By BRUCE RITCHIE
Sierra Club Florida is asking Gov. Rick Scott to veto a bill that supporters say would speed the cleanup and redevelopment of contamination sites known as brownfields.
Meanwhile, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $400,000 to three Florida communities for brownfields cleanups, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
“The brownfield redevelopment program is not only helping to clean up environmental contamination, but it is also building stronger communities, bringing new business opportunities into Florida’s cities and providing jobs for our residents,” DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard, Jr. said in an announcement.
The Central Florida Regional Planning Council will receive $400,000 for site assessments. The city of St. Marks will receive $200,000 to clean up a portion of the site of the former St. Marks Refinery. And the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa will receive $200,000 for a workforce development and job training grant.
During the 2014 legislative session that ended May 2, HB 325 passed the House 115-0 and the Senate 37-0.
The bill, which has not been sent yet to the governor, would expand liability protection for those doing site cleanups to include property damage or diminished value of property. The bill also clarifies language related public notice of brownfield site designations by local governments.
Bill supporters included the Florida Brownfields Association, the Florida Redevelopment Association and the Florida Community Development Association.
The Sierra Club said it would support compromise language but in the end opposed the bill.
In its May 28 letter to Scott, the Sierra Club said the bill language provides legal protection even for those responsible for damage caused by the contamination if they sign a cleanup agreement with the state.
Rep. Charlie Stone, R-Ocala and bill sponsor, could not be reached for comment on Friday. During the legislative session, Stone said he was unable to reach a compromise with the Sierra Club.
In a statement issued Friday, the Florida Brownfields Association said the liability concerns raised by the Sierra Club are addressed in other areas of state law but the Sierra Club says that isn’t so.
“The legislation furthers the state of Florida’s important interest in promoting and advancing the voluntary cleanup, redevelopment and restoration of Brownfields — impaired, distressed sites with contamination concerns — across Florida,” the statement said.
Asked about a veto possibility, a spokesman for Scott said only that the governor’s office will review the bill once it is received.
(Story and photo copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Floridaenvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained from bruceBritchie@gmail.com)