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On the defensive over climate change, Scott offers new focus: increase funds for environment

On the same day the Miami Herald reported that billionaire activist Tom Steyer is targeting GOP Gov. Rick Scott for his environmental record and position on climate change, the governor's campaign advanced word that on Monday  he is promising to increase the state's spending on the environment if he's given a second term.

From the Associated Press @Fineout

TALLLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida Gov. Rick Scott, caught in a tight campaign with his chief rival challenging his environmental record, has pledged if re-elected to spend millions more on everything from cleaning up springs to buying more lands for conservation.

Scott is scheduled to roll out a substantial environmental platform during campaign stops Monday in Martin County on Florida's east coast.

Several of the "Let's Keep Florida Beautiful" proposals Scott plans to announce represent a marked turn-around from his 2010 campaign when he pledged to slash government spending and tear away regulations that he said were harming the state's economy.

"Florida's natural beauty is a big reason why this is the best state in the country to call home," Scott said in a statement. "Our natural resources are the foundation of our economy - they drive tourism, housing, business, and agriculture - and they deserve our long-term commitment."

The Republican incumbent is vowing to dedicate $500 million to springs restoration over the next 10 years as well as $500 million over the same time period to help create alternative water supplies. He also wants to keep moving ahead with projects designed to steer excess and potentially polluted water from Lake Okeechobee away from the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.

Scott also plans to promise to spend $150 million a year for Florida Forever, the state's environmental and conservation land-buying programs. The state once spent as much as $300 million a year on the program before legislators enacted steep cutbacks amid Florida's souring economy.

The governor is also pledging to crack down on polluters during a second term by increasing the fines that can be assessed against "bad actors" who violate permit terms. Scott said he also wants to consider making it harder for some companies to secure permits if they have had a history of harming the environment. Similar proposals in the past have been blocked by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist has been vocal in his criticism of Scott's handling of the environment, especially over Scott's reluctance to espouse a firm opinion on climate change. The Scott campaign has pushed back by contending that Crist didn't do enough to help the Everglades or springs during his time in office.

Scott himself did not emphasize environmental issues during his 2010 run for governor and during his first campaign expressed skepticism about climate change. In the last two years he has directed more attention to issues such as water quality and Everglades restoration, but Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, said some of Scott's proposals marked a new direction for the governor.

"Florida has a history of governors with strong environmental records and Gov. Scott's proposal reflect a continuing shift in that direction," Draper said.

He added, "The proposed funds for Florida Forever, water supply and springs protection are in line with our expectations and build on the funds already put into the Everglades. The focus on water conservation and enforcement is new and grabs our attention."

Comments

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ed jenkins

The citizens are disgusted that this scott who they had previously been won over by his exemplary fiscal stewardship would throw away some of their money on these activities that they do not intend for their government. They only want their government to provide law enforcement and courts, transportation infrastructure and schools and all other functions are to be eliminated.

florida potter

ed jenkins is a troll. The people of Florida want to improve and maintain the quality of life and the environment. Go back under you rock sir!

Dave Hartley

Scott has just discovered the environment! Wonderful how incredible unpopularity and an upcoming election can lead to enlightenment!

Lori McCraney

Governor Scott has, in the last four years, virtually destroyed 30 years of Florida's environmental stewardship. He fired dozens of dedicated, career environmental professionals from the Department of Environmental Protection and the state's Water Management Districts and replaced them with industry cronies. Now, in an election year, our chameleon governor pretends to be an environmental steward!

Keith Stegath

It's easy to complain. What is hard is breaking your steadfast "I'm a (GOP, DEM) and scared of change".

It's comforting to think that if you vote for Crist the world will return to spinning around its axis. I don't believe Scott or Crist understand how to fix our ever-increasing problems. Lawyers are not problem solvers. They've been trained to ignore facts that don't support their view. Unlike lawyers, engineers are trained problem solvers.

If you're tired of our state's (and country's) continuing decline, come Nov. there is a solution. There's a line where you can write a name. I suggest you wright: Keith Stegath

Bill Thompson

Is it just a coincidence that Scott is initially addressing environmental issues the day after the environmentalist Steyer announced that he would be pouring millions into the Florida governor's race in favor of Charlie Crist's campaign? Just one more flip-flop by this chameleon governor who has flipped on practically every issue in order to appear more moderate as he desperately tries to win re-election.

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