Thursday, April 26, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Don't weaken laws to protect Florida waters

Florida Republican leaders are yet again making outlandish claims to torpedo federal rules for protecting the water supply. Appearing together last month, U.S. Rep. Steven Southerland of Panama City and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam blasted a federal proposal for identifying wetlands as a power grab by bullying bureaucrats that would seriously harm the state's businesses and homeowners. Great sound bite — but that is not the case.

The proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers would establish more clearly which waters deserve protection under the 1972 Clean Water Act. Two U.S. Supreme Court opinions have for the past decade clouded the issue of whether the federal law applies only to navigable waters. The federal agencies proposed the new rule in an effort to address legitimate concerns by state and local governments, businesses and other groups. Continuing to leave them in legal limbo is irresponsible.

That didn't stop Southerland from pointing his finger at "big government bullies" who were out to create more costs and uncertainty in the workplace. He has filed legislation that is headed to the House floor that would let states — not the federal government — determine which wetlands deserve protection. Southerland proclaimed that local officials are better suited to make these decisions than "D.C. bureaucrats a thousand miles away." Putnam chimed in by denouncing federal "overreach," suggesting that even "mushy" lawns would be a problem.

These claims are ridiculous. The federal rule merely clarifies what streams and wetlands would be protected. It does not give the agencies more power, redefine farming, or apply to any waters that historically have not been covered. The measure expressly exempts waste treatment ponds, upland ditches, artificial lakes and ornamental lagoons from regulation. It doesn't change the exemptions that farmers and ranchers already enjoy, infringe on property rights or apply in cases when rainfall saturates lawns and fields. In some cases, the rule could actually broaden the definition of what waters are exempt. Decisions about Florida wetlands permits are made in the Army Corps' offices in Tampa and elsewhere around the state, not in Washington. And the EPA estimates that the marginal costs of implementing the rule would generate about double the return in benefits to public health, flood control and the economy.

Florida Republicans used the same tactic of misinformation several years ago on behalf of the state's biggest polluters to fight the federal government over clean water standards. They had the wrong allegiance then and they have the wrong allegiance now. Florida's congressional delegation should be the last ones urging Congress to weaken a law that protects some of this state's most precious resources.

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Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Published: 04/25/18
Updated: 04/26/18

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18