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Romano: If you're looking for a culprit, the slime stops here

Scenes like this, with a boat navigating through the algae bloom of the Caloosahatchee River, should not come as any surprise when you consider Florida's environmental policies under Gov. Rick Scott. [Miami Herald]
Scenes like this, with a boat navigating through the algae bloom of the Caloosahatchee River, should not come as any surprise when you consider Florida's environmental policies under Gov. Rick Scott. [Miami Herald]
Published Aug. 7, 2018

He has created jobs. He has boosted tourism. He has eliminated crime and turned all of our schoolchildren into geniuses. If you listen long enough to his handlers, you'll get the impression Gov. Rick Scott can also walk on water.

And in our current environment of slime and muck, maybe he can.

That's the risk politicians take when they run around a state taking credit for every bit of good news to be found. It means they must inevitably wear the bad, too.

In this case, that means the poisonous, smelly, noxious algae that has covered freshwater spots inland, and turned into a deadly red tide on more than 100 miles of Florida coastline.

The Washington Post is writing about it. CNN and the Weather Channel are talking about it. A state dependent on tourism is now generating headlines fit for the cover of Toxic Illustrated.

And no one is more responsible than Scott.

Oh, it's true this is not the first time Florida has dealt with algae or red tide, but it is equally true Scott has done little to prevent this out-of-the-norm outbreak this summer.

You could even argue his policies have encouraged it.

Think of how he has treated the environment since his first election in 2010. Even before he was sworn in, he was complaining about clean water standards imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, and asking that Florida be spared from "burdensome regulations.''

The state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was eventually given the responsibility for regulating the exact type of pollutants that have contributed to the nasty green gook that has been showing up in the state's rivers and lakes.

The number of enforcement cases handled by the DEP — essentially the number of times they investigated developers or corporations for pollution violations — dropped to a fraction of what they had been under Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist.

Scott abolished the agency that had been responsible for reviewing local development plans, and he directed water management districts to lower taxes, which decimated their budgets.

RELATED: Lingering Red Tide bloom moves north, killing fish near mouth of Tampa Bay

He also signed a law in 2012 that repealed mandatory inspections for septic tanks, a decision that environmentalists now say is fueling the current algae crisis.

Perhaps the most underhanded move was the scam he pulled on the state's seven-member Environmental Regulation Commission. After the commission declined to change the number of dangerous pollutants allowed in our water, Scott waited until one commissioner retired and two others had their terms end.

Scott then added another DEP attorney to the commission and left the other two seats empty.

With the board now dominated by lawyers instead of scientists and environmentalists, the new standard for pollutants passed by a 3-2 vote.

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From the time he arrived in Tallahassee, Scott has been fighting any attempt at federal regulation of the environment, and now he has the gall to blame Washington, D.C., for our recent problems.

It's unfair to put all of the state's pollution problems on Scott's shoulders, but it's not hard to connect the dots between his business-first attitude and our current environmental mess.

In times of crisis, they say cream rises to the top.

In Florida, so does the slime.


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