24A ST. PETERSBURG TIMES U THURSDAY, OCTOBER 29, 1987
Environmental shell game
Two months from completion of its formidable sewage and industrial waste water disposal. Con-
task, the state Environmental Efficiency Study missioners insist the changes will eliminate duplica-
Commission has taken an alarming turn. As it tion and place all water-related issues more sensi-
prepares to recommend that much of this state's bly with the water district boards.
direct role in environmental regulation be disman- Eliminating the state DER authority, of course,
fled, the commission has now thumbed its nose to means one less step for developers. It also means
citizen rights as well. citizens have one less opportunity to assure their
..So disturbing is its decision to remove state surroundings are adequately preserved.
Cabinet appeal of some regulatory actions that the In the laws that guide water management dis-
ctommission's vice chairman, environmental lawyer trict boards, however, citizens are given the right
David Gluckman, says he will resign if it remains a to appeal any board order to the governor and
.art of the final plan. So troubling is the logic behind Cabinet, sitting as the Land and Water Adjudicatory
"that recommendation that it raises serious ques- Commission. That appeal feature, adopted in 1975
tions about the commission's sincerity in seeking at the urging of farmers, is a protection for citizens
improvement of the manner in which Florida pro- who want to raise concerns to a public official they
tects its natural ecology, elect. In the case of one development project near
""From the environmental standpoint, we under- Lake Okeechobee, the appeal also provided a unani-
itand that there could be some streamlining of the mous and necessary rejection of a board's action.
regulatory process," says Charles Lee, senior vice If the "efficiency" commission has its way,
president of the Florida Audubon Society. "(But) though, that appeal would be removed.
I'm afraid what's happening now is that the people Commission chairman Jay Landers, a former
DER secretary who now represents developers,
In terms of traditional says the Cabinet appeal is not needed because
environmental safeguards, the citizens can still ask for an administrative hearing or
state Environmental Efficiency file a lawsuit. "You can debate the merits, but in
terms of what it does, it definitely does add another
Study Commission seems to level to the system," Landers says. "... You can
have mistaken streamlining for have checks and balances endlessly. But if you do,
steamrolling. you're never going to improve the system. You
have to make some choices."
with hidden agendas on the commission are reveal- Landers, though, must surely know the direc-
ing their longstanding plans. .... This is probably as tion in which his commission is headed. By shifting
brazen an attack on citizen standing as we have state responsibility to regional governments, and by
seen in a long time." then removing a critical right of citizen appeal, the
The commission was formed by the Legislature new business of environmental regulation could
in 1986, in an attempt to eliminate duplication in easily become a business subject to manipulation. In
the way various state and local agencies regulate the area of land-use regulation, the state already
the environment. Not surprisingly, its 15 appointed has had to seize more control because local zoning
seats became the focus of extreme interest among boards failed to deal intelligently with the develop-
developers who have complained that environmen- ment pressures they faced. Shifting environmental
tal laws are too cumbersome. Also not a surprise is authority to the local level, on the commission's
that environmental groups have watched with great proposed terms, sets up that same framework for
anxiety as the development-dominated commission development disaster.
has recommended a series of far-reaching regulato- The work of the commission, to be completed
ry changes. by January for the Legislature's consideration in
Over its past 12 months of work, the commis- April, is now under an ominous cloud. In terms of
sion has recommended a tremendous shift of regu- traditional environmental safeguards, it seems to
latory authority from the state Department of have mistaken streamlining for steamrolling. If this
Environmental Regulation (DER) to the five water is to be the product of "efficient" regulation, then
management districts. Included in the preliminary the work of this commission was quite arguably a
recommendations are dredging and filling, landfills, sham.