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:
Florida Statues, Chapter 403. 412. e.) reads:
“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.
~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.
Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch is a member of the Constitution Revision Commission 2017/18
*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: