Red Tide Rick Scott via NOAA

Does Florida’s governor deserve the label “Red Tide Rick”?

A fact-based look at whether or not we should blame Rick Scott for this extended red tide season.

Red tide. Whose fault is it, anyway? Is it Big Sugar? Rick Scott? Bill Nelson?

There are so many choices — and so many political ads — that it can be hard to find the villain in it all.

Right now, let’s focus on that unfortunate moniker “Red Tide Rick” and take a look at what Florida Governor Rick Scott has actually done that could have contributed to red tide.

  1. Rick Scott has adopted an anti-tax, anti-regulation stance on government.
  2. When he took office, he cut budgets at state environmental agencies like the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the water management districts ($700 million), including the South Florida Water Management District.
  3. According to Politifact, DEP cuts included eliminating the agency that reviewed plans for development in Florida cities and counties, the Department of Community Affairs (2011)
  4. In 2012, the DEP laid off 58 employees.
  5. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the DEP no longer handles environmental enforcement cases at the same level as it did under Governor Charlie Crist. In 2010, DEP handled 2,289 cases by 2012, that number had dropped to 799.  
  6. Those budget cuts at the water management district meant that Florida’s water monitoring network lost more than 200 of its 350 sites. Currently, the state has only 115 sites for monitoring water. (Source: Florida International University’s Southeast Environmental Research Center). 
  7. DEP pollution regulation enforcement has also dropped. In 2010, DEP handled almost 1,600 enforcement cases; last year, it handled 220. (Source: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility)
  8. Governor Scott also made it easier to have a septic tank, repealing the law requiring they get inspected. Florida has 2.6 million septic tanks; after Scott repealed the law, only 1 percent get inspected
  9. He has also disallowed the use of the phrase climate change, although scientists say research indicates rising ocean temperatures contribute to extended red tide blooms.

While we know that red tide is a naturally occurring bacteria and it originates offshore, significant evidence suggests nutrient runoff acts as a fertilizer for the bloom, so it’s safe to assume Scott’s policies haven’t done much to prevent — or remedy — the situation.

This article originally appeared at Creative Loafing.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.

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