Minority Office — Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 21, 2016
Senator Linda Stewart,
Senator Linda Stewart Files Bill to Protect Florida’s Waters and Public Health
Orlando Democrat fulfills pledge to fight Big Polluters in the Capital
Alarmed by the takeover of a commission tasked with protecting Florida’s fragile environment by members catering to narrow industrial interests, state Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) on Tuesday filed legislation to prevent future power grabs.
"?The people of Florida deserve more scrutiny when it comes to the basics that affect our health,” she said, “especially our water. Surrendering oversight threatens to impact everything from the quality of what comes out of our faucets, to what our children swim in, and where our food is harvested.”
At issue is the makeup of the state Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC), a 7-member group including representatives from the environmental, business, agriculture, and scientific communities appointed by the governor, and tasked with developing and approving reasonable regulations.
Earlier this year, with two critical positions on the commission left vacant – one from the environmental community and one from local government - the ERC in a 3-2 vote abruptly increased in the state’s water bodies the allowable concentrations of almost 100 known carcinogens. The toxins include benzene, and other by-products from large-scale industrial polluters such as oil and gas drilling operations (including fracking), dry cleaning, nuclear plants, and paper mills.
Senate Bill 198 would pre-empt such an overbearing move by requiring the governor to fill vacancies on the commission within a time certain of 90 days so that openings can't be used to ram through future regulations in the same way. The bill would also require a supermajority of five votes to alter certain areas of the Florida Administrative Code that deal with things like air pollution, water quality standards, hazardous substance release notification, and drinking? water.
“Three unelected and unaccountable people voted to allow these known cancer-causing chemicals into Florida's waters. It defies belief that some folks in Tallahassee value the health and well-being of campaign accounts and corporate profits more than they do the lives of the people they were elected to serve,” said Senator Stewart. “I think they need a serious reminder that cancer doesn't care whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, or rich, or poor - and I look forward to working with every one of my colleagues to see that science and not politics is what drives this decision-making process in the future."
SB 198 has been filed for the upcoming legislative session, which begins in March.