Statewide connections in county EPC fight
Why is a Tallahassee law firm lobbying your Hillsborough county commissioners to eliminate our local wetlands regulations?
Hopping Green & Sams didn’t identify a client in their letter to our commissioners, but their clients include some of the biggest companies in industries notorious for polluting Florida’s environment, including Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida (54 cane growers—think Everglades pollution), CF Industries ($1.9-billion phosphate company), Sunniland Pipeline Company (spilled 154,696 gallons of crude oil into South Florida’s Big Cypress wetlands) and St. Joe Company (Florida’s largest landowner & mega-monster developer planning to pave over springs and cypress swamps in the panhandle for a gigantic airport complex.)
The HG&S letter was signed by Frank Matthews,
who lobbies for both the Florida Home Builders Association and the Association of Florida Community Developers and who has long advocated doing away with the county permit programs [across the state]. …
Two years ago he helped write a bill … calling for the state to take over much of the federal government’s wetland permitting duties because the state says yes to destroying wetlands faster and more often.
Recently, Matthews lobbied for a law that would have eliminated local wetlands protections throughout Florida. That legislation drew massive opposition, much of it from Hillsborough residents fighting hard to protect our EPC. Governor Crist promised to veto the legislation, and it died.
In that attack on our EPC, as in the current attack, county commissioners acting as the EPC board, sabotaged the very agency they are charged with leading. In that case, as in this, the Tampa City Council voted unanimously to appeal to the Governor to save EPC from county commissioners.
Citizens across the county are asking Governor Crist to intervene. Friday, while Crist was in Tampa, about 40 citizens picketed around the building where he attended a ceremonial bill-signing. The citizens’ signs asked the Governor to investigate county commissioners, and save our EPC. (My sign borrowed mug shots of the Gang of 4 from Stogie.)
Over 165 individuals and community groups (listed below the fold) — civic associations, neighborhood groups, etc. — signed a letter asking our Governor to investigate the county commissioners’ mishandling of our EPC. The letter also asks:
Why is a Tallahassee state-wide development industry lobbyist law firm interested in Hillsborough County’s EPC?
One reason could be that once the battle against local wetlands regulations is won here, the state-level war will be much easier to win with Hillsborough’s vocal citizens out of the fight. But if we lose that war, all of Florida’s wetlands will be less safe from Hopping Green’s clients — from the Panhandle’s springs and cypress swamps to the coastal mangrove shorelines to the Everglades’ river of grass.
If our local agency wasn’t doing a better job than the state does protecting our natural resources, then special interests wouldn’t be fighting so hard to eliminate our local regulations. And if this was only about unnecessary duplication of effort, then Hillsborough’s citizens wouldn’t be fighting so hard to save our EPC.
See below for a list of groups and individuals who have asked the governor for help, and links to where you can add your name.
- Lutz Civic Association
- United Citizens’ Action Network (U-CAN)
- The Citizens for the Revitalization of Temple Terrace (CRTT)
- Friends of the Temple Terrace Parks
- The Temple Terrace Preservation Society
- Coalition 4 Responsible Growth (C4RG)
- Rural Lithia Area Neighborhood Defense, Inc. (R-LAND)
- Keystone Civic Association
- Seffner Community Alliance. Inc.
- Urban Charrette
- Ruskin Community Development Foundation
- Dorman Browning Crossing Neighborhood Association
- Sierra Club Tampa Bay Group
Many individuals have signed, also. If you read the list at the end of the letter, you will recognize many names, including that local environmental icon, Roger P. Stewart, past Executive Director of the EPC. The letter that was mailed to the Governor includes signatures that were collected over only two days. More people are asking to be added to the list for an addendum. If you’d like to add your name, write C4RG.