Thursday, June 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Florida should spend more to clean up leaking tanks

Thousands of underground petroleum tanks are buried across Florida, endangering the drinking water supply because the state doesnít make their cleanup a priority or require that nearby residents be alerted. This hidden public health threat has existed for too long and is entirely avoidable. The Florida Legislature should provide more money to clean up these tanks and require public notification of these contaminated sites.

More than 19,000 storage tanks that are no longer in use are scattered across Florida, including more than 1,700 in the Tampa Bay area, according to the Department of Environmental Protection, the agency in charge of cleaning up the mess. The sites include abandoned convenience stores and former automotive repair shops. In the 1980s, the federal government began warning of the health risks associated with underground tanks, leading Florida legislators to establish a trust fund to assess and restore contaminated sites.

The Tampa Bay Timesí Craig Pittman reported Sunday how the effort fell far short of its goal. Lawmakers never set aside enough money for the cleanup program. While about 6,500 sites statewide were undergoing rehabilitation as of November, another 3,000 sites were awaiting work. That figure includes more than 550 sites in the Tampa Bay area, mostly in Pinellas (268) and Hillsborough (260). This work is in addition to the thousands of contaminated sites being cleaned up by private parties, who since 1999, after new regulations were adopted, were made financially responsible for cleaning up their own operations.

A watchdog group comprised of former state, local and federal regulators, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, blames a shortfall of funds and moves by the Florida Legislature in recent years to redirect tank cleanup funds to other purposes. That has led the state to focus its efforts on lower-ranked and less expensive cleanup sites in order to boost the cleanup numbers and "create a facade of progress," the group maintains. DEP denies it is making lower-ranked sites a priority; a spokeswoman noted the agency must obtain access to these sites and negotiate funding agreements for the work, which can affect the schedule.

The point being lost is that all of these tanks should be cleaned up in a more timely manner. With thousands of sites still on the waiting list, there is no excuse for the Legislature to have reduced the appropriations for the cleanup program for the last several years, dropping from $125 million in the 2015-16 budget to $115 million in the current year.

DEP says it cannot estimate what it would cost to complete the work at the remaining sites, given the unique nature of the contamination threat. But with 3,000 sites still on the backlog list and rehabilitation efforts still not complete on 6,500 others, itís clear the state needs to spend more money. Lawmakers should also require that residents near these sites be notified that a public health threat exists. Now state law only requires notifying property owners that their underground tanks may be leaking. Residents nearby may have no idea that these tanks are present, much less a threat to the water supply. Lawmakers should require DEP to warn all property owners who live within a half-mile of the site of a potential hazard. These are basic safety measures, and they should not have taken decades to accomplish.

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Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBIís handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but itís also suppression

The Supreme Courtís ruling last Monday to allow Ohioís purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they havenít voted, Ohioís purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18