Senator Marco Rubio’s desire to be an ideological leader of the national Republican Party often rubs the sensibilities of Floridians the wrong way. While a PPP poll last week demonstrated that Rubio could be reelected in Florida should he abandon his Presidential campaign and run for reelection to the US Senate, he has little margin for error.
Through the years Florida Republicans have tried to stay away from controversial anti-environmental initiatives pushed by Midwestern and interior state GOPers. However, Rubio feels differently, last week signing on to Senator Joni Ernst’s (R-Iowa) dangerous bill that would push back against a landmark clean water rule the EPA, Army Corp of Engineers and the White House agreed to in May.
The rule protects the drinking water supply from streams that provide 117 million Americans with drinking water – these streams lacked protection before May’s announcement.
“For the water in the rivers and lakes in our communities that flow to our drinking water to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them need to be clean too,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in May. “Protecting our water sources is a critical component of adapting to climate change impacts like drought, sea level rise, stronger storms, and warmer temperatures – which is why EPA and the Army have finalized the Clean Water Rule to protect these important waters, so we can strengthen our economy and provide certainty to American businesses.”
The rule does the following:
· Clearly defines and protects tributaries that impact the health of downstream waters. The Clean Water Act protects navigable waterways and their tributaries. The rule says that a tributary must show physical features of flowing water – a bed, bank, and ordinary high water mark – to warrant protection. The rule provides protection for headwaters that have these features and science shows can have a significant connection to downstream waters.
· Provides certainty in how far safeguards extend to nearby waters. The rule protects waters that are next to rivers and lakes and their tributaries because science shows that they impact downstream waters. The rule sets boundaries on covering nearby waters for the first time that are physical and measurable.
· Protects the nation’s regional water treasures. Science shows that specific water features can function like a system and impact the health of downstream waters. The rule protects prairie potholes, Carolina and Delmarva bays, pocosins, western vernal pools in California, and Texas coastal prairie wetlands when they impact downstream waters.
· Focuses on streams, not ditches. The rule limits protection to ditches that are constructed out of streams or function like streams and can carry pollution downstream. So ditches that are not constructed in streams and that flow only when it rains are not covered.
· Maintains the status of waters within Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems. The rule does not change how those waters are treated and encourages the use of green infrastructure.
· Reduces the use of case-specific analysis of waters. Previously, almost any water could be put through a lengthy case-specific analysis, even if it would not be subject to the Clean Water Act. The rule significantly limits the use of case-specific analysis by creating clarity and certainty on protected waters and limiting the number of similarly situated water features.
But that’s not satisfactory for Rubio who has adopted the typical interior-state GOP mantra of “property rights,” aligning himself with radicals who deny climate change like Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma). Rubio’s posture might realign Florida Republicans who have for years been more environmentally conscious than many in the national GOP toward the radicals from western states on water and property rights issues.
Rubio said last week when he signed on the Ernst’s legislation:
“Hardworking Americans have had enough of Washington bureaucrats telling them how to use their land. The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are irresponsible to go forward with this job-killing rule despite the serious concerns raised by farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and small business owners across the country.”
“I’m proud to join Sen. Ernst and my Senate colleagues in preventing this harmful overreach and expansion of government jurisdiction from taking place,”
Floridians should be thankful that as it stands now Marco Rubio will no longer be a US Senator come January 2017.