Florida lawmakers begin cracking down on polluters

Photo: City of Sarasota employees work to contain a sewage spill. Herald-Tribune archive (2011) Mike Lang

But big questions remain about how far they’ll go

TALLAHASSEE — The crowd packed into a committee room in the basement of the Florida House office building burst into applause last week after Rep. Randy Fine finished delivering an impassioned speech about preventing sewage from spilling into waterways.

“If the sergeant would get the fire extinguisher, I think Rep. Fine’s on fire,” joked the committee chairman, Rep. Chuck Clemons.

The importance of the issue also brought out some emotion in Clemons, who said he is “apoplectic” about the sewage spills fouling waterways around the state. Clemons went further. Tapping his fingers on the desk to punctuate his point, he talked about how essential the work is this year of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, which approved some big environmental regulation bills last week.

Clemons mentioned a major sewage spill that recently fouled the Withlacoochee and Suwanee Rivers. Florida’s environmental treasures continue to be degraded, and Clemons said it’s time to act.

“We have to get a handle on this today,” said the Newberry Republican, thumping the desk twice. “I mean today — meaning this session — we have to get a handle on it.

Whether it’s a sewage spill in the Suwannee, red tide in Southwest Florida, blue-green algae pouring into estuaries from Lake Okeechobee, algae-clogged freshwater springs or brown tide in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida’s waterways have been under assault.

There has been a lot of big talk from elected leaders about taking action, and big questions about how far Florida’s GOP-controlled Legislature is willing to go.

Last week provided an early glimpse of where the Legislature is headed when it comes to […]

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Florida lawmakers begin cracking down on polluters
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Florida lawmakers begin cracking down on polluters
The crowd burst into applause after Rep. Randy Fine delivered an impassioned speech about preventing sewage spills contaminating Florida waterways.
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