Former Republican presidential candidate and current US Sen. Marco Rubio recently weighed in on the toxic algal blooms that have caused a state of emergency in two counties in his home state of Florida.
Rubio wrote in a statement at the beginning of the month that “[The algal blooms are] a complex and painful thing to talk about and it’s a very difficult thing to deal with because it doesn’t have one singular cause and it doesn’t have a singular project that solves it all.”
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And while it’s true that the toxic algal blooms don’t have one singular cause, Senator Rubio is completely ignoring the fact that the multiple causes are all very identifiable to anyone who is willing to actually listen to scientists.
Unfortunately, Marco Rubio has proven again and again that he’s unwilling to do that.
For example, remember that one time that climate change was brought up during the Republican primary debate in Rubio’s home state of Florida?
Rubio’s just one of many Republicans who have taken an anti-science stance on pretty much every issue of the day.
But it’s not so much that Rubio and his fellow science deniers don’t actually understand the science, they’re just paid off to ignore it.
In this case, it’s no coincidence that Rubio is so loudly declaring that this problem is too complex to address right away.
According to The Center for Responsive Politics, over the last five years Rubio’s received more than $1.6 MILLION combined from the two industries that are the biggest culprits for the algal blooms: agribusiness and the fossil fuel industry.
So… since Marco Rubio won’t tell the public what’s really going on, I will.
The algal blooms that are devastating Florida’s tourism and fisheries have two main causes.
First, there’s the huge volume of polluted fresh water that the Army Corps of Engineers is discharging from Lake Okeechobee into the Florida coast; and, second, global climate change is causing more rainfall in the area surrounding Lake Okeechobee and causing Florida’s coastal waters to warm up.
The Army Corps of Engineers started draining Lake Okeechobee in February because the lake was experiencing its highest water levels in nearly a century as a result of record rainfall.
But Senator Rubio isn’t just wrong about climate change, he also seems to think that he understands hydrology better than the Army Corps of Engineers, because he’s asked the Army Corps to stop discharging that water from Lake Okeechobee.
ThinkProgress asked a spokesperson for the Army Corps of Engineers about Rubio’s request, to which the spokesperson replied, “I don’t know that we’re in a position where that makes a lot of sense.”
It definitely wouldn’t make a lot of sense, because if the water level in the lake rises just a few more feet, there’s a good chance that the levee will break, threatening 40,000 people who live around Lake Okeechobee with a flood of toxic water.
And what Rubio’s brilliant idea totally ignores, is the problem of why the discharged water from the lake is so polluted to begin with.
In February, David Guest, managing attorney of the Florida branch of EarthJustice, wrote in March that, “The scuzzy water that’s wrecking this year’s tourist season comes courtesy of Big Sugar and other agricultural operators around Lake Okeechobee…. These corporations pump the public’s water from the lake to irrigate their fields, then send the water, polluted with fertilizer and other farm chemicals, back into Lake Okeechobee.”
The connection between fertilizer runoff and algal blooms is scientifically well documented, but Senator Rubio has been shilling for Big Sugar for at least 13 years.
Alan Farago, president of Friends of the Everglades, wrote earlier this week that, “In 2003, Rubio was a whip for Gov. Jeb Bush on a bill lowering Everglades water quality standards crowd-swarmed by sugar lobbyists. That new law […] caused a decade-long delay in water quality improvements, setting up today’s disaster.”
Rubio recently said that, “If I believe[d] that the sugar industry was the only contributor to this then we would do everything possible to address that immediately, but there are multiple contributors and it’s not just agriculture.”
The truth is, though, Senator Rubio and his Republican colleagues won’t address any issue, no matter how simple or how complex, if it threatens the bottom line of their campaign contributors.
Ironically, Senator Rubio now wants the federal government, and taxpayers like you and me, to bail his state out of the crisis that his career-long science denial has helped to create.
Since 2011, Senator Rubio’s accepted more than $800,000 from Big Ag to help agribusinesses pollute Florida’s waterways, and he’s accepted another $800,000 from the fossil-fuel industry to deny climate science and to help the fossil-fuel industry warm our planet with greenhouse gases, leading to more rainfall and warmer coastal waters, which leads right to this algae bloom.
Our elected representatives should listen to scientists and the US public, and not the special interest groups that funnel millions of dollars into their political campaign coffers.
Which means we need to get money out of politics and to reign in special interests, so that our politicians can address environmental and public health concerns as they arise, before they become environmental and public health crises that cost economies billions.