MIAMI – As Miami-Dade County announced this Thursday that its shores are being impacted by red tide, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, the Democratic candidate for Florida’s 26th Congressional District, criticized her opponent Carlos Curbelo for taking nearly $80,000 in campaign contributions from Big Sugar, an industry that has exacerbated Florida’s urgent water problems.
Big Sugar has had a big role in creating the toxic blooms impacting Florida’s waterways, and has been singled out as a suspected catalyst for the red tide on both of our coasts, as well as a cause of the slimy, blue-green algae currently covering Lake Okeechobee and killing thousands of fish and other wildlife.
The sugar industry is “causing some of these blooms through pollution,” according to Axios, and by “prevent[ing] the natural trickling and filtering of overflow [water] through the Everglades,” according to National Geographic.
However, that hasn’t stopped Congressman Curbelo from taking $78,400 from Big Sugar. It also didn’t stop him from voting this year against an amendment that would have reformed the subsidies that the sugar industry receives from the government.
And it’s not just Big Sugar; Curbelo has taken $10,000 each from Exxon and Chevron; $5,000 each from Valero and Marathon Petroleum; and $1,000 each from American Petroleum Institute and American Gas Association.
“Congressman Curbelo has made plenty of empty promises about defending our environment,” said Mucarsel-Powell. “But his continuous inaction is all the more alarming when you look at the industries that are backing his campaign.”
Mucarsel-Powell also released a new digital ad Thursday drawing attention to Republicans’ environmental inaction.
“Our water, our reef and our environment are in danger, and Republicans have done nothing about it,” the 30-second spot says.
Sugar Farms Prevented The Natural Filtering Of Lake Water Through The Everglades. “To make matters worse, Florida isn’t just suffering from red tide. The inland waterways are clogged with yet another bloom of vibrant green cyanobacteria. […] Development and sugar farms south of the lake prevent the natural trickling and filtering of overflow through the Everglades.” [National Geographic, 8/7/18]
The Sugar Industry Could Be Causing Red Tide Blooms Through Pollution. “This red tide bloom is the worst in over a decade, and it’s become a major issue in the hotly contested Senate race between Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson. Some people suspect the state’s agricultural interests, such as the sugar industry, are causing some of these blooms through pollution.” [Axios, 8/7/18]
Cane Fields Infected Two Rivers, And South Florida’s Coastline, With Toxic Algae. “For 6,000 years, excess groundwater has spilled over the southern rim of the lake, nourishing the Everglades before draining into the Florida Bay. To make way for the cane fields, engineers raised and fortified the lake’s southern shore, funneling all that excess groundwater through an array of canals, levees and pumping stations into two rivers that then dump it into the sea along Florida’s east and west coasts. This cleared the way for the cane fields, but choked off water to the rest of the Everglades. It also infected the two rivers and South Florida’s coastlines with toxic algae.” [Weather Channel, 12/8/16]
To Spare Cane Fields, The Army Corps Of Engineers Sent Billions Of Gallons Of Lake Water Into The Ocean, “Coating The Shore In Slime.” “So the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with an eye on the rising lake, reduced the risk by opening sluice gates and sending billions of gallons of lake water a day cascading east and west through the network of canals and rivers into the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. The dike was spared, as were the sugar cane fields and people who work and live around them. But along the Atlantic coast, the lake’s fertilizer-infused water spawned giant plumes of toxic algae, turning the ocean the color of coffee and coating the shore in slime. The fouling of the ocean was an ecological and economic calamity for South Florida’s Treasure Coast, coming as it did during the height of the winter tourist season.” [Weather Channel, 12/8/16]