A clean-water governor wouldn’t sign these dirty-water bills

So what’s it going to be, Gov. DeSantis?

You’ve styled yourself as a Teddy Roosevelt-style Republican with an eye for conservation. And frankly, we appreciate the record funding you’ve helped secure for Everglades restoration and other water quality projects around Florida. The money will definitely help.

But surely you know that merely throwing money at a problem won’t solve our water pollution problems — especially when our Legislature is in session, making things worse.

Indeed, even as you seek billions for restoration and land acquisition, septic-to-sewer conversions and other initiatives, legislators are debating terrible bills that will undermine these efforts and create dirtier water.

Many of these bills are moving, Governor. So what are you going to do when they land on your desk?

Take House Bill 41 and its companion bill, Senate Bill 856, which prohibit local initiatives or referendums on land development regulations; or HB 359 and SB 540, which would force any citizen who challenges a local comprehensive plan amendment and loses to pay the legal fees of the “prevailing party.”

These bills seek to disempower, even intimidate citizens who might otherwise serve as a vital check and balance on reckless development. That makes it easier to push through controversial projects, meaning more sprawl — and more consequences.

Then there’s HB 439/SB 1604, which redefines the term “sprawl” itself, changing it to mean merely “unplanned and uncontrolled” development. The bill bases a new definition “density” on the number of residential units — rather than people — per unit of land.

Or how about SB 170/HB 1515, which would make it easier for businesses to sue local governments over ordinances — like local clean-water rules — that take a bite out of profits? Even worse is HB 1197/SB 1240, which would outright prohibit local governments from adopting such ordinances.

Governor, everyone realizes growth is an integral part of Florida’s economic mix. But given our environmental problems, we’ve got to be cautious. Red tide, blue-green algae, degraded springs, seagrass loss, manatee die-offs and more; all of it requires our comprehensive planning be thorough and prudent.

You said so yourself in your recent Executive Order, 23-06, where you called on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to “Partner with the Department of Economic Opportunity and local governments to improve local government long-term comprehensive planning that ensures sustainable growth while protecting our natural resources.”

Governor, the bills we’ve mentioned don’t improve comprehensive planning or protect natural resources. They do the opposite.

They’re reckless.

And if you sign them, you undermine the environmental reputation you’re trying so hard to build.

We can’t have it both ways, Governor; you can’t be a friend to clean water who signs off on legislation that makes it dirtier.

Indeed, we think Teddy Roosevelt would have kicked these bills to the curb. So if they land on your desk, we ask that you do the same. They’re not consistent with responsible growth, with clean water — or your own executive order, Governor.

We liked a lot of things in that order. But at the end of the day, they were just words.

Your actions, here, will speak louder.