Federal Court Judge Moreno today rejected a request to let Florida out of a historic legal agreement the state made to clean up the Everglades National Park.
The agreement — called a consent decree — provides important water quality protections and requires that water sent south to the Everglades is clean.
Conservation groups argued that the consent decree is still needed because excessive pollution is still wreaking havoc on the Everglades and the state has failed to stop it.
The ruling means that important protections for the Everglades will continue.
The judge rejected the petition by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) requesting that the consent decree be invalidated or vacated. His ruling was made without prejudice, which means the SFWMD can refile its request if it chooses to do so.
The conservation groups who intervened in this case and opposed the motion are Earthjustice, Florida Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Defenders of Wildlife, and Audubon Society of the Everglades.
The consent decree was signed in 1992 to settle a lawsuit filed by the federal government against the state of Florida for harming the park and the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge by allowing in too much dirty runoff from industrial agriculture (especially sugar cane operations).
Everglades National Park is one of America’s great places. The vast South Florida marsh is the largest continuous stand of sawgrass prairie left in North America. It is the continent’s most significant tropical bird breeding ground and contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere. The Everglades also recharges the Biscayne aquifer, which provides most of South Florida’s drinking water.
Alisa Coe, attorney from the nonprofit legal organization Earthjustice, who serves as legal counsel for all the environmental organizations that intervened, said, “The ruling is a victory for the Everglades. The job of cleaning up the Everglades is not done. We’re happy to see that the critical protections for the Everglades will remain in place.”
Scott Zucker, Vice President and Conservation Co-chair at Audubon Everglades, said, “Judge Moreno’s ruling is a victory for all Floridians and in line with Governor Desantis’ promise to clean up Florida’s water, as it requires the District to continue to fulfill its mandate to deliver clean water to the Everglades.”
“Judge Moreno’s ruling is a victory for Everglades National Park and for millions of Floridians who depend on clean water,” said Cara Capp, Everglades Restoration Manager at National Parks Conservation Association. “The health of the Everglades depends on the quality of water that flows south — that’s why taxpayers have spent over $1 billion on restoration projects to get the water right. Today’s decision continues our strong momentum to protect and restore the Everglades.”
“This decision is a victory for wildlife and for America’s Everglades,” said Jim Murphy, director of legal advocacy for the National Wildlife Federation. “For decades, this agreement has been instrumental in protecting the sensitive Everglades ecosystem. But the work is far from done, and these protections continue to be needed. We applaud Judge Moreno’s decision to leave this agreement in place as a key building block to restoring the Everglades.”
“We are pleased that Judge Moreno ruled against abandoning the consent decree that sets water quality standards to protect the Everglades and its vast array of wildlife,” said Elizabeth Fleming, Senior Florida Representative, Defenders of Wildlife. “Everglades restoration is far from complete and this ruling upholds important safeguards for wildlife and their habitat.”
Diana Umpierre, AICP, Sierra Club Organizing Representative, said, “The Everglades is still on life support and cannot be denied the protections the consent decree provides. We are relieved that Rick Scott’s attempt to give a parting gift to Big Sugar has failed.”