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David Guest's Blog

The Florida Forever conservation land-buying program was created to set aside funds for conservation to protect coastal areas like this one.

Florida legislators stole funds earmarked for conservation to pay for salaries and agency-operating expenses. On behalf of millions of Floridians, Earthjustice fought back—and we just won.

Right now, in the prime-time of summer fishing, surfing, and swimming season, health officials in one of the prettiest places in southeast Florida are warning people not to touch the water because it poses a dangerous health risk.

A massive toxic algae outbreak along the Atlantic coast, north of Palm Beach, is turning the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Lucie Rivers sci-fi green. This is one of the most biologically productive parts of South Florida, and one of the most popular for water sports.

Florida tourism promoters are always looking to get stories in the newspaper to lure northern tourists—and their vacation cash—down here. But a recent story in the New York Times wasn’t what they had in mind.

“Florida Algae Bloom Leads to Record Manatee Deaths,” read the national headline on April 6, in the middle of prime winter tourist season.

In a fantastic show of grassroots support for clean water, Floridians packed a Environmental Protection Agency meeting in Tampa on Jan. 16, saying they are fed up with repeated slimy algae outbreaks on the state’s beaches, rivers, spring and streams

More than 150 protested, and they wore fluorescent green T-shirts saying, “Ask me about slime.” They asked the EPA to stay strong and enforce pollution limits for sewage, manure and fertilizer—three culprits which are fueling algae outbreaks all over the state.

For decades, U.S. sugar barons have been dumping their polluted runoff into the Florida Everglades. Day after day, these politically powerful corporations send chemical fertilizers and pesticides into the great marsh—wrecking America’s only subtropical wilderness in the process.

It’s clearly wrong for sugar plantations to use our public natural resources as their private dumping grounds, and we here at the Florida office of Earthjustice fight many legal battles to stop it.

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.

As I write this, half of the 75-mile long Caloosahatchee River in southwest Florida is covered by nauseating green slime. It’s a heartbreaking sight – dead fish wash up along the banks, and waterfront homes have a pricey view of a stinking mess.

One dismayed homeowner told me he plans to petition local government to lower his property valuation because his waterfront lifestyle is now so gross that no one would ever want to live there.

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.

We’re breathing a cautious sigh of relief here in Florida on the issue of offshore drilling. A dangerous bill that would have lifted the state’s offshore drilling ban appears to be dead. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.

Our state Senate President told reporters today that the Legislature has run out of time to hear the offshore oil issue. The bill passed the Florida House of Representatives 70-43 on Monday. If it isn’t heard in the Senate, the bill will die.

Talk about a great Earth Day present! Florida Power and Light and Kitson & Partners made a stunning announcement April 9, saying they plan to build the nation's first solar-powered city—a cluster of homes, offices and factories less than 20 miles from Fort Myers on Florida's Gulf Coast.

Apparently, the sight of toxic algae blooms spreading across South Florida's public waterways last year wasn't enough to convince the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to do the right thing and toughen standards for nutrient pollution.

So on March 9, we filed suit in U.S. District Court to compel the EPA to set more protective pollution limits for Lake Okeechobee and its tributaries. Lake Okeechobee is the second-largest freshwater lake wholly within the continental United States, second only to Lake Michigan.

Down here in Florida, we are continuing our fight against the giant, destructive phosphate strip mines that trash our landscapes and pollute our water.

Our latest legal battle aims at some incredible strong-arm corporate tactics that Mosaic Phosphate is using to shut out local citizens and get its local land-use approvals to mine in the watersheds of the gorgeous Peace River in Southwest Florida. Read the full story.

Jan. 8 was a sweet day in Florida, and I’m not talking about the weather.

On that day, the state's Public Service Commission voted for a new energy mandate: the state will get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources—wind, solar, hydropower, or biomass—by 2020.

"We want to be a leader in this country in solar and wind," Public Service Commission Chairman Matthew Carter said. "We want to establish a dynamic and vibrant marketplace."

With a single vote on Dec. 2, Florida took real leadership in the fight against global warming.

After years of head-in-the-sand policy making, this is a welcome change. We have Gov. Charlie Crist to thank: he proposed that Florida adopt clean car standards patterned after those in California.

Smack in the middle of a groundwater shortage that had Southwest Florida officials begging people to use as little water as possible, agricultural operations opened their pumps wide and flooded millions of gallons of water wastefully over their fields.

They had legal permits to do this, permits issued by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, a taxpayer-funded water authority. We sued the water management district two years ago. On October 30, a Florida Appeals Court finally ruled in our favor.

I just finished a year-long appointment on Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's Action Team on Energy and Climate Change. We released a blueprint that, if put into action, would make Florida one of America's most aggressive states in tackling climate change.

We studied the gamut: alternative energy sources, vehicle emissions, landfill gases, forestry practices, building construction, electricity demand you name it.

The result is an ambitious set of reforms which we believe would cut Florida's greenhouse gasses 34 percent by 2025.

We won a significant victory in our phosphate case on Oct. 6. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suspended a permit that gave Mosaic Phosphate the go-ahead to destroy 480 acres of high-quality wetlands within Southwest Florida's Peace River watershed.

Our court case is ongoing, but the Corps decision to suspend the permit shows that the permit didn't comply with the law and should never have been granted.

In its letter, the Corps said: "The Corps has determined that it is in the public interest to revisit the analysis in support of the permit decision."

The phosphate mines in Florida are so damaging that their ugly scars on the planet can be clearly seen from space. Florida's public rivers, lakes, streams, and coastal waters pay the price for these corporate strip mines, year after year.

Attorney Monica Reimer in Earthjustice's Florida office has filed an important lawsuit that challenges federal approval for one of these mines near the beautiful Peace River outside Bradenton.

By this time, most everyone has heard about the historic deal in the Florida Everglades: U.S. Sugar will sell the state of Florida 187,000 acres that sit between giant Lake Okeechobee and Everglades National Park.

That's 187,000 acres that will no longer be drenched with poison pesticides and fertilizers. It is industrial farmland that blocks the Everglades' natural water flow—now it can hold and filter water as it moves south toward Florida Bay.

To say we're ecstatic down here is a massive understatement. This is the largest conservation deal in Florida history.

Earthjustice's Florida team has saved the state's seagrasses and fishing grounds from a legislative poison pill. David Guest, managing attorney of the Florida office, tells this tale of midnight chicanery...

The bill in the Florida Legislature seemed like a good thing: For the first time, Florida would impose fines on boaters who carelessly trashed seagrass beds in the state's protected aquatic preserves. The underwater marine nursery grounds can get chewed up by boat propellers, and the damage can last for decades.

About the Earthjustice Blog

The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.