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Gov. DeSantis Wants Increased Pollution Penalties, Everglades Funding

Speaking at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples on Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he wants more funding for Everglades restoration, as well as increased penalties for municipalities that pollute Florida waters.
Mike Kiniry
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Governor Ron DeSantis made a stop at the in Naples on Wednesday to announce that he wants more funding for Everglades restoration in next year’s budget, and to guarantee that funding level for the following two years.

He also said he wants to increase penalties for municipalities that pollute Florida waters.

The governor was joined by a host of state lawmakers, and members of conservation organizations in the Conservancy’s nature center.

In front of a giant aquarium filled with large fish and a sea turtle, DeSantis touted the progress his administration has made so far when it comes to water quality issues, including starting the Blue Green Algae and Red Tide Task Forces, and appointing the state’s first ever Chief Science Officer, and Chief Resilience Officer.

When he took office the governor asked for about $625 million for Everglades restoration efforts, and wound up getting even more in his first year. Now, he says, he’s asking for that amount next year, and for it to be guaranteed for the following two years.

READ MORE: How Far Does Gov. DeSantis' Environmental Proposal Go?

And, he says because current laws and penalties for municipalities that pollute aren’t strong enough, they often see fines as just the cost of doing business. He says the current system just doesn’t have enough bite to be persuasive.

“We’re going to do a 50-percent increase in the amount of fines that people will face – particularly the municipalities who have had a problem with this – but what we will also seek the power to do is allow the DEP to not only assess that increased fine, but to assess daily fines at that level until the harm has been fixed.”

The governor says that should change the calculus for municipalities, creating better incentives to make sure their infrastructure is in good working order.

FLORIDA MATTERS: Keeping Sewage Out Of Florida's Waterways

The Nature Conservancy’s President and CEO, Rob Moher, applauded the announcement, and said quite a bit has changed in just one year.

“I think if there’s one thing that’s changed in the past year is we’re stopped thinking about these issues as environmental issues, and we see them now as economic, as health, as quality of life, and as community issues. And all the partners in this room have really broadened the net of people thinking about the water quality issues, the land issues, and the wildlife issues.”

Governor DeSantis says this is just the first of a number of announcements he’ll be making as we head toward the 2020 legislative session.

According to a press release sent after the announcement, as part of the $625 million, the law will require:

  • At least $300 million for Everglades Restoration and the EAA Reservoir project
  • $50 million for springs restoration
  • $50 million for Total Maximum Daily Load projects (TMDLs) to ensure water bodies throughout the state have appropriate nutrient levels
  • $15 million for projects within the St. Johns River, Suwannee River and Apalachicola River watersheds
  • $10 million for Coral Reef protection and restoration.
  • The remainder of the $625 million will be appropriated for other water quality, alternative water supply, and water conservation projects, including innovative technologies for nutrient reduction and harmful algal bloom prevention and mitigation.

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Mike Kiniry is producer of Gulf Coast Live, and co-creator and host of the WGCU podcast Three Song Stories: Biography Through Music. He first joined the WGCU team in the summer of 2003 as an intern while studying Communication at Florida Gulf Coast University.