For Immediate Release: Jul 23, 2018
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Florida Racks up Second Worst Eco-Enforcement in 30+ Years
Scott Pollution Forgiveness Paints False Picture of Compliance with No Follow-Up
Tallahassee — During the seven years under Governor Rick Scott, environmental enforcement has hit a modern nadir, with 2017 registering some of the most anemic results on record, according to a new analysis released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The upshot is that not only is Florida’s environment bearing a greater pollution load, but also its Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is losing revenue as well as its capacity to monitor–let alone deter–eco-offenses.
Apart from the 2017 results in isolation, the Scott record shows a deep, across-the-board nosedive in virtually every enforcement category. As seen by these tables, new cases opened, penalties collected, and other enforcement measures are all down more than three-quarters since Scott took office.
The 2017 numbers, compared with the prior year, continue this sharply downward trend, with the second-worst enforcement results (only 2013 was worse) since 1987, when DEP was still in its infancy:
- DEP opened 28% fewer cases than in 2016:
- The number of cases in which penalties were assessed also fell, registering a sizeable decrease in the dollar value of all penalties assessed; and
- In some programs (asbestos, aquatic weed, waste cleanup, and mining), DEP filed zero cases during the entire year. Other programs (air, dredge and fill, domestic waste, hazardous waste, mangrove, storm-water, solid waste, and state lands) all saw sharp drops in new cases opened.
“These numbers reflect a steady evaporation of environmental protection in Florida,” stated Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former DEP enforcement attorney who compiled the report, including detailed breakdowns of DEP actions and outcomes by district and program. “Under Governor Scott, Florida DEP has shriveled from a major pollution control organization to a mom-and-pop storefront operation.”
In response, DEP has repeatedly asserted, without measurable data, that compliance rates are high, and that consequently, less enforcement is required. However, the records indicate that the decline in enforcement is due to a demonstrated DEP willingness to routinely “forgive” violations. PEER points to cases like CVS Pharmacies where hundreds of violations were simply ignored. Industrial and municipal wastewater is another program where serious pollution offenses trigger no enforcement action.
“The notion of universal corporate pollution compliance in Florida gives even ‘fake news’ a bad rap,” added Phillips. “The records show Florida’s environment subjected to a death by a thousand cuts as each pollution forgiveness without remedy or penalty inflicts another eco-laceration.”