Tag Archives: “Adequate Provision” is not Enough ~Strengthening Florida’s Constitution

“Adequate Provision” is not enough, Strengthening Florida’s Constitution, SLR/IRL

St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, (Photo Jenny Thurlow Flaugh)

Florida’s constitution is important, not only because it is the ultimate law of the state, but because it sets the people’s values before the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. These words are a reference in times of question and must be clearly written on the side of the citizen.

Right now, in Article II, Section 7, (a) “Natural resources and scenic beauty,” the Florida constitution reads: 

(a) It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for the conservation and protection of natural resources.
Because this language is vague, ( what is adequate provision? ), and case law is sparse, these words become “overruled” by Florida Statute that clearly gives “permit holders” standing over citizens, and of course the environment making the present environmental protections in the state constitution “inadequate.”

Florida Statues, Chapter 403. 412. e.) reads:
https://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2013/403.412

No action pursuant to this section may be maintained if the person (natural or corporate) or governmental agency or authority charged with pollution, impairment, or destruction of the air, water, or other natural resources of the state is acting or conducting operations pursuant to currently valid permit or certificate covering such operations, issued by the appropriate governmental authorities or agencies, and is complying with the requirements of said permits or certificates.”

So a citizen is not at liberty to sue if a polluting entity is causing environmental destruction that is acting or conducting operations pursuant to a currently valid permit protected by a state agency. And if someone attempts to sue anyway, they have no real standing in a Florida court of law.

Hmmm?

~But, what if a sinkhole spanning 45 feet opened at a Mosaic phosphate fertilizer facility leaking 215 million gallons of “slightly radioactive water,” but this news did not get to the people who have wells in the area for weeks?

~What if the Army Corp of Engineers, and the South Florida Water Management District knew they were discharging billions of gallons of toxic algae from Lake Okeechobee into a community’s river making some citizens sick, yet there was no discussion, warning, or health notices posted until the entire ocean ran green?

~What if an entity could withdraw so much water from a spring or aquifer that….

What if, is now reality.

Yes, permit holders should be “protected,” nonetheless, having a valid permit should not be a right to infringe on the health, safety, and welfare of Florida citizens. Florida citizens and their environment co-exist. When necessary, citizens should have the right to fight for a clean and healthy environment.

We all know that many of Florida’s waters are “growing greener,  and more toxic.” This was recently reported by TCPalm’s Jim Turner:

“The 2016 report from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection shows a mixed bag for the state’s waters, with many trending toward more-frequent toxic algae blooms, fueled by rising nitrates from farm and residential fertilizers, sewage, pet waste and other human-related sources.”

Florida’s “impaired” waters are growing, not decreasing. More springs, rivers and lakes are in horrible condition. We see it. Like it or not, the only way to ensure an “adequate” future for Florida’s citizen’s and her waters is to find a way to create acceptable language giving people a constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment.

CRC - 2017P 23By Commissioner Thurlow-Lippisch
       
       thurlowlj-00038-17                                      201723__
    1                         A proposal to amend                       
    2         Section 7 of Article II of the State Constitution to
    3         establish that every person has a right to a clean and
    4         healthful environment.
    5          
    6  Be It Proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission of
    7  Florida:
    8  
    9         Section 7 of Article II of the State Constitution is
   10  amended to read:
   11                             ARTICLE II                            
   12                         GENERAL PROVISIONS                        
   13         SECTION 7. Natural resources and scenic beauty.--
   14         (a) It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and
   15  protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate
   16  provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and
   17  water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for
   18  the conservation and protection of natural resources.
   19         (b) Those in the Everglades Agricultural Area who cause
   20  water pollution within the Everglades Protection Area or the
   21  Everglades Agricultural Area shall be primarily responsible for
   22  paying the costs of the abatement of that pollution. For the
   23  purposes of this subsection, the terms "Everglades Protection
   24  Area" and "Everglades Agricultural Area" shall have the meanings
   25  as defined in statutes in effect on January 1, 1996.
   26         (c) The natural resources of the state are the legacy of
   27  present and future generations. Every person has a right to a
   28  clean and healthful environment, including clean air and water;
   29  control of pollution; and the conservation and restoration of
   30  the natural, scenic, historic, and aesthetic values of the
   31  environment as provided by law. Any person may enforce this
   32  right against any party, public or private, subject to
   33  reasonable limitations, as provided by law.
Proposal #23 was a public proposal. It was created by Traci Deen and her students at Barry University. I sponsored their publicly submitted proposal #700450. There were other proposals also on the “rights of environment/nature” topic including 7000672 by Richard Silvestri; 7000216 by Trevor Tezel; 700739 by Richard Grosso; —submitted to Article 1, Declaration of Rights, 700558 a Florida Environmental Bill of Rights by Paul Laura;  and the Rights of Nature submitted independently by Mr. David Hargrove. Thank you to all and the many others!
If you have any ideas or would like to comment, please write me directly at jacqui.lippisch@flcrc.gov or at this blog post.

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch is a member of the Constitution Revision Commission 2017/18
http://flcrc.gov/Commissioners/Thurlow-Lippisch

*This proposal will go before the Judicial Committee on November 28 and if it makes through that committee it will go through the General Provisions committee. You can write committees here to support or express concerns:
http://flcrc.gov/Committees

11-8-17