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In Florida, Green Is Toxic

As I write this, a new toxic algae bloom has broken out on southwest Florida’s Caloosahatchee River, filling the air with a sickening stench.

We are so infuriated at seeing this heartbreaking pollution disaster wreck our beautiful Florida so early in the toxic algae season. As you’ve read in this blog before, these outbreaks of toxic green slime are triggered by the excess phosphorus and nitrogen from sewage, manure and fertilizer.

During the past three months, our whole office of five lawyers have been working over 12 hours seven days a week reading documents, and getting ready for a trial challenging the legality of the state’s new pollution rules.

The rules were largely written by industry lawyers (yes) and are 26 pages of cross reference that make the Internal Revenue Code look like a 3rd grade reading assignment. It has been a hard case to put together, especially under the stress of short deadlines. In one exhausting 8-day stretch, we traveled to different city every day. We took depositions and prepared witnesses by day and traveled by night, checking into yet another motel and preparing for depositions until after midnight. One of the motels had recently been converted from a nursing home and still had that creepy hospital smell – yikes!

When we got back, it was 16 or 17 hours a day of document review and preparation and another long exhausting sprint up to trial day. When the trial started, there were a dozen industry lawyers and four agency lawyers at the other tables. Our witnesses had to run the gauntlet of cross examination by several lawyers, just like a tag -team match, but where only the other side gets to do the tag-teaming.

But our experts remained eloquent and graceful yet unyielding under withering cross examination. As the case hammered on, it became clear that it had really been worth it for us to stay up late reading the documents. And it was another two weeks of 16-hour-days getting our post-trial memos written.

These state rules will not protect us from toxic algae and the destruction the Florida we love. The state never should have adopted these rules – they should have sold them on Ebay. We are keeping our fingers crossed hoping that we win.

We’ll keep you posted.
 

About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.