Let's take a minute to assess how the Legislature would like to maul the environment.
So far this session bills have been proposed to: steal public lands and waters; drill for oil and gas on public lands; put advertising signs on greenways and trails; eliminate septic tank inspections; eliminate concurrency for schools and transportation for new development; support water quality rules that will allow continued nutrient degradation of our water; move control of water management funding to Tallahassee; and stop registering greenhouse gas emitters. Also, funding has been withheld for Florida Forever environmental land acquisition and Everglades restoration, two programs that have been the hallmark of Florida's environmental programs for decades.
Every company, business or landowner in the state of Florida, represented by high-paid lobbyists, who wants something that otherwise would not be legal or acceptable has come out from under a rock with a bill written to get what he wants at the expense of the public. It is insane.
Legislators are acting like the boys in Lord of the Flies. They need adult supervision. Hypocrisy is rampant. The Climate Protection Act doesn't protect us from our changing climate. It undoes more of what Gov. Charlie Crist got passed to make Florida a leader in responding to climate change. Environmental Resource Permitting makes it easier to get a permit and does not advance the protection of our natural resources as the name might imply.
The sad thing is that the public understands very little about what is happening. But what is going on is bad for Florida. It is bad for you, and over time the cost of doing business in this state will increase because of the decisions made by this Legislature.
Your waters will continue to deteriorate. Do you like beach closures Memorial Day weekend or on July Fourth because of high bacterial counts or slimy green algae? North Florida's waters will end up in South Florida. Hope you don't mind paying for water supply for Polk County. Your taxes will go up as you are asked to cover the cost and impacts of development that developers will no longer pay. Oil and gas wells will appear on public lands and the associated pollution will make it very unpleasant and unhealthy to visit these sites, not to mention that an oil well will never look or smell like a tree.
Advertisers will place sponsorship signs at trail heads and you will be reminded to eat your Twinkie. And, to heck with a zen experience in state parks. There will be no more public land acquisition, and paving will gradually stretch from coast to coast and north to south and with all the paving will come increasing electric bills. You think all this is an exaggeration? I wouldn't bet against these predictions.
Here is the real rub. Florida has some serious environmental problems that need to be fixed, but our Legislature is busy undoing the past 40 years of environmental safeguards that have served us well. This anti-environmental agenda is bad for Florida's economy. It is bad for jobs. It is bad for our children. In the future as things worsen in this state, as they will with these kinds of bills, businesses will not want to locate here. Where is Gov. Rick Scott in all this? Oh that's right: He hasn't read the bills yet.
Pam McVety worked for the state of Florida for 30 years and retired from the Department of Environmental Protection in 2003. She has a master's degree in zoology from the University of South Florida. She is a member of the Florida Conservation Coalition, a biologist and native Floridian.