(For immediate release) Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals rejected an attempt by the State of Florida, sugarcane growers, and the South Florida Water Management District to block a federal EPA plan to protect the Everglades from cane farming pollution. EPA’s new plan to save the Everglades was mandated in 2010 by federal District Judge Alan Gold as a result of a lawsuit brought by Friends of the Everglades and the Miccosukee Tribe. The State, sugarcane growers and the Water District challenged the federal plan in the appeals court, but the court ruled that the challenge was premature since the plan was still being implemented. Alan Farago, president of Friends of the Everglades said, “The appeals court rightfully rejected these challenges as yet another delay tactic by the State and sugarcane polluters.”
Sugar cane growers in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), located directly north of the Everglades, use the Everglades as their waste treatment facility, flushing billions of gallons of agricultural wastes containing high levels of phosphorus, sulfates, and pesticides, directly and indirectly into the Everglades Protection Area, Big Cypress and Everglades National Park. Agricultural wastes runoff damages the Everglades and also causes high-levels of toxic mercury contamination. Mercury contamination in the Everglades poses a direct, immediate threat to human health, particularly to pregnant women and small children who may consume fish taken from the Everglades. All of the Everglades is under Florida Department of Health Fish Consumption warnings. Mercury in Everglades fish is toxic to the unborn fetus and can cause brain and nervous system damage.
Fifteen years ago, the people of Florida passed a Constitutional Amendment, Art. II, Sec. 7, “Polluter Pays”, which requires those who cause pollution in the Everglades to bear primary responsibility for the costs of stopping and cleaning up the pollution that they cause.
In the past fifteen years, instead of adhering to the Constitution provision adopted by voters, the Governor and Legislature have acted to protect the sugar industry from paying the its fair share of pollution treatment. The Governor and Legislators have illegally shifted the cost of treating pollution to the taxpayers of South Florida. This scheme has not only created one of the nation’s largest environmental catastrophes, it has also perpetrated one of the largest rip-offs of taxpayers in American history to benefit billionaire industrial farmers.
The Bush EPA turned its back on the Everglades and sided with sugar cane polluters over Florida taxpayers, requiring them to foot Sugar’s pollution cleanup costs. As a result of successful legal efforts by Friends of the Everglades and the Miccosukee Tribe, the EPA under President Obama changed direction and has now identified a realistic plan to clean up the Everglades.
Delaying tactics by the State, Sugar, the Florida Legislature and the South Florida Water Management District continue. Damage to the Everglades and injury to the health of Florida citizens continues unabated. Friends of the Everglades hopes the public clearly sees what is being done to their health and their irreplaceable Everglades. Farago adds, “Florida taxpayers must demand that Governor Scott and the Legislature enforce the Florida Constitution and make the EAA Polluters Pay for their own waste treatment and cleanup, now.”
Pictured: Florida sugarcane field, U.S. Department of Agriculture