Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Victory for clean water

A federal judge brought long-awaited clarity and common sense last week to the state's age-old practice of pumping polluted water into South Florida's Lake Okeechobee. U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas' finding that the practice violated the Clean Water Act is a victory for public health and Florida's environment, and it should prompt South Florida water managers to quit wasting the tax money spent cleaning up the Everglades basin by continuing to contribute to its pollution.

For decades, the South Florida Water Management District has pumped water from canals along sugar-farming areas near the shoreline into Lake Okeechobee, both to prevent flooding and to boost levels in a lake that serves as a drinking water source for millions in South Florida. While water management district officials say the pumping is rare, environmental groups sued, seeking to force the district to obtain federal permits before pumping fertilizer-laden farm runoff back into the lake.

Friday's ruling from New York's Southern District came in a consolidated case that had grown from a decade of litigation in Florida. In his ruling, Karas held that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was required to regulate the practice under the Clean Water Act. The judge said that EPA had no authority to issue a blanket exemption to the permitting process. Though he invited the EPA to narrow the rules for allowable discharges, the judge nonetheless affirmed the public purpose behind the Clean Water Act — and the need for the federal government to enforce it.

The ruling puts the water management district and the EPA on notice that their first obligation is to public health, not to agribusiness. The excessive nutrients wouldn't flow to the lake without the state pumping them there. And recirculating these excessive nutrients hurts the entire basin. The ruling affirms the role the federal government needs to play in ensuring state compliance with the Clean Water Act. And it should crack down on future abuses by clarifying when operators must seek a discharge permit.

The district and the EPA should respond in good faith and not seek to appeal the ruling or delay the impact on procedural grounds. The state has already lost more than a decade on what should be a shared public goal of removing these chemicals from the South Florida watershed.

Officials should instead craft a permitting process that seeks to keep this pollution from public water bodies — a solution more in keeping with the simultaneous and costly effort by the state and federal governments to clean up and restore the Everglades. The environmental community can be a partner. These agencies need to reach beyond the lawyers and chart a course for improving the state's ecosystem and drinking water supply. And it shouldn't take another lost decade.

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Editorial: The Catholic Church’s proper response to Pennsylvania scandal

Editorial: The Catholic Church’s proper response to Pennsylvania scandal

Forceful words are coming from the pope’s pen as well as pulpits around Tampa Bay: The sexual abuse of minors, which proliferated for decades within the Roman Catholic Church, were not merely sins but crimes whose repercussions are still being felt b...
Published: 08/20/18
Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Within weeks of taking office in 2011, Gov. Rick Scott made one of the worst decisions of his administration and refused $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Within months of leaving office, the governor...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Local governments across the land can find plenty of reasons to go after the drug industry over the crisis of opioid addiction.Hillsborough County can find more reasons than most.• In 2016, the county led the state with 579 babies born addicted to dr...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

The environmental crisis in South Florida has fast become a political crisis. Politicians in both parties are busy blaming one another for the waves of toxic algae blooms spreading out from Lake Okeechobee and beyond, fouling both coasts and damaging...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/20/18
Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

It is real news that the Hillsborough County School District said this week it will accelerate testing for lead in drinking water and release the results after the Tampa Bay Times reported testing would take years and that until we asked families wer...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18

Bumping into GOP cowardice on guns

One small island of sanity in the generally insane ocean of American gun culture is the near-complete federal ban on civilian possession of fully automatic weapons — machine guns.The nation got a bitter taste last year of what we’d be facing on a reg...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

The revelation that three people in Pinellas County have contracted the measles virus should be a wake-up call to everyone to get vaccinated if they haven’t been — and to implore parents to immunize their kids. Contagious diseases such as measles can...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
Published: 08/14/18
Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

40%of Americans who were eligible to vote for president in 2016 just didn’t bother. That number dwarfs the portion of all eligible voters who cast a ballot for President Donald Trump — 27.6 percent — or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton, 28.8 percent...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last month’s deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18