As Florida’s governor, Rick Scott cut millions of dollars for red-tide research and took steps to exacerbate conditions ripe for algae blooms. Now, as a Senate candidate, Scott is calling on the Legislature and the state’s conservation commission to restore funding and take action.
Scott, a term-limited Republican running to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, on Thursday released a statement calling for the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to create the Center for Red Tide Research, re-establish the Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force and ask the Legislature to increase funding for red-tide research next year.
But according to a Politico analysis published last month, the state budgeted an average of $2.5 million a year for red-tide research under Scott’s predecessor, Charlie Crist, but only $801,241 per year during Scott’s tenure.
In 2015, Scott vetoed $500,000 for Mote Marine Laboratories for red-tide research and $6 million for a research vessel, forcing research on red tide to come to a halt because scientists were unable to collect samples.
Florida State University oceanography professor Sven Kranz told Capitol News Service that since 2013, “The funding for basic research questions is just minimal.”
Environmentalists accused Scott of doing too little, too late.
“Scott’s proposal for more research won’t cure red tide and green slime,” Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director Frank Jackalone told the News Service of Florida in a statement. “The only way to reduce the occurrence, size and severity of harmful algae blooms is to stop the pollution that is feeding it at its source. We need prevention, not more studies.”
As Florida continued to deal with these algal blooms, Scott took steps to gut the state’s water monitoring network, according to The Miami Herald.
In 2011, his first year in office, Scott abolished the Department of Community Affairs, an agency charged with preventing development from harming the environment, and bragged about cutting the budgets of the state’s water management districts by $700 million.
Scott’s administration also prohibited state officials from using the term “climate change,” the accepted theory that human activities are accelerating global warming. Scott has expressed doubt in the science behind climate change, but research has linked it to exacerbating red tide.