Jeb Bush stuck with anti-science bias

(printed in Context Florida) We know how Gov. Rick Scott feels about climate change: his administration refuses to allow the words to creep into any state policy documents.

And what about former Gov. Jeb Bush – the likely GOP nominee for president in 2016?

We know about his brother, George W., and climate change denial. The historical record is clear: lobbyists President Bush appointed to run the White House Council on Environmental Quality imposed changes on EPA policies, subjugating science to ideology.

Jeb says, “I am my own man”, in trying to distance himself from unpopular aspects of his brother’s presidency.

But when Jeb was governor, agency staff that interacted with journalists on the environment were also censored. Under Gov. Bush, for instance, the State Department of Health refused to discuss the most severe threat to public health from toxics in the environment: cancer clusters.

One of the ways toxics get into the environment is through drinking water. In 2000 Gov. Bush supported major changes to the Safe Drinking Water Act, a federal law that could have protected the nation’s groundwater supplies from contamination by fracking.

Those federal protections – prohibiting the migration of injected fluids between underground layers of rock – disappeared because of litigation and an EPA rule change triggered by Florida. It was justified in the way that most protections against toxics are weakened: dilution is the solution to pollution.

Florida’s own Koch Brothers – the Fanjuls of Coral Gables and Palm Beach – were major supporters of Jeb Bush, who reciprocated Big Sugar’s campaign contributions by authorizing changes to the federal-state water quality standards for the Everglades, precipitating a decade-long lawsuit that decisively, in the end, rebuked Bush’s policies.

The kinds of corporate welfare embodied by ruined aquifers and outright manipulation of federal subsidies tend to be overlooked by conservatives.

Of course, people can change.

The climate is already freakish. While media attention has been focused on severe winter weather in the northeast, severe drought in the American west continues. Warm spring conditions prevailing in western mountain ranges are frightening. This is the winter that never was.

Not to mention, Sao Paolo, Brazil – where severe drought could claim its first megacity. Or, Sudan or Syria, where drought conditions already helped to trigger civil war.

GOP attitudes toward global warming are shifting because its own voters have started to reject the party’s anti-science bias. For example, the religious right appears to have woken up to the climate chaos caused by man, threatening God’s creation.
Jeb’s problem with global warming is that he is a conservative who long ago decided, as a foundation of his career in politics, that government’s appropriate role is a limited one. The dilemma with global warming: how to match limited government to unlimited liability? Who do you trust to solve environmental crises: Big Business, the Koch Brothers, Big Sugar?

You don’t. You can’t. All the puffery about industry self-interest providing for people better than regulations is dissolved by global warming. Climate change is that piece of porcelain thrown against a window of tempered glass. That’s why Gov. Rick Scott won’t allow his agency staff to use the term, “climate change.”

That’s also why Jeb Bush has a lot of explaining to do.

Alan Farago writes the daily blog, Eye On Miami, under the pen name, Gimleteye. He is president of Friends of the Everglades, a grass roots conservation organization based in Miami, FL. A long-time writer and advocate for Florida’s environment, his work is archived at Column courtesy of Context Florida.


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