Saving the Lagoon in a despicable system


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An aerial view of the Indian River Lagoon.

Shutterstock

On Aug. 9 Brevard residents packed the Brevard County Commission Chamber. With a 5-0 vote, the Board of Commissioners passed a motion to put a referendum on the November ballot for a half-cent sales tax to fund projects for the restoration of the Indian River Lagoon (IRL). 

This was a victory not only for the supporters present at the meeting, but for the community that had its voice heard.

That, unfortunately, is not always what happens.

Just this month, “state environmental regulators voted […] to approve new standards that will increase the amount of cancer-causing toxins allowed in Florida’s rivers and streams under a plan the state says will protect more Floridians than current standards,” the Associated Press reported. 

That vote was taken while the seat for a commissioner representing the environmental community was vacant on the commission. 

Whose interests are being protected in this case?

Despite the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) affirming that the new rules were created to “ensure Floridians can continue to safely eat Florida’s seafood, swim in and drink potable water from state surface waters,” according to the Associated Press “one of the commissioners who voted against the new standards questioned if the changes were being done to assist companies that want to pursue a type of oil and gas drilling known as fracking.”

That would be simply appalling.

Then on Aug. 12, the Gainesville Sun reported that “the hotly-debated Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline has received its final federal permits and company officials are seeking a green light to start construction along a 516-mile corridor that includes environmentally sensitive parts of north central Florida. […] The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finalized permits that allow the companies partnering on the pipeline — Houston-based Spectra Energy, Duke Energy and FP&L parent company NextEra Energy — to discharge dredged and fill material into water bodies, such as wetlands, during construction.”

Could it be a mere coincidence? 

After reading the article “Gov. Scott had stake in pipeline firm whose $3 billion venture he and his appointees backed” (miamiherald.com/news/state/article1976380.html) in the Miami Herald from July 21, 2014 where it is reported that “the governor owned a stake in Spectra Energy, the Houston company chosen by Florida Power & Light that July to build and operate the $3 billion pipeline. Sabal Trail Transmission LLC is a joint venture of Spectra Energy and FPL’s parent, NextEra Energy,” it becomes a little hard to believe in coincidence.

That is the kind of coincidence that we have been experiencing more and more these days. So much so that an organization called Represent.Us was created. Launched in late 2012, Represent.Us is “the nation’s largest grassroots anti-corruption campaign” that vows to “bring conservatives and progressives together to fix America’s corrupt political system.” 

If you would like to learn more and get involved, check their page on Facebook or sign up to join the local chapter at volunteer.represent.us/spacecoast.

It seems to me that citizens are prepared to put their money where their mouths are, but politicians, on the other hand, seem to only be prepared to put their mouths where the money is disregarding the impact — sometimes potentially catastrophic — their decisions may have. This became almost the norm in this despicable system we are living in.

Passing the referendum to help the IRL may be a hard sell not because people don’t want to fix the lagoon and contribute to the best for our community, but because they’ve been burned and lack trust. They are tired of being stuck with the bill while politicians keep making bad decisions that compromise our environment and our well being to solely favor their own interests.

Email Marcia Booth at Marcia@3RsAndBeyond.org