These are only a few of Florida’s newest environmental catastrophes, and but the state’s prime environmental administration company, the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC), has not met in additional than 5 years.
That’s proper. Five years.
The DEP tells New Times that the ERC final convened on February 8, 2017. That’s virtually two years earlier than Gov. Ron DeSantis, who stated he’d make the surroundings one in all his prime priorities, assumed workplace in 2019.
“I mean, I think they’re in the Florida Keys hanging out,” Caleb Merendino, cofounder of the Fort Lauderdale-based environmental nonprofit Waterway Advocates, tells New Times. “I literally don’t know where they are, and I don’t think anyone knows where they are.”
Created by statute in 1975 together with the DEP’s predecessor company, the Department of Environmental Regulation, the ERC is a seven-member group tasked with reviewing the “scientific and technical validity, economic impacts, and relative risks and benefits to the public and the environment” after which signing off on the DEP requirements and guidelines, from air air pollution to water high quality to waste administration.
For instance, in 2016, the ERC up to date the boundaries on 43 poisonous chemical substances that may be dumped into the water. And in 2013 it developed nutrient requirements for complete phosphorus, nitrogen, and chlorophyll at six estuaries within the Florida Panhandle. According to the Florida Senate, the fee is “an important public access point in the rulemaking process” and may maintain conferences across the state when mandatory.
In March 2021, Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed 4 individuals to serve on the fee, whose four-year phrases are non-salaried: Thomas Ok. Frazer (dean of the College of Marine Science on the University of South Florida), Cari Roth (vice chairman of governmental and regulatory affairs for the family-owned agri-business Lykes Bros), Jim McCarthy (North Florida Land Trust president), and Eric Buermann (former chairman of the South Florida Water Management District governing board). However, the ERC’s web site would not seem to have been up to date; it nonetheless lists vacant seats and former members who served till 2017.
Buermann and Joyce didn’t reply to emailed requests for remark from New Times. Frazer, Roth, and McCarthy verify that they’re nonetheless serving on the board — Roth since 2010, McCarthy since 2016, and Frazer since 2021.
Both Roth and McCarthy instructed New Times they’ve restricted authority as ERC members, and say that the DEP is chargeable for scheduling conferences.
“You’re right, we haven’t had any meetings and I honestly don’t know why DEP…” McCarthy says on the cellphone earlier than trailing off. “DEP calls those meetings and — so I’m waiting on a call of the meeting.”
So why hasn’t DEP known as a gathering? Roth says that is a query for the company, not the board.
“Your questions are really better answered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection or the Governor’s office,” Roth writes in an e mail. “I would point out that the ERC is not a board like the water management districts’ governing boards. The authority is much more limited…. We are called to meet when there is a rule that needs our review under the statute.”
DEP communications director Dee Ann Miller informs New Times by way of e mail that “there has not been a reason to convene the ERC” and that “the ERC has a quorum and would be able to be convened to take up new business as needed.” Miller provides that the board additionally contains Frank Gummey (former New Smyrna Beach metropolis legal professional) and Joe Joyce (affiliate vice chairman of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences).
Even although the ERC hasn’t met, Frazer tells New Times he helps DeSantis’ environmental work throughout the state and “look[s] forward to the opportunity to engage with FDEP personnel and other ERC board members on important environmental issues as requested.”
“With regard to my recent appointment to the Environmental Regulation Commission, I stand ready as a member of the board to lend my expertise to the group. As you are aware, I serve at the pleasure of the Governor and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection oversees ERC activities,” Frazer writes by way of e mail. “I continue to be encouraged by the historic levels of funding for environmental improvement programs throughout the state and applaud the Governor and our legislative leaders who have championed these important efforts.”
Merendino, together with Waterway Advocates’ cofounder Ben Swanson and president David McVey, are outraged by the board’s five-year disappearing act and argue that there is no scarcity of points for the fee to debate. Last week, the group despatched a letter to the DEP and DeSantis “urging for action now” even when DEP employees has insisted “there have been no agenda items that have required [ERC] to convene.” (The letter is embedded on the finish of this text.)
“Florida’s Environmental Regulation Commission is not doing much regulating these days,” reads a publish on the Waterway Advocates’ web site. “In fact, the commission tasked with addressing air and water pollution in the Sunshine State has decided that there have been zero environmental issues worth discussing within the last 5 years.”
The letter writers particularly point out a new examine that examined water high quality throughout the United States and located that Florida has the best complete acres of lakes too polluted for swimming or wholesome aquatic life. They additionally word that just about 500 manatees have already died this yr from the continued uncommon mortality occasion occurring.
“If this trend remains at this rate, mathematically, we could see a potential loss of 1,500 manatees — this year!” the letter reads. “Certainly this is something the ERC should be discussing?”
Merendino has “never been more shocked” by a fee that has such an enormous impression however has did not do a lot to guard the state’s surroundings — significantly given how reliant Florida’s economic system is on tourism and clear waters.
“To not do everything you can to protect your economy, your citizens, and local ecosystems or statewide ecosystems,” Merendino says, “It blows my mind. I have no comprehension of it.”