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Kyra Haas
By Kyra Haas December 6, 2018

Scott never issued springs restoration executive order

Florida's algae-stricken springs became a source of criticism toward Gov. Rick Scott's administration as he campaigned for a second term. Scott responded in part by touting a more environmentally friendly platform.

Scott's promised to issue an executive order that would get the restoration conversation going.

"Gov. Scott will issue an executive order to provide a foundation for bringing together stakeholders to plan with his administration for additional needed actions," Scott's "Let's Keep Florida Beautiful" proposal stated.

Scott never did issue an executive order.

His office pointed to other stuff he did, such as signing the 2016 Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act (SB 552), which Scott signed in January 2016. As required by the law, the Department of Environmental Protection adopted 13 Basin Management Action Plans to protect 24 identified Outstanding Florida Springs.

"These restoration plans were developed in close coordination with local governments and stakeholders, including more than 90 public meetings held within these spring areas," DEP spokeswoman Lauren Engel said.

Engel added that the 2016 Legacy Florida bill (HB 989) also involved stakeholder and public input in selecting projects to receive the recurring $50 million put toward Florida's springs.

Advocates of Florida springs have criticized both laws, however, arguing the language allows for loopholes that continue to permit pollution and that the legislation isn't being enforced.

Robert Knight, director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, called the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act a "wolf in sheep's clothing," saying it placed springs restoration responsibility "in the hands of the same state agencies, using the same regulatory tools that have been so ineffective over the past 30 years."

"The fact is Gov. Scott's administration was pretty much a disaster for protection of springs and other natural environments in Florida," Knight told PolitiFact Florida. "The Legislature did pass the Springs and Aquifer Protection Action in 2016, but it was a smoke screen for continued non-enforcement of Florida's strong environmental regulations."

Ryan Smart, the executive director of the Florida Springs Council — a coalition of 45 springs advocacy organizations — said that losses from previous cuts to Florida's water management districts under the Scott administration "more than wipe out any gains" from the Legacy Florida Act.

Scott's springs restoration promises in his re-election campaign were a break from his early actions. In 2012, he canceled a springs restoration program started by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

There was progress on springs funding and coordination in Scott's second term, and Scott played a role by signing the bills. However, Scott didn't sign an executive order related to springs protection. We rate this Promise Broken.

Our Sources

PolitiFact Florida, "Scott has not issued executive order for springs improvement," April 24, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott re-election campaign, "Let's Keep Florida Beautiful" plan, 2014

The Florida Senate, CS/CS/SB 552: Environmental Resources, accessed Nov. 27, 2018

Florida House of Representatives, Implementation of the Water and Land Conservation Constitutional Amendment, accessed Nov. 28, 2018

Interview, McKinley Lewis, Rick Scott spokesman, Nov. 27, 2018

Email interview, Ryan Smart, Florida Springs Council executive director, Nov. 27, 2018
Email interview, Lauren Engel, Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman, Nov. 27, 2018

PolitiFact Florida, "Yes, Rick Scott did cut $700 million from Florida's water management districts," Aug. 14, 2018

Tallahassee Democrat, "Wakulla Springs advocates say 'cleanup plan won't clean our spring,'" June 7, 2018

Tallahassee Democrat, "Advocates say plan to protect Wakulla Springs lacks enforcement," June 30, 2018

Palm Beach Post, "Florida needs real protection, restoration for declining springs," Sept. 30, 2016

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman April 24, 2015

Scott has not issued executive order for springs improvement

As part of his environmental agenda during his re-election campaign, Gov. Rick Scott promised that he would "issue an executive order to provide a foundation for bringing together stakeholders to plan with his administration for additional needed actions."

We'll note that he didn't promise to create a foundation as in an organization -- he put that promise under the header "executive order to protect water quality" in his environmental campaign plan. The plan doesn't contain details on what exactly the executive order in itself would achieve -- here is the full section:

"Protecting our springs is not just a financial investment. It also takes sound planning, science based permitting, and partnerships with our local governments and stakeholders. By the end of the Governor's first term, his administration will have proposed cleanup plans for more than 387 springs. Furthermore, during Governor Scott's first term alone, his administration will have set twice as many minimum flow and levels (protecting the quantity of water for our springs) than have been set in the entire previous two decades. But there is more work to do. That is why Governor Scott will issue an Executive Order to provide a foundation for bringing together stakeholders to plan with his administration for additional needed actions."

In a related promise we are tracking on our Scott-O-Meter, Scott also said that he would "continue to expand funding for springs restoration and alternative water supply programs."

On his funding promise, we rated the promise In the Works after he proposed $50 million to help clean up the state's freshwater springs, which are becoming increasingly polluted and in some cases are reversing their natural flows. Scott proposed using funds from Amendment 1, the measure overwhelmingly approved by voters in November 2014.

Scott spokeswoman Jeri Bustamante said that Scott has not issued an executive order related to springs. If he does in the future, we will revisit this promise. But for now, due to lack of action, we rate it Stalled.

Editor's note: To clarify this promise, we have changed the headline from "Create a foundation for springs improvement" to "Issue an executive order for springs improvement."

Our Sources

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