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Environmentalists Sue Gov. DeSantis Over Clean Waterways Act

 Howard Frankland Bridge over Old Tampa Bay with algae bloom in the bay Algae bloom in Old Tampa Bay, north of Howard Frankland Bridge, August 2011.
Courtesy Southwest Florida Water Management District

Activists are suing Gov. Ron DeSantis for signing a measure into law that prevents local governments from protecting the environment.

The Clean Waterways Act, signed by the governor in June, is centered on alleviating Florida's toxic algae bloom problems. It was created with the recommendations of the Blue Green Algae Task Force.

But then something was tacked on to page 111 of the law prohibiting local governments from “recognizing or granting certain legal rights to the natural environment.”

It's remnants of a failed measure from this past session: House Bill 1199.

Now the advocacy group Speak Up Wekiva is taking DeSantis to federal court, contending this portion of the law is unconstitutional.

Chuck O'Neal, president of Speak of Wekiva, said the goal of this addition is to kill the rights of the nature movement in Florida.

"They see it as a threat that communities may impose standards that actually clean up their waterways,” he said. “They enjoy free reign over modifying and killing any kind of bill that makes any kind of progress towards clean water in this state."

He's also accusing the governor of violating the single-subject rule that exists for legislation.

"What happens when a good bill goes to Tallahassee is it gets latched on to by groups like the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, Florida Farm Bureau, and they pick apart any good bill that would help the environment and actually twist it around in an opposite direction," O'Neal said.

Since 2012, I’ve been a voice on public radio stations across Florida - in Miami, Fort Myers, and now Tampa.