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Reporter Traces Email Trail to Show Lobbyist Influence on Water Pollution Policy

Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers via Flickr
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The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A lobbyist given the edit pen on pending regulations. A regulatory agency influenced by the very people and businesses it’s tasked with overseeing. That’s the story from reporter Lucas Deprile, whose report in the Treasure Coast Palms newspaper looks at a trove of emails and meeting notes he says shows the South Florida Water Management District diluting new rules about water quality at the behest of a  U.S. Sugar lobbyist. 

Deprile, who worked through what his newspaper calls "hundreds of South Florida Water Management District emails, Outlook calendar meeting invitations and various other internal documents," says it all points to the watering down of pollution regulations without the oversight or public hearing the district's own scientists and the general public are subject to.Deprile joins Gulf Coast Live to share what he found by following the trail of emails and other records from the district, and how he was able to connect changes in policy to lobbyist requests. The South Florida Water Management District is charged with making decisions about water use and regulations based on sound scientific reasoning. But an investigation by the Treasure Coast Palms newspaper found the district canceled studies and gave a lobbyist with U.S. Sugar a chance to edit regulations without any public oversight. All with the ultimate effect of weakening regulations for clean water  

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Matthew Smith is a reporter and producer of WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live.
Julie Glenn is the host of Gulf Coast Live. She has been working in southwest Florida as a freelance writer since 2007, most recently as a regular columnist for the Naples Daily News. She began her broadcasting career in 1993 as a reporter/anchor/producer for a local CBS affiliate in Quincy, Illinois. After also working for the NBC affiliate, she decided to move to Parma, Italy where she earned her Master’s degree in communication from the University of Gastronomic Sciences. Her undergraduate degree in Mass Communication is from the University of Missouri at Kansas City.