By BRUCE RITCHIE
Several Florida organizations on Tuesday sent a letter to Attorney General Pam Bondi asking her to withdraw from a challenge to a Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan.
Bondi came under fire in February after Florida joined 20 other states in filing a legal brief supporting an appeal filed by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Farm Bureau is challenging the “Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint” agreed to by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and six mid-Atlantic states surrounding the bay. The plan was upheld by a federal judge in September against a Farm Bureau challenge.
Bondi described the plan as an “over-reach” by the federal agency. But the environmental groups in their letter are disputing her argument that Florida’s right to develop its own cleanup plans in the future is at issue.
“This cannot be credibly portrayed as a state’s-rights issue, as the Chesapeake Bay states signed and supported the cleanup plan,” the letter said. “The legal challenge also cannot be portrayed as protecting Floridians’ interests; the demise of the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint would actually set a negative precedent for the development and implementation of effective cleanup plans for Florida’s waters.”
Groups signing onto the letter include the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Sierra Club Florida, 1000 Friends of Florida, Save the Manatee Club, St. Johns Riverkeeper and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Sierra Club Florida said 47 organizations signed onto the letter but several appear to be local Sierra Club groups and small businesses.
A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office responded only by saying that the letter was being reviewed.
Bondi faced criticism in February for Florida’s involvement in the lawsuit from newspaper editorial writers and from George Sheldon, a former secretary of the state Department of Children and Families who is seeking the Democratic nomination for attorney general.
Sheldon said he would withdraw Florida from the challenge if elected, adding that Florida needs the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency to be there to enforce environmental laws.
Bondi defended her intervention during an appearance at the University of Florida in February by saying “no one wants dirty water.”
“All I did, I signed onto a letter supporting other states,” she said during her appearance, which was broadcast on the web by UF’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service. “It was a brief written by — I can’t remember what state wrote the brief even.”
“We signed on saying we support the efforts to rein in the EPA. And I will continue to do that,” she said.
(Photo and story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Floridaenvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained from bruceBritchie@gmail.com.)
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