July 2, 2009
Back in the days when he appeared green, Gov. Charlie Crist saw fit to quote our support of his environmental efforts in one of his State of the State addresses. He won’t go quoting us now.
Sporting a new and decidedly gray sensibility toward the environment, Mr. Crist has proved a profound disappointment to those fighting to protect and preserve Florida’s water, air and land.
His latest environmental betrayal came Tuesday, when Mr. Crist signed historically bad legislation that will let five bureaucrats privately judge major applications for water consumption, replacing the dozens of board members who now evaluate them in full view of the public.
And because it also will allow some large landowners to get far lengthier water-withdrawal permits, Mr. Crist effectively will have spread fertilizer on budding developments like Deseret Ranch near Orlando. Watch them grow — if you have the stomach for it.
This all happened after Mr. Crist buoyed conservationists’ hopes by replacing several Jeb Bush-appointed, development-loving water board-members with trustees who take more measured views on water-withdrawal applications.
But it’s all part of a maddening pattern.
Mr. Crist starts strongly, ends badly, giving up the store along the way to special interests — especially developers, who always get to step to the front of the line — when he fears their opposition could pinch his ability to get votes and contributions for future campaigns.
*The governor enticed the author of the state’s growth management laws to return to government to help corral its runaway growth. But then, at the urging of developers, he undercut Tom Pelham and his regulators at the Department of Community Affairs by signing legislation last month that severely impairs their ability to restrict growth in rural areas.
*The governor came to office opposing expanded drilling off Florida’s coast. But once he appeared on John “Drill-Baby-Drill” McCain’s short-list for vice president, Mr. Crist said more offshore drilling intrigued him. That worked to erode opposition to more drilling among his fellow Republicans representing Florida in Congress. And it emboldened state House speaker-designate Dean Cannon, who this year tried to expand drilling in the Gulf just three miles offshore.
*The governor spoke of the importance of honoring “the Creator’s work” as justification for his climate-change initiative. He boldly set a goal to reduce the emissions that cause global warming to 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050, and got state agencies to reject applications for new coal-burning power plants.
But the Legislature knocked him flat on his back when he asked that utilities generate 20 percent of their energy from clean, renewable sources by 2020. And he showed little fight in the face of criticism from the Legislature’s developer friends to get lawmakers to accept his goals to reduce emissions from utilities.
*The governor last year spoke a bit about his support for the environmentally friendly commuter-rail project for Central Florida. But while it got pummeled by trial attorneys and labor unions, Mr. Crist chose to enter the ring to defend it only in the 15th round, the last day of the legislative session. He entered the fray earlier this year, but his marshmallow punches didn’t faze SunRail’s opponents.
Now the governor wants to go to Washington as our senator, where he says the problems plaguing Florida can best be addressed. There, we’re to believe, he’ll consistently show his green stripes when Congress addresses climate change, offshore drilling and high-speed rail projects.
What a leap that would be on our part, and on the part of all Floridians, for Florida’s decidedly gray governor.