Not content with helping to foul our own environmental nest here in Florida, Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi this week signed up with 20 other GOP-dominated state governments on the side of corporate lobbyists in opposition to an historic agreement to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
See also: - Rick Scott's Cuts Dilute Water Laws
While the clean-up compact is among the states that actually border the 200-mile long bay and contain its 64,000 square mile watershed, the anti-cleanup coalition comprises states from the South, Midwest and High Plains, along with deep-pocketed Big Ag groups like the American Farm Bureau, the Fertilizer Institute and the National Pork Producers Council, as well as the National Association of Home Builders.
The largest estuary in the U.S., encompassing one-sixth of the nation's Eastern Seaboard, the Chesapeake Bay is one of the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world, a unique and irreplaceable national treasure. In colonial times it was rich in fish, shellfish and water fowl; in the 1970s it was found to contain dead zones so depleted of oxygen that marine life was extinct -- the result of algal blooms spawned by the phosphorous and nitrogen in industrial, farm and residential run-off.
To combat the Bay's destruction, in 1983 the EPA joined with the governors of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania and the Mayor of the District of Columbia to create the Chesapeake Bay Program. Delaware, New York and West Virginia signed on in 2000, aiming to
reduce pollution, restore habitats, protect living resources, promote sound land use practices...engage the public in Bay restoration [and] emphasize ecosystem-based fisheries management.
In 2007, finding progress too slow, the program began work on establishing a "pollution diet," the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), that sets limits on the amount of nutrients and sediment that can enter the Bay and its tidal rivers. The TMDL was finalized in 2010. Within year, the Farm Bureau, the Fertilizer Institute and other polluting industries filed suit in federal court to block the new standards. Early this month, the 21 GOP states filed a brief in support of the polluters, arguing that the plan "strips states of their traditional rights to make land use decisions."
The Farm Bureau has major political clout, handing out more than $20 million in campaign finance money in the last 20 years, in addition to spending almost $100 million on lobbyists. Its Florida arm has forked over more than $250,000 in campaign finance money in the last ten years. Its contributions go largely to the GOP.
Bondi's rationale for supporting the polluters' appeal of Judge Sylvia Rambo's decision upholding the Chesapeake plan, per Bondi's op-ed piece in the Palm Beach Post this week, is "to stop the federal government from exceeding its authority and infringing on our rights."
(The Florida Farm Bureau, in a more hysterical statement, denounced the Chesapeake Bay pollution limits as an EPA "power grab," a "draconian scheme" involving "centralized federal control over where a school or a home or a farm can be established.")
Bullshit. The question of federal authority was throughly addressed by the judge in the polluters' case, Judge Sylvia Rambo. (A Jimmy Carter appointee, Rambo is no knee-jerk tree-hugger. In 1996 she threw out of court the claims of 2,000 individuals who claimed to have been damaged by the meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant.) Here's what Rambo wrote when she tossed the polluter's case against the Chesapeake cleanup:
the record, when viewed as a whole, does not support a finding that the framework of federal and state interaction was coercive in nature so as to render the TMDL an unlawful federal implementation plan...In the end, the states are still free to choose both if and how they will implement the TMDL allocations, regardless of the level of detail in those allocations, rendering Plaintiffs' federalism concerns unfounded.
The Scott administration has more than enough to do to protect the environment here in Florida. Bondi's effort is a testament to how far it will go on behalf of the GOP's polluter allies.
A petition to oppose Big Ag's attack on the Chesapeake Bay cleanup can be found here.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers politics, activism, the environment and culture in Palm Beach County and elsewhere. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.