Florida Governor Ron DeSantis followed up on a campaign promise Thursday by signing an executive order designed to address the environmental issues that have been plaguing the state.
“On Tuesday I laid out a vision including, and particularly, about protecting our water resources and environment,” DeSantis said, referencing his inauguration speech. “I pledged I would take action and today we are taking action.”
He was joined by Lt. Governor Jeanette Nunez and First Lady Casey DeSantis at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Vester Marine and Environmental Research Field Station in Bonita Springs to make the policy announcement.
“We are attempting to secure $2.5 billion over the next four years for water resources and Everglades restoration projects,” DeSantis said. “That represents $1 billion more than the previous four years. So that shows Florida’s commitment to getting these issues right.”
This includes securing $2.5 Billion over the next four years for Everglades restoration and protection of water resources, [2/4]
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) January 10, 2019
& The Appointment of a Chief Science Officer to coordinate and prioritize scientific data, research, monitoring and analysis needs to ensure alignment with current and emerging environmental concerns most pressing to Floridians, among other reforms. [4/4]
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) January 10, 2019
In addition to securing funds to tackle environmental issues, DeSantis said the executive order would establish a Blue-Green Algae Task Force charged with reducing the effects of harmful blue-green algal blooms. “We want to have the best ideas there to be able to combat that,” he said.
Blue-green algae and red tide have been plaguing the state in recent years, especially Southwest Florida.
The executive order also asks the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to appoint a Chief Science Officer, “so that we’re doing sound science, making sure that we’re getting ahead of the curve on as many of these issues as possible,” said the governor.
DeSantis also said he would be establishing an Office of Resiliency: “Because as we’ve seen things like increased flooding and rising waters, we want to make sure that Florida is doing what it needs to do to protect its communities.”
Recent hurricanes have caused record flooding in the U.S., including in the Sunshine State.
“Obviously, this is focused on what we’re going to do as a state,” said DeSantis. “I am working with the federal government. I’d like to see no discharges. We’re working with both the White House and, as difficult as it is sometimes, working with the Army Corps to try to mitigate that in the near term, which I think is very, very important.”
“So, all and all, I think what we’ve done is really, really strong,” DeSantis concluded before signing the order. “I think the people of Florida wanted to see action, and this is action that was requested regardless of your party. We had Republicans, Democrats and Independents. I think this is something that can unite all Floridians.”
In response, Frank Jackalone, the Florida Chapter Director of the Sierra Club, a nonprofit environmental organization, said he thinks DeSantis’ new water policy is a huge step forward.
“It’s very positive to see him address the issue in his first week of office,” Jackalone said. “In fact, I would say he has done more in his first week of office to address Florida’s water crisis than Rick Scott did in eight years as Governor. Now that’s not saying much because Rick Scott didn’t do much, but it gives us hope that DeSantis is really going to make this a priority.”
“What we’re disappointed in is that he still is not acknowledging that we are accelerating climate change,” he went on to say. “If we don’t address the causes of climate change and just try to be resilient against it, we’re eventually going to lose. We’ll lose Miami, we’ll lose the Everglades, we’ll lose Jacksonville Beach. We’ll lose a lot in Florida if we don’t address the causes of climate change in the next 50 years. We have to start now to do that and, so far, he’s not talking about that issue.”
Florida Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson from Jacksonville said she’s concerned with the lack of details in DeSantis’ new directive.
“His order calls for the securing of $2.5 billion over the next four years to invest in Everglades restoration and protecting our water resources, but there is no identification of where that money will come from,” Gibson wrote in a statement to WJCT. “The governor’s executive order also calls for DEP ‘to establish a septic conversion and remediation grant program with a local government match requirement.’ But that, too, raises a host of questions for which answers are elusive.”
“We share the urgency for cleaning up our water and our environment; it’s been a top priority of ours for many years,” she went on to say. “But an executive order has to have more than just lofty goals, or admirable pursuits. It has to have the details we need to judge whether these goals are doable without hammering local governments and families throughout Florida with expenses they cannot possibly afford. Senate Democrats look forward to getting those details.”