Rick Scott on Environment
Protesters took aim at Scott for cutting funding for environmental agencies early in his first term, arguing Scott's cost-cutting and deregulation have kept the state from implementing measures that could have helped minimize naturally occurring red tide blooms.
Scott supporters who came out to see the candidate said it's unfair to blame the governor for the algae bloom when red tide has been documented going back centuries. But Scott's critics say his policies have exacerbated the problem. Red tide blooms start offshore but can feed on nutrients found in nearshore waters. Leaky septic tanks, lawn fertilizer found in stormwater runoff & other factors can add to nutrient levels in nearshore waters.
The governor also cut $700 million from the state's water management districts, which help implement a range of water quality programs. And Scott reduced staffing at the state Department of Environmental Protection and pushed to speed up and streamline environmental permitting, leading some to accuse the state of cutting corners in protecting the environment.
Scott declared a state of emergency last month covering seven counties impacted by the red tide bloom. The governor also has directed $9 million in grant funding to help communities cope with the bloom.
"While red tide is a naturally occurring algae that has been documented along Florida's Gulf Coast since the 1840's, Gov. Scott is fighting to use all available resources to help impacted communities, including declaring a state of emergency and providing millions of dollars in grant funding to Southwest Florida counties for cleanup and recovery efforts," a spokesperson said.
Scott has run a TV ad accusing Nelson of having done nothing during his time in Congress to improve the situation with Lake Okeechobee. Seasonal discharges from the lake have fueled toxic algae blooms along the Treasure Coast and in Southwest Florida.
Whenever heavy rains raise Lake O's water level, the Army Corps of Engineers releases billions of gallons of water from the lake through canals. Since the federal government controls those discharges, Scott blames Nelson for not doing more to stop it.
But the Army Corps doesn't control the quality of the water in the lake. Environmental groups across the state have been harshly critical of Scott's tenure in Tallahassee, saying his administration's budgets cuts for environmental programs helped lead to the water problems now plaguing the state.
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The Public Employees For Environmental Responsibility (PEER) issued a statement that the DEP collected 70% less in fines from violators in 2012, and the agency opened half as many environmental investigations as it did the year before.
PEER says Scott advised DEP staff to restrain from pursuing enforcement and laid off staff responsible for enforcing the state's environmental standards. PEER also released an internal DEP memo in which the deputy secretary advises directors to focus on compliance without enforcement. Meanwhile, the DEP says the lower enforcement numbers are merely a consequence of more Florida industries operating within safe environmental standards.
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Senate races 2017-8:
AZ: Flake(R) vs. Ward(R) vs.Sinema(D) vs.Abboud(D) vs.McSally(R) vs.Arpaio(R) vs.Marks(L)
CA: Feinstein(D) vs. Eisen(I) vs. Sanchez?(D) vs.de_Leon(D)
CT: Murphy(D) vs.Adams(D) vs.Corey(R)
DE: Carper(D) vs.Arlett(R) vs.Truono(R) vs.
FL: Nelson(D) vs.
HI: Hirono(D) vs.Curtis(R) vs.
IN: Donnelly(D) vs.
MA: Warren(D) vs. Ayyadurai(I) vs.
MD: Cardin(D) vs.Campbell(R) vs.Vohra(L) vs.
ME: King(I) vs.Brakey(R) vs.Ringelstein(D) vs.Lyons(L)
MI: Stabenow(D) vs.
MN-6: Klobuchar(D) vs.Newberger(R) vs.Overby(G)
MO: McCaskill(D) vs.Petersen(R) vs.Petersen(R) vs.Monetti(R) vs.Hawley(R)
MS-2: vs.Hyde-Smith(R) vs. McDaniel(R) vs.Espy(D) vs.
MS-6: Wicker(R) vs.Baria(D) vs.
MT: Tester(D) vs.Olszewski(R) vs.Rosendale(R)
ND: Heitkamp(D) vs.Peyer(D) vs.Cramer(R) vs.
NE: Fischer(R) vs.Raybould(D)
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NM: Heinrich(D) vs.Rich(R) vs.Johnson(L)
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NY: Gillibrand(D) vs.
OH: Brown(D) vs.
PA: Casey(D) vs.
RI: Whitehouse(D) vs.Nardolillo(R)
TN: Corker(R) vs.Bredesen(D) vs.
TX: Cruz(R) vs.
UT: Hatch(R) vs.
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VT: Sanders(I) vs.Milne(D) vs.MacGovern(D) vs.Paige(R) vs.Zupan(R)
WA: Cantwell(D) vs.Hutchison(R) vs.Ferguson(D) vs.Luke(L) vs.Strider(L)
WI: Baldwin(D) vs.Vukmir(R)
WV: Manchin(D) vs.
WY: Barrasso(R) vs.Trauner(D)
Senate Votes (analysis)