Environment a Loser in Legislature, Groups Say

    This is the worst year in recent memory for attacks on the environment and growth management, a coalition of environmental and consumer advocates groups charged Monday.

    The groups, which represent more than 100,000 members, held news conferences across Florida to lambaste the 1993 Legislature.

    Pending legislation could increase pollution, contaminate or destroy ecosystems and wipe out regulations to manage growth, according to representatives of the Florida Consumer Action Network, the Sierra Club, the Florida Wildlife Federation and Greenpeace.

    "The fact that so many of these bills are moving along this year makes it a much more serious attack. It's just a real train this time," said Dan Hendrickson of the Consumer Action Network and the Sierra Club.

    The other groups represented include Friends of the Everglades, Clean Water Action and Citizens Against Toxic Exposure.

    The groups said Gov. Lawton Chiles and legislative leaders had backed down from environmental stands. Hendrickson especially criticized House Speaker Bo Johnson, D-Milton, who has supported a controversial Panhandle bridge project that would border or pass through a fragile wetland prairie and land on property he and his family own.

    "There's no question people have timed these legislative initiatives to coincide with his leadership," Hendrickson said. "The problem is, they're taking this to the bank. Especially with so many new legislators."

    The groups consider these the most offensive bills:

    Private property rights, which the groups claim would nullify most land use, growth management, zoning and environmental laws.

    Several bills proposed by Partners for a Better Florida, a gubernatorial panel examining relationships of business and permitting agencies: the so-called Job Siting Act, which calls for fast-track business permitting through the Department of Commerce and a looser review of new industrial permit applications, and the water resource permit streamlining bill.

    Exemptions for utilities from tougher wetlands permitting rules.

    Segments of the huge Environmental Land Management Study III bill for growth management that would weaken the state's Regional Planning Councils and fail to strengthen citizen participation in growth management disputes.

    Exemptions that would allow construction of hazardous waste incinerators in Polk and Madison counties.

    Proposals that would weaken comprehensive rules of state agencies such as the departments of Environmental Regulation and Community Affairs.

    Several mainstream environmental groups were noticeably absent from the loose coalition: the Florida Audubon Society and 1000 Friends of Florida, which keeps an eye on growth management laws.

    Both the Audubon Society and 1000 Friends back the big growth management bill, which the other environmentalists are attacking.

    Later Monday, Greenpeace activist Scott Brown briefly disrupted a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee by trying to give several legislators T-shirts emblazoned with: "I Sold Out to Westinghouse."

    Brown was upset at members of the House Natural Resources Committee, who voted last week to allow a Westinghouse subsidiary to go forward with a hazardous waste incinerator in Polk County.

    Scott Brown of Greenpeace tried to award legislators "I Sold Out to Westinghouse" shirts. He was protesting a panel's approval of incinerators in Polk and Madison counties.

- Staff writer Bill Moss contributed to this report.

Times Publishing Company
St. Petersburg Times
March 9, 1993, Tuesday, City Edition
LOAD-DATE: March 16, 1993