Washington – Ahead of an expected announcement by Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) that he will challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) in the 2018 election, Kevin Curtis, executive director of the NRDC Action Fund, a national environmental organization, released the following statement:
“Governor Scott has regularly put the wishes of corporate polluters above the needs of Florida’s environment and families. He’s sided with a fringe movement of climate change deniers, defunded popular and bipartisan conservation programs, and undermined the enforcement of air, water, and climate protections. If you value Florida’s natural resources, a strong economy, and a safe future for our children, casting a vote to put Rick Scott in the Senate makes zero sense. Senator Nelson is the clear, best choice in this race.”
After the Trump administration recently included Florida in its plans to open nearly all U.S. coastlines to offshore drilling, Scott staged a press conference in the Tallahassee airport with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to claim he had spontaneously negotiated an offshore drilling exemption for the state. But e-mails later obtained by news organizations showed Scott’s and Zinke’s offices pre-planned the event as a political favor to Scott, who is damaged by his career-long support for expanded offshore drilling. In fact, no formal exemption for Florida has been granted by the Trump administration so far, and the state’s coasts remain vulnerable to expanded offshore drilling.
In contrast to Scott’s abysmal environmental record, Nelson has long fought to ban more drilling off Florida’s beaches and worked to bring justice to Gulf communities in the wake of the BP oil spill. He received a 95% voting score from the League of Conservation Voters in 2017 and has amassed a strong environmental record over his more than 30 years of public service. Nelson fights for climate action and voted against the confirmation of President Trump’s scandal-prone, science-denying EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt. The NRDC Action Fund proudly endorsed Nelson for re-election in January.
Background: Gov. Rick Scott’s Abysmal Environmental Record
Weakened and cut funding for environmental and health safeguards
- Scott zeroed-out funding for Florida Forever, the state’s hallmark conservation program. Established under former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2001, the program had an original budget of $300 million, which was funded through real estate taxes. It was reauthorized in 2008, but in 2011 Scott proposed cutting funding entirely for the program. In 2016 the program was defunded.
- Florida Legislature Slashes Funds For Land Acquisition, Conservation – WJCT Public Radio
- Politifactgave a “pants on fire” rating to Scott’s June 2015 statement that “If you care about the environment, we’ve got record funding.” Scott cut the budget for Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). In 2012, 58 DEP employees were laid off. DEP enforcement cases dropped from 2,289 in 2010 to 799 in 2012.Revenue collected from environmental penalties in Scott’s first term fell from $9.3 million in 2011 to $1.4 million in 2013.
- Rick Scott says we have ‘record funding’ for the environment in Florida – Politifact
- Rick Scott touts ‘record funding’ for environmental protection in State of the State speech – Politifact
- Florida environmental agency lays off longtime employees and hires from regulated industries – Tampa Bay Times
Dismantled state laws aimed at fighting climate change and preventing pollution
- In 2016, Scott signed into law weaker standards for toxic chemicals that flow into Florida’s rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. Concerned citizens and environmental groups fought the move, citing concerns about cancer-causing chemicals in drinking water and seafood.
- In 2016, Scott signed into law HB 7007,a bill that prohibits local governments from imposing bans on Styrofoam and polystyrene products.
- 159 Florida laws start Friday, including ban on local Styrofoam bans – Palm Beach Post
- After Scott took office in 2011, he attended a private retreat hosted by climate-denying megadonors David and Charles Koch. He then oversaw the dismantling of HB 7135, a wide-ranging environmental protection bill which put Florida “among the forefront of state-level climate actions at the time.” “The laws were ‘revised piecemeal over several years, one subtle change at a time, until the intent of the bill is gutted,’ said one former state official.”
- Florida’s case of climate denial: A tale of two governors – Miami Herald
Promoted climate change denial
- Florida state employees have come forward with stories of climate change “censorship” in Florida government under Scott. Scott often dodged questions about his own views on climate change, often using the phrase, “I’mnot a scientist.”
- The Truth about Florida’s Attempt to Censor Climate Change – Union of Concerned Scientists
- Fact-checking Rick Scott on the environment and sea-level rise – Politifact
- Florida: Drowning in Climate Change Denial – NRDC
Maintained close ties to polluting industries
- Scott owned a stake in Spectra Energy, the company chosen by Florida Power and Light in July 2013 to build and operate a controversial $3 billion pipeline to facilitate development of new gas-fired powerplants. He worked to speed up permitting for the project.
- Scott ignored the role of the sugar industry in causing a massive algal bloom in St. Lucie estuary. Scott blamed the federal government for inadequate water infrastructure, though a year earlier, his administration rejected moving forward with plans to buy thousands of acres of sugar farm land to build reservoirs that could store the nutrient-rich water that causes algal blooms.
- Governor ignores Big Sugar’s role in toxic algae infestation – Miami Herald
- Sugar’s decades-long hold over Everglades came with a price – Miami Herald
- ‘Guacamole-thick’ algae fouls swath of Florida coastline – Miami Herald
- The Rick Scott record: An Environmental Disaster (Editorial, Tampa Bay Times)
“Scott has bulldozed a record of environmental protection that his Republican and Democratic predecessors spent decades building. He weakened the enforcement of environmental laws and cut support for clean water, conservation and other programs. He simultaneously made it easier for the biggest polluters and private industries to degrade the state’s natural resources. While the first-term Republican attempts to transform himself into an environmentalist during his re-election campaign, his record reflects a callous disregard for the state’s natural resources and no understanding of how deeply Floridians care about their state’s beauty and treasures.”
- The greenwashing of Gov. Rick Scott (Op-ed, Tallahassee Democrat)
“The governor, who started his term seven years ago by gutting state agencies that protect Florida’s environment, is presenting himself as more green than Kermit the Frog as he considers a run for U.S. Senate. Scott is now against offshore oil drilling. He’s a champion of the Everglades. He supports land conservation. He wants to save the imperiled St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and the Indian River Lagoon. He’s for those things now … but his actions early in his tenure as governor sure made it look like he was against them.”
“The Election Year Environmentalist can tout his plan all he wants — we’ve heard this story before. It’s election season and Governor Rick Scott is yet again promising he’ll deliver for our environment. Except he’s only offering a third of what he said in 2014. Floridians will be lucky to see pennies on the dollar from this failed Rick Scott promise.”