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Nancy Smith

Somebody Tell Sierra Club: Money Doesn't Grow on Trees

October 2, 2011 - 6:00pm

Few organizations have the guts to get in the face of the Sierra Club.

Who knows why that is. Maybe it's because Sierra is such a behemoth. With 1.4 million members, it is the oldest, largest and most influential grass-roots organizations in the United States.

Or, it could be because it's such a beloved behemoth -- everybody knows it's not nice to challenge environmentalists, who always wear the white hats and stand for good.

But every now and then an organization comes along to show that often enough, one person's sacred trust is another's spending disaster.

So it was last week with Free Market Florida (FMF), an Orlando-based free market watchdog group that works with a coalition of business and civic leaders.

FMF launched a new ad criticizing the Sierra Club and EarthJustice for what it calls "standing in the way of job-creation, energy independence and a common-sense water policy for Florida."

The truth is, it's taken a deep recession to show the state and the nation that myriad actions taken by environmentalists as a matter of priority are prohibitive in cost and constricting for an economy trying to recover. This is entirely true for the Sierra Club, the sky's-the-limit spending folks.

The Sierra Club hides behind the veneer of environmentalism, said Ryan Houck, executive director of Free Market Florida. They are not environmentalists, they are opportunists. They abuse the legal system to halt job-creation, shut down domestic energy production and, too often, send taxpayers the bill for their legal shenanigans.

Houck blows the whistle on the Sierra Club for engineering EPAs attempt to saddle Florida taxpayers with "the multibillion-dollar boondoggle called numeric nutrient criteria." He also claims they stand in the way of common-sense domestic energy production, whether its coal, oil or natural gas; and "their reckless litigation even threatens Americas food supply by targeting phosphate production in the Sunshine State."

Richard J. Budell, director of the Office of Agricultural Water Policy at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, has said the EPA program alone could cripple the state with excessive costs and kill jobs.

It's old news now, but it doesn't hurt to recap:

While the EPA estimates implementation costs between $135 million and $236 million annually, the state Agriculture Department, working with the University of Florida Agricultural Resource Economics Department, estimates the implementation costs just for agricultural land uses at between $900 million and $1.6 billion annually and could result in the loss of more than 14,000 jobs.

Preliminary estimates from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection peg the implementation costs for urban stormwater upgrades alone at nearly $2 billion annually, Budell said.

Says Houck, Many Americans fear that our nation is in decline. We firmly believe that decline is not inevitable, it's optional. And thats what this ad is about. If the Sierra Clubs agenda prevails, it promises to leave America a second-tier economy, hasten the rise of our nations economic rivals and leave individual Americans, quite literally, in the dark.

It's good for Floridians -- in fact, for all Americans charged with making public policy -- to see an ad like Free Market Florida's and to consider the consequences of environmental programs that could explode even a hint of a fragile recovery. The Sierra Club in particular had this one coming.

This is an opinion column: Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com, or at (850) 727-0859.

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