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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Playing Politics With Florida Water Pollution

TALLAHASSEE, FL - A critic of Florida's 7th District congressman is charging that he is playing a pollution shell game with big oil and the health of the state's waterways.

The House of Representatives passed a bill this week which would block the Environmental Protection Agency from tightening limits on water pollution without a state's consent. Darden Rice, Florida director of the Gulf Restoration Network, claims this legislation threatens Florida's shorelines, rivers and streams.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., a key proponent of offshore oil drilling along Florida's coasts. Rice says she wonders how far polluters will be allowed to go.

"This is clearly, certainly, out of step with Florida citizens' environmental values. We see this legislation as a brazen attack on the Clean Water Act laws that make our waters safe for swimming, fishing and drinking."

Mica's support of oil interests is a family affair. His brother, David, heads the Florida Petroleum Council, a lobbyist for major oil companies such as BP and Exxon. According to an Orlando newspaper, Congressman Mica's daughter, D'Anne, has represented the Consumers Alliance for Affordable Natural Gas and the Citizens Alliance for Energy Security in support of increased access to offshore oil and natural gas.

The legislation presents a looming health issue, Rice says, adding that Mica needs to face the fact that no one wants to visit or live around waterways thick with pollutants.

"One of the things that really concerns me is this bill negates much of the Clean Water Act, and it starts the states on a race to the bottom when it comes to clean-water standards."

The House-passed bill now goes to the Senate. Mica's supporters say the EPA needs to loosen the noose they claim is hanging over the head of Florida's economic growth.

The text of the bill, HR 2018, is online at the Government Printing office.

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