DEP fine unwarranted, oil company says | April 25
Drilling poses threat to sanctuary
A recent Tampa Bay Times article reported that an oil well operated by the Dan A. Hughes Co. is surrounded by the National Audubon Society's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. The story also reports that Corkscrew is a major nesting site for wood storks.
Hughes' well is close to but is not surrounded by Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. The well is within an area targeted for protection as part of the Corkscrew Ecosystem Watershed. Audubon's 13,000 acres include the site of Florida's historically largest colony of nesting wood storks, which forage throughout the watershed. Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is also an international ecotourism destination hosting 100,000 visitors each year.
Audubon had received assurances that exploratory drilling near our property would be lawful and protective of the environment. We were shocked to learn that Hughes violated its state permit. We are also concerned that production methods being used include pumping water and chemicals underground including processes that the state says are untested in Florida.
During this year's legislative session Audubon members rallied against a bill that would have begun the process of allowing fracking — pumping chemicals and pressurized water underground to produce oil and gas. We strongly objected to a bill that would allow the use of trade secret provisions to keep citizens in the dark about chemicals injected underground.
We urge the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to enforce our laws and make protection of human health and the environment paramount in every decision and action.
Oil and gas exploration is not the only threat to Southwest Florida's environment. For too long state agencies have been too lenient in granting permits to drain the wetlands in the Corkscrew watershed. We call on all citizens to come together to insist on strict enforcement and protection of all water resource laws.
Eric Draper, executive director, Audubon Florida, Tallahassee
Rubio defends gun owners | April 26
Appeal to the emotions
In his impassioned speech to an NRA audience, Marco Rubio declared that gun ownership is part of the American Dream; that providing a safe and secure home rests on the possession of a firearm for self-protection.
There are many Americans whose dreams did not rest on owning guns and who have grown up to be fine, upstanding, loyal and concerned citizens, parents, friends and neighbors. Rubio says gun policy should not be guided by emotionalism, and yet that is exactly what he is serving up.
Linda Halperin, Sun City Center
Ignoring safety interests
In order to pander to the fringe elements of his party, Sen. Marco Rubio perverts the idea of the American Dream by suggesting that it includes gun ownership. My dream (and, I believe, that of most of my fellow citizens) is to live in an America that is safe and secure, making guns unnecessary.
My dream is also to live in an America where leaders actually lead and act in the best interests of their constituents. Only about one-third of American households even have guns. An overwhelming majority of Americans favor reasonable gun control measures. Rather than pursue that, Rubio seeks personal political gain by pandering to a small, extreme minority. He blatantly ignores the best interests and safety of his constituents.
Kirk Gibbons, Tampa
A nation divided | April 27, commentary
Playing with stacked deck
Leonard Pitts nailed it when he described how relevant The Grapes of Wrath is to our current times, where folks who work at Walmart qualify for food stamps while elected officials balk at raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour as corporations report record profits. I am a hospital homebound teacher who sees daily the suffering of sick kids living in poverty whose families struggle against a stacked deck.
I remember reading The Grapes of Wrath when I was 17 and being stunned by the ending, when Rose of Sharon, in grief, cradles and nurses a starving man. I was brought to tears reading Pitts' reminder that when we have nothing else, we have our common humanity.
Maryellen Mariani, Seminole
Florida's failing Legislature | April 27, editorial
Money's the difference
Why should the editors of this newspaper be surprised? After all, our elected officials realize that regardless of what they do in Tallahassee, the voters will keep sending them back to office as long as they run on a platform of religion, gun rights and opposing Obamacare.
Due to their lack of leadership, ratepayers have "donated" millions of dollars to Duke Energy's bottom line because they refused to fix a law passed at the behest of lobbyists.
Other areas where they have failed the people include the continuing privatization of public education, lack of meaningful growth management, and the child welfare system.
To see what really will be accomplished during a legislative session, just follow the money. Any disinterested party will come to the conclusion that lobbyists are deciding the future of this state.
Alan Hawkins, Ocala
States fails slain boy | April 26
Give children a chance
As the mother of two adopted sons, I would like to have my say on why states are failing children. I was sickened to read in the article that 477 Florida children since 2008 have died from abuse by their own families after having been in contact with the Department of Children and Families. I know that those 477 children would have been loved and cared for by adopted families had the DCF personnel and the state laws allowed children to be taken away from their birth families who have no interest in parenting them.
Parenting is a hard job. I am afraid some birthing adults (I will not call them parents as they have no interest in the task) are more interested in keeping their offspring because it brings them larger government payouts. There are couples eagerly waiting for years to be able to adopt a child to love. It is senseless that the state not give unloved and unwanted children a chance.
Sara King, Clearwater