This opinion piece was written for Earthjustice and is reprinted here with permission.
As I write this, half of the 75-mile long Caloosahatchee River in southwest Florida is covered by nauseating green slime. It’s a heartbreaking sight – dead fish wash up along the banks, and waterfront homes have a pricey view of a stinking mess.
This is the same thing that happened last summer on the St. Johns River outside Jacksonville – a 100-mile swath of green slime essentially shut the river down to boaters and fishermen.
This is the water that supplies kitchen taps for Florida families. This is the water that tourists come to play in, contributing badly needed revenue into our state economy.
The maddening reality is that this pollution is preventable. We sued under the Clean Water Act, and in 2009, we negotiated an historic settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency in which the EPA agreed to set enforceable numeric standards in Florida for phosphorus and nitrogen. On Nov. 15, 2010, EPA set nutrient pollution limits for Florida's freshwaters and lakes after spending years coordinating with state scientists to get the right numbers.
That’s when the maddening political posturing began. Florida sued the EPA to block the new pollution limits. Florida’s new governor, Rick Scott, is doing everything he can to help polluters fight Florida’s water cleanup, even though everyone knows Florida’s tourism-fueled economy depends on clean water.
Florida Congressman John Mica acted for polluters and against his constituents by sponsoring H.R. 2018, legislation he characterized as an effort to "rein in" the Obama administration EPA, which he claimed has “run roughshod” over states.
Mica’s very bad legislation – which will hamstring the EPA’s ability to enforce the Clean Water Act in Florida and elsewhere -- passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee by a vote of 35–20 on June 22.
As my colleague Joan Mulhern in Washington so aptly described it: