the ozone, I say no way”