One of the most difficult things we face every legislative season is a bill that looks good on the surface but turns out to be rotten at the core.
We are urging Florida Gov. Charlie Crist to veto just such a bill, deceptively titled, "Protection of Urban and Residential Environments and Water Act," right now. This bill – Florida Senate Bill 494 – appears to do something to help the environment, when in fact, it makes things worse.
In short, the bill will make it harder for cities and counties to enact strong local laws to protect waterways from fertilizer pollution. This is critical stuff down here in the land of emerald green lawns and golf courses, where blue water is turning murky and underwater springs are bubbling up with fertilizer-laden water.
We know that pollution from fertilizer runoff is the chief problem in Florida’s waters. We see the algae growing out of control our lakes, closed beaches, and drinking water that threatens public health. A lot of Florida lakes aren’t safe to swim in anymore.
We should be getting serious in tackling this problem. Instead, state leaders are dancing around it, trying to placate Big Agriculture and golf course community developers. They get bright green grass and we get scum-covered lakes.
With the help of the fertilizer industry, state agriculture leaders developed a model fertilizer ordinance – which sounds good. The trouble is that this new bill, not yet signed by Gov. Crist, encourages local governments to adopt the model ordinance, rather than develop their own ordinance. The state’s model ordinance is a gift to the fertilizer industry and it lacks teeth.
This fertilizer bill was pushed basically to preempt local governments from passing tougher standards that would meaningfully protect public waters.
Gov. Crist should throw it in the waste bin and ask the Legislature to get serious about regulating fertilizer use to keep Florida’s waters clean.