Thursday, April 26, 2018
Editorials

Message is clear: Clean up Florida waters

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and her legal allies from polluting industries are doing a victory dance over a U.S. District Court ruling that set back the federal effort to clean up the state's waterways. They might want to read the ruling again, for it amounted to a full-throated rejection of the campaign of falsehoods and fearmongering that monied interests and their Tallahassee enablers have waged at the expense of Florida's environment and economy.

At issue are new standards the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to reverse the pollution that now taints the state's lakes, springs and streams. Even before taking office last year, Bondi, Gov. Rick Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam signed on to a withering disinformation campaign aimed at browbeating the EPA to drop or weaken its effort. The group threw anything against the wall: The EPA, they said, was jumping the gun, abusing its authority, singling out Florida and using junk science.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle, who is overseeing the case, dismissed the assault as mostly bunk in an 86-page order last week. Hinkle noted that the EPA had called for the cleanup standards 14 years ago, that the state had agreed and that EPA had supported Florida doing the job — despite its repeated foot-dragging. The judge found the EPA was not only appropriate to intervene, but had a obligation to under the federal Clean Water Act. With pollution fouling some 1,000 miles of rivers, 902 square miles of coastal area and 349,000 acres of lakes, the evidence of the need for the new cleanup standards was "overwhelming," the judge wrote. The state was acting so slowly, he noted, "there was no end in sight."

Hinkle also threw much-needed retardant on the effort by opponents to inflame the case as a states' rights issue. He said the EPA played it by the book, and it was natural to focus on Florida, given the state's fragile ecosystem. He also did a public service by not overlooking in his ruling the impact to surface waters by the power companies, ranchers and sewage utilities — "whose trade associations are participating in this litigation."

In the end, Hinkle upheld all but two of the EPA's new cleanup rules, rejecting those largely on technical grounds. In practical terms, it was not a convincing victory for the environment, given that the EPA has agreed to work with Florida and provide even more latitude. But Hinkle's ruling establishes that the federal government was right to move ahead, and it highlights how Florida's Republican leaders stood with the wrong side. That example of bad faith should not be forgotten, and it should guide the EPA as it enforces Florida's compliance with the new rules.

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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...
Updated: 8 hours ago

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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