Environmentalists Criticize Fla. Chief Science Officer For Praising Clean Waterways Act

 

 

“Floridians must have faith that their Chief Science Officer is above politics and partisanship.”

The above quote is quite appropriate  because after reading  Tom Frazer’s statements regarding SB712 and the letter written by the environmental groups (see link in article below) one can not help but question the motives of Frazer.
Likewise the DEP moves along in such muddled, questionable and counterproductive  ways, with their own employees admitting their endeavors are doomed to failure, that the environmentalists’ letter states:

It is impossible to speculate as to whether this poison pill is an intentional effort by the lobbyists for major polluters (who support SB 712) to sabotage the bill or just the result of ignorance in BMAP development and DEPs interpretation of current statute, but the result is the same. These plans, like BMAPs themselves, are designed to fail.

In other words, can the DEP really be that dumb, or  have they sold out to the polluters?  Either alternative is shameful.
The situation would be laughable if our water resources were not at stake.
Looking at the supporters of a bill will tell you a lot before you even read it.  If the polluters are supporting this bill that is significant.
Agriculture fertilizer use is but one of the significant issues in the bill, pointed out by the letter, but one that OSFR has taken .up with the Suwannee River Water Management District in the past.

Shown here is that 85 percent of the nitrogen loading in the Suwannee basin is from agriculture, yet the solution expressed in SB172 is to:

  • DACS to perform on-site inspections of agricultural operations at least every two years while also collecting fertilizer records to ensure compliance with Best Management Practices and to aid in the evaluation of BMP effectiveness.

Remember, this is by far the number one pollution point and unspecified inspections may be meaningless.

Likely Frazer and the DEP are afraid to tackle agriculture, well organized and traditionally enjoying a protected status0

Read the complete article   by Brendan Rivers here at WJCT.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
jim.tatum@oursantaferiver.org
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum


  FEB 12, 2020
0:54
Hear this story airing on 89.9 FM WJCT.

Environmental advocates from around Florida are calling on the state’s chief science officer to walk back his praise for a proposal making its way through the Legislature that’s aimed at improving water quality.

Since taking office in 2019, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has prioritized water quality issues. One of the Republican governor’s first acts was to appoint the University of Florida’s Tom Frazer as the state’s first chief science officer.

Related: Florida’s 1st Chief Science Officer To Make Water Quality Issues A Priority

DeSantis and Frazer have both come out in support of Senate Bill 712, dubbed the Clean Waterways Act, introduced by Sen. Debbie Mayfield (R-Rockledge). It creates rules to reduce pollution that leaks into waterways from various sources. In an interview last week with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Frazer described the legislation as “one of the most environmentally progressive pieces of legislation that we’ve seen in over a decade.”

In response, the Florida Springs Council, Florida Waterkeepers, and the Sierra Club penned a joint letter asking Frazer to reconsider his words.

“As Florida’s first Chief Science Officer, it is essential that your statements to the public reflect the best understanding of environmental policy, especially when your credentials as a scientist are being used to bolster such remarks,” the letter reads. “Floridians must have faith that their Chief Science Officer is above politics and partisanship. Otherwise, we risk sacrificing the credibility of the important position with which you have been entrusted.”

The environmental advocacy groups aren’t worried just about the language Frazer used or what they perceive as potential partisanship.

“When Chief Science Officer Fraser spoke in Sarasota last week, he revealed a very big disconnect that exists out there regarding what this bill would and would not do,” said Chris Costello from the Sierra Club.

The 12-page letter focuses on two main assertions:

  • SB 712 would not help achieve water quality goals in most of Florida’s impaired waters,
  • Within just the last year, several bills were more “environmentally progressive” than SB 712

“If you believe that this is going to make a difference in your quality of life and in the environment in Florida, you’re sorely mistaken. And that’s really what this is about. People are being led down a path to believe that something is actually going to happen, when in fact it’s not,” Deborah Foote with the Sierra Club said in a call with news media on Wednesday.

Still, the environmental groups behind the letter are not wholesale opposed to the bill.

“It is the policy equivalent of slapping a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound. It may not hurt, but it won’t really help,” the letter reads….

Ryan Smart, executive director of the Florida Springs Council, said one major issue he has with the bill is that it doesn’t address pollution from agriculture.

“The bill itself says that agriculture is the dominant source of pollution,” he said. “But for some reason, in Senate Bill 712 agriculture is the only major pollution source that does not require a remediation plan and does not require an enforceable ordinance.”

The groups write that if Florida doesn’t do anything to address agricultural pollution, the state could end up spending millions, perhaps even billions, of taxpayer dollars on water quality projects that won’t provide any significant benefit to water quality.

“You have to address agriculture to have any chance of achieving water quality goals,” Smart said. “It just doesn’t make any sense why you would say septic tanks need a plan, wastewater treatment plants need a plan, urban fertilizer needs an ordinance, but we’re not going to do anything about agriculture.”

To address this concern, the letter proposes an amendment to SB 712 that targets agricultural pollution, along with several other recommendations.

A DEP spokesperson provided this response from CSO Frazer to WJCT News via email:

“I stand by my statement that SB 712 is one of the most progressive and comprehensive pieces of legislation that we have seen in over a decade. SB 712 addresses a broad suite of nutrient sources that affect Florida’s water quality — including septic tanks, wastewater, agriculture, and stormwater. This legislation is a step forward on every front.

For the first time ever, this bill requires:

  • Regulation of septic tanks as a nutrient source and transfer of this program to DEP from DOH.
  • Wastewater facilities to have a power outage contingency plan to minimize impacts from power loss.
  • All sanitary sewage disposal facilities to provide financial records to DEP to ensure all funds are being used appropriately for infrastructure upgrades, repairs and maintenance to guarantee that systems do not fall into states of disrepair.
  • DACS to perform on-site inspections of agricultural operations at least every two years while also collecting fertilizer records to ensure compliance with Best Management Practices and to aid in the evaluation of BMP effectiveness.
  • An update of stormwater rules and design criteria to achieve improved performance of stormwater systems statewide.”

The letter can be read in full here.

This story was updated on Feb. 13 with the response from CSO Tom Frazer.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.

4 Comments

  1. If agriculture was not sustainable we would not need septic tanks. Salt water intrusion means I ‘m gonna own beach front property in Ft White and that sucks. You can take your maker/taker bs along with a bouqet’ when you visit Ayn Rands grave.

  2. BMAPs and best management practices are very different topics. I farm, words matter and punctuation saves lives. Let’s eat Grandma vs. Let’s eat, Grandma. I have never been asked by state or federal for fertilizer receipts. We need a state database of who bought what and when it was applied.

    1. Diane, apologies, you are right, and I made a change in the comments. Still agriculture does not pay its fair share, and must use less water and fertilizer. This usage must change radically for agriculture to be sustainable. We cannot continue as we are, our water will run out and be replaced by salt water. We do not oppose agriculture, we support it because we must eat and if agriculture fails, development will move in. Producers may make less profit with the new requirements, but consumers must share in all the costs and that means higher costs for food. We must all begin to pay for the water we use, that means everyone.

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