Politics

Florida Environmental Regulation Commission Isn’t Doing Any Regulating

Manatees are ravenous to dying at file charges, purple tide and algal blooms are turning into extra not unusual and fatal, and greater than 200 million gallons of poisonous wastewater leaked into Tampa Bay.

These are only some of Florida’s newest environmental catastrophes, and but the state’s most sensible environmental control company, the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC), has now not met in additional than 5 years.

That’s proper. Five years.

The DEP tells New Times that the ERC closing convened on February 8, 2017. That’s virtually two years prior to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who mentioned he’d make the surroundings certainly one of his most sensible priorities, assumed administrative center in 2019.

“I mean, I think they’re in the Florida Keys hanging out,” Caleb Merendino, cofounder of the Fort Lauderdale-based environmental nonprofit Waterway Advocates, tells New Times. “I literally don’t know where they are, and I don’t think anyone knows where they are.”

Created via statute in 1975 together with the DEP’s predecessor company, the Department of Environmental Regulation, the ERC is a seven-member workforce tasked with reviewing the “scientific and technical validity, economic impacts, and relative risks and benefits to the public and the environment” after which signing off on the DEP requirements and regulations, from air air pollution to water high quality to waste control.

For instance, in 2016, the ERC up to date the boundaries on 43 poisonous chemical substances that may be dumped into the water. And in 2013 it evolved nutrient requirements for overall phosphorus, nitrogen, and chlorophyll at six estuaries within the Florida Panhandle. According to the Florida Senate, the fee is “an important public access point in the rulemaking process” and will grasp conferences across the state when essential.

In March 2021, Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed 4 other people to serve at the fee, whose four-year phrases are non-salaried: Thomas Okay. Frazer (dean of the College of Marine Science on the University of South Florida), Cari Roth (vice chairman of governmental and regulatory affairs for the family-owned agri-business Lykes Bros), Jim McCarthy (North Florida Land Trust president), and Eric Buermann (former chairman of the South Florida Water Management District governing board). However, the ERC’s web page does not seem to have been up to date; it nonetheless lists vacant seats and previous individuals who served till 2017.

Buermann and Joyce didn’t reply to emailed requests for remark from New Times. Frazer, Roth, and McCarthy verify that they’re nonetheless serving at the board — Roth since 2010, McCarthy since 2016, and Frazer since 2021.

Both Roth and McCarthy instructed New Times they’ve restricted authority as ERC individuals, and say that the DEP is liable for scheduling conferences.

“You’re right, we haven’t had any meetings and I honestly don’t know why DEP…” McCarthy says at the telephone prior to trailing off. “DEP calls those meetings and — so I’m waiting on a call of the meeting.”

So why hasn’t DEP known as a gathering? Roth says that is a query for the company, now not the board.

“Your questions are really better answered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection or the Governor’s office,” Roth writes in an electronic mail. “I would point out that the ERC is not a board like the water management districts’ governing boards. The authority is much more limited…. We are called to meet when there is a rule that needs our review under the statute.”

DEP communications director Dee Ann Miller informs New Times by means of electronic mail that “there has not been a reason to convene the ERC” and that “the ERC has a quorum and would be able to be convened to take up new business as needed.” Miller provides that the board additionally contains Frank Gummey (former New Smyrna Beach town legal professional) and Joe Joyce (affiliate vice chairman of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences).

Even even though the ERC hasn’t met, Frazer tells New Times he helps DeSantis’ environmental paintings around the state and “look[s] forward to the opportunity to engage with FDEP personnel and other ERC board members on important environmental issues as requested.”

“With regard to my recent appointment to the Environmental Regulation Commission, I stand ready as a member of the board to lend my expertise to the group. As you are aware, I serve at the pleasure of the Governor and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection oversees ERC activities,” Frazer writes by means of electronic mail. “I continue to be encouraged by the historic levels of funding for environmental improvement programs throughout the state and applaud the Governor and our legislative leaders who have championed these important efforts.”

Merendino, together with Waterway Advocates’ cofounder Ben Swanson and president David McVey, are outraged via the board’s five-year disappearing act and argue that there is not any scarcity of problems for the fee to speak about. Last week, the gang despatched a letter to the DEP and DeSantis “urging for action now” despite the fact that DEP team of workers has insisted “there have been no agenda items that have required [ERC] to convene.” (The letter is embedded on the finish of this newsletter.)

“Florida’s Environmental Regulation Commission is not doing much regulating these days,” reads a publish at the Waterway Advocates’ web page. “In fact, the commission tasked with addressing air and water pollution in the Sunshine State has decided that there have been zero environmental issues worth discussing within the last 5 years.”

The letter writers in particular point out a new learn about that tested water high quality around the United States and located that Florida has the absolute best overall acres of lakes too polluted for swimming or wholesome aquatic existence. They additionally observe that just about 500 manatees have already died this yr from the continued atypical mortality tournament going down.

“If this trend remains at this rate, mathematically, we could see a potential loss of 1,500 manatees — this year!” the letter reads. “Certainly this is something the ERC should be discussing?”

Merendino has “never been more shocked” via a fee that has one of these huge have an effect on however has did not do a lot to offer protection to the state’s setting — specifically given how reliant Florida’s financial system is on tourism and blank waters.

“To not do everything you can to protect your economy, your citizens, and local ecosystems or statewide ecosystems,” Merendino says, “It blows my mind. I have no comprehension of it.”




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