Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: EPA should reject Florida's new water standards

A state panel approved new water quality standards this week that defy both conventional science and common sense. The Environmental Regulation Commission voted to increase the amount of some cancer-causing chemicals that polluters can dump into Florida's waterways under an accelerated process that kept important voices out of the debate. Fortunately, the change cannot take effect without the federal Environmental Protection Agency's approval. The EPA should reject it, and the state should come up with standards that protect Florida's environment and safeguard human health.

The Environmental Regulatory Commission, appointed by the governor, approved a policy overhaul that increases Florida's list of regulated chemicals allowed in drinking water from 54 to 92 and raises the allowed limits on more than two dozen known carcinogens. It also reduces the allowed limits on 13 currently regulated chemicals, two of which are considered carcinogens. Department of Environmental Protection officials defend the illogical change — reducing limits on some cancer-causing agents while increasing others — as a scientifically based "update." But the public has plenty of reasons to distrust that explanation.

For one, the DEP developed the new standards with a method that no other state uses. The DEP says its "probabilistic analysis" is Florida-specific, accounting for toxins that can be passed on to humans who eat locally caught seafood. But environmentalists say the state underestimated seafood consumption, meaning the new standards would actually increase exposure to cancer risk for many.

Also concerning: Some industries responsible for discharging the toxic chemicals, including dry cleaners, paper mills, agriculture and oil and gas companies, support the new standards while environmentalists oppose them. In fact, critics wonder if the specific change to the substance benzene isn't a crack in the door to allow fracking in Florida.

The DEP initially proposed raising the limit for benzene, a byproduct of fracking, from 1.18 parts per billion to 3 parts per billion. After public outcry, the agency reduced the level to 2 parts per billion. So much for a science-based process.

Even if the DEP could find scientific backup for every decimal point, the way the new rule was approved undermines the entire effort. With no reason offered, the Environmental Regulation Commission's vote was moved up from September, and it went forward despite two vacancies on the seven-member commission. The slot for a representative from the environmental community and the one representing local government have been left vacant by Gov. Rick Scott. The commission passed the new rule on a 3-2 vote. Would the measure have failed 4-3 if those constituencies had their say? The public will never know.

State regulators are entrusted with keeping Florida's water clean and safe, and the system appears to have been rigged in favor of the polluters. The standards approved this week were described by one commissioner who voted for them as "more good than harm." That's not good enough for Florida, and the EPA needs to hammer home that message by rejecting the changes.

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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...
Updated: 2 hours ago

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
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18