Many disparities in House, Senate water bills | March 12
Everglades' future in the balance
There is an epic battle being waged in the Legislature for the future of the Everglades.
You might think that, after 75 percent of voters supported Amendment 1 to provide a stream of reliable conservation funding, lawmakers would get behind efforts to protect the Everglades and stem the rising tide of pollution that is slowly destroying critical waterways like the Indian River Lagoon. But unfortunately, the powerful sugar industry is working behind the scenes to back out of the deal despite a binding contract.
In the past two election cycles alone, sugar interests gave more than $8 million to political candidates and committees. They gave more than half a million to Gov. Rick Scott alone, in addition to whisking top elected officials away on secret King Ranch hunting trips in Texas, as reported last year by the Times.
When the gavel drops on the 2015 session, much of its legacy will hinge on the Everglades land deal. For the sake of clean water and Florida's future, I hope legislative leaders, and especially the Tampa Bay delegation including Sens. Tom Lee and Jack Latvala, support the will of voters rather than sugar industry lobbyists.
Jason Eames, Tampa
Deepwater Horizon spill
Gulf not yet back to normal
As we approach the fifth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, uncertainty remains about the long-term impacts of the oil on Florida's fisheries, marine mammals, sea turtles and birds — despite BP's latest claims that the millions of barrels of oil they spewed into the Gulf of Mexico caused no "significant long-term impact."
Through its latest "State of the Gulf" report released March 16, BP desperately wants us to believe that things are back to normal and that the work to restore our fragile coastal and marine environments is done. The report credits massive cleanup efforts for limiting the damage and suggests the effects of the spill were mitigated since it involved light crude Macondo oil, which supposedly degrades faster.
We strongly disagree with BP's skewed picture. The data in the report are one-sided and incomplete. Since 2011, the company has significantly decreased its funding for research that would accurately assess the true scope of the damage.
Despite the progress that has been made, we are still a long way from the type of comprehensive restoration that needs to happen before Florida's gulf is whole again. Snapper and other reef fish populations have declined since the spill. The most dramatic losses are being seen among small plankton-eating fish, such as damselfish and cardinalfish. In addition, studies on bluefin tuna and mahimahi show negative impacts from the oil on their embryos, larvae and juveniles.
Regardless of how it tries to spin things, BP is still on the hook to pay out fines and compensate for the losses Florida and the other coastal states suffered. While we continue to wait for these dollars to trickle down, we must take advantage of the opportunities with the first round of fines and penalties that Florida has already received through the Restore Act. We support efforts to develop a comprehensive plan for Gov. Rick Scott, the state agencies and the Gulf Coast counties to best spend this money by focusing on recovering our coastal and marine resources.
Developing a vision for sustainable and healthy environments along our Gulf Coast will guide Florida toward the long-term restoration outcomes we all desire, and not the make-believe ones BP is trying to sell us in this report.
Jessica Koelsch, National Wildlife Federation, Pensacola
Deal with reality
I've been a Republican for my entire adult life (a long time). In recent years, I've been troubled by the extreme course the party has taken on a number of issues. From my perspective, the Republican Party of years gone by was the party of middle America. Democrats were "liberals" and Republicans were "conservatives." But since tea party Republicans have hijacked the party, Republicans have become extremists, to the overall detriment of the entire party. No other issue demonstrates this better than global warming.
How any intelligent person can deny the existence of global warming is literally unbelievable to me. If you don't believe in global warming, check the Internet to see how glacial ice is receding at an incredible rate all over the planet. I have seen it with my own eyes in Alaska and was stunned.
As a result of Republicans' denial of a fact that is inarguable, I have become something I detested: a single-issue voter. I will not vote for any person who refuses to acknowledge the reality of global warming. My hope is that other Republicans will step forward and force the party to deal with reality.
Joseph Larrinaga, St. Pete Beach
Prevention, not delay, is key to any Iran deal March 20, commentary
Government power shared
Congressman Gus Bilirakis is right on the bull's-eye with his admonition, "A good deal would prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons, not merely delay their acquisition." There should be no trust of Iran's motives in seeking nuclear capability. It has openly threatened its intentions.
One of the beauties of our Constitution is its balance of power among the legislative, executive and judicial branches of our government. Article II, Section 2 says, "He (the president) shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two-thirds of the senators present concur."
In no way is the president of the United States empowered to act alone in negotiating this critical deal with Iran.
Don Newman, Belleair
Pier pick now on hold | March 21
Volume and wisdom
I was dismayed to learn that yet another St. Petersburg pier committee decision was stopped in its tracks by the local version of a self-anointed city government-in-exile.
I respect the hard work of the latest pier committee; it should stand up for its decisions. The loudest voices in the room are not necessarily the wisest.
Don Strobel, St. Petersburg