Rick Scott Unveils New Environmental Agenda, Draws Fire from the Left
Around the State
Getting ready for the general election, Gov. Rick Scott turned his focus toward the environment this week and drew fire from his Democratic opponents.
The governor started his “Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful” tour on Monday, pointing toward his plan to send $500 million for alternative waters, $500 million for springs and his efforts for the Everglades. Scott is also calling for the state Department of Environmental Protection to increase fines on polluters.
“Florida’s natural beauty is a big reason why this is the best state in the country to call home,” Scott said on Sunday. “Our natural resources are the foundation of our economy – they drive tourism, housing, business, and agriculture – and they deserve our long-term commitment. We’ve made record investments in Florida’s environment, but there’s more work to be done. With a $1 billion investment in Florida’s waters, an ongoing commitment to the Everglades, and tougher penalties for bad actors, we’ll ensure that Florida’s treasures are protected for generations to come.”
Scott’s environmental agenda also includes launching a new program to protect the Indian River estuary, creating a new staff position in the governor’s office directed to work on water management, sending $150 million for land preservation, adding more sunshine to grants on water projects and launching a $2 million grant for the Florida State Park System.
Scott hit Jupiter and Palm City on Monday as he started his tour to showcase his environmental agenda. Martin County Commissioner Sarah Heard expressed her support for Scott’s agenda, especially his commitment to Indian River.
“On behalf of the Martin County Board of County Commissioners, I applaud Gov. Scott for his continued efforts toward completion of the Indian River Lagoon-South restoration project,” Heard said. “Martin County remains a strong partner and advocate of Everglades restoration and is proud to have generated $75 million in support of Everglades restoration, thanks to the commitment of our citizens. Everglades restoration projects create jobs and provide a 3-to-1 return on investment. In Martin County. Our waterways are our lifeblood and restoration is a wise use of taxpayer dollars.”
But the team behind former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite to win the Democratic primary to challenge Scott later this month, came out swinging at Scott on the environment on Monday.
“Today, Rick Scott is finally giving lip-service to our environment,” insisted Jessica Clark, Crist's deputy campaign manager, on Monday. “Don’t be fooled. His proposal is a shameless attempt to distract us from the four years he’s spent selling our natural resources to the highest bidder. It’s no wonder Scott abandoned the environment -- after all, trees, oceans, and beaches can’t donate to his campaign.
“He gutted environmental enforcement,” Clark continued. “He halted work on Everglades restoration projects -- he actually proposed drilling for oil in the Everglades. Rick Scott even refuses to believe that climate change is real. But then, what can we expect? His big corporate donors have benefited every step of the way, because Scott’s mantra isn’t just “profits over people.” It’s profits over everything else -- including our clean air, water, and land. Charlie will put the people and natural beauty of this great state first.”
Scott’s environmental agenda also drew the fire of liberal PAC NextGen Climate, a super-PAC backed by California businessman and billionaire Tom Steyer. Despite having made his fortune in part due to his investment in coal, Steyer is now backing alternative energy and using his money to defeat candidates who have questioned global warming. Steyer has publicly mulled spending around $10 million to defeat Scott this year.
Global warming was the topic de jour for NextGen Climate on Monday, hitting Scott since he “fails to mention the threat of climate change in his eight-page plan” on the environment.
“Gov. Scott’s plan is a desperate election-year stunt and too little too late,” NextGen Climate insisted on Monday, claiming Scott's record was “dismal” and he worked to “dismantle initiatives that would combat climate change.” The liberal PAC insisted Scott’s new environmental proposals can’t be trusted due to his record in Tallahassee.
But Scott’s proposal did garner the applause of other environmental activists on Monday including Will Abberger, the campaign manager of the Florida Water and Land Legacy Campaign’s efforts to push Amendment 1 on the November ballot.
“We applaud Gov. Rick Scott for his leadership in recognizing the immediate and lasting importance of water and land conservation in our state,” Abberger said. “Conserving Florida’s rivers, lakes, springs and bays, and our natural areas and wildlife habitat is absolutely essential to protecting our state’s well-being. We agree with Gov. Scott that we need to invest in protecting Florida’s water quality, the Everglades, and our treasured natural areas.”
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.