It is nearly impossible to keep up with the dirty tricks and corruption being committed by Republicans on behalf of their masters the Koch brothers. This is particularly true in Republican states where it is not unusual for legislators, and often governors, work to assist the Kochs avoid environmental regulations and laws in exchange for campaign donations and electoral support. It is possible that even with America’s population mired in apathy and ignorance, exposing Republicans’ illegal activities, corruption, and collusion might better inform the error of supporting Republicans.
Fortunately, there is one specific instance of scandal, corruption, and subterfuge that allows the Kochs free rein to dump tons of toxic waste into a Florida river that is finally getting the exposure it warrants. After three years of legal battles, the legal battle is going to the Supreme Court to weigh in on a bona fide scandal in Florida that is likely typical in Republican states working hand-in-hand with the Kochs to sidestep environmental regulations.
After years of effort, there are finally results in an uphill battle to expose the environmental, and political, corruption which has been occurring in Tallahassee and Putnam County, Florida involving the Koch brothers, presidential candidate and former governor Jeb Bush, and current Governor Rick Scott. There are more players involved in the scandalous affair, but part of the corruption is Governor Rick Scott’s refusal to investigate the malfeasance involving his predecessor, his own administration, and his masters the Koch brothers.
For three years the Koch brothers’ company Georgia-Pacific has been dumping tons of toxic waste every day into St. Johns River; a river, incidentally, that is designated as “Florida’s American Heritage River.” Aspects of the deal that was approved by Jeb Bush allowing the Kochs “to massively assault the environment” were misleading, and illegal; as well as being kept secret from local citizens in particular and Floridians in general. Even though Jeb Bush has been out of the governor’s office for years, he is as culpable today as current Governor Rick Scott who continues a cover-up to protect the Kochs and allow them to pollute with impunity.
This lawsuit’s origins reach back into the Jeb Bush administration (1999-2007) when, in 2003, then-governor Bush and his cabinet, over the objection of then-Attorney General Charlie Crist, gave their approval for a Koch-owned Georgia-Pacific pipeline designed specifically to carry and dump toxic waste from a paper mill directly into the St. Johns River.
The crux of the case against the Kochs, Bush, and Scott is that they conspired to build what certainly appears to be “an illegally-approved pipeline” that current Koch acolyte, Florida Governor Rick Scott, refuses to investigate. Since he is, after all, the chairman of Florida’s Trustees of Internal Improvement Trust Fund as well as governor, it is well-within Scott’s purview, and his duty, to get to the bottom of the corruption and stop the Kochs from despoiling Florida’s American Heritage River. One of the main reasons Scott refuses to investigate the corruption and illegal process approving the Koch pipeline is it will expose the gross corruption in Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection that Scott presides over as governor.
The Kochs, Bush, and now Scott claim that the one-man approval process is legal and that the public had more than enough warning and time to offer their input about the toxic pipeline. Instead of public hearings, town halls, or meetings with environmental groups or concerned citizens, the Kochs et al claim a legal notice buried in a newspaper replaced any need to alert the public, demonstrate the lack of environmental damage and cost, and get their opinions. Florida citizens and environmental groups however, claim that the approval was “finalized” without their knowledge according to what they say was “a grossly misleading newspaper public notice.” The stealthy notice’s specific goal was blocking any public input or challenges to the toxic pipeline which the Florida Trustees’ agent, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, granted approval for without dispute that the pipeline’s purpose was dumping tons of poison into the river daily.
Besides the fact that Bush and company gave unwarranted approval to build the pipeline, Floridians claim “the constitutionally-defective” notice published by the Kochs’ Georgia-Pacific Corporation failed to give reasonable Floridians who might have glanced at that paper’s legal ads fair warning that the notice was about not only the wetlands permit, but also about illegally giving easement permission over private property; something that is a blatant due process issue.
It is particularly telling that at the exact same time the public was supposed to happen upon a legal notice buried in the local newspaper, the FDEP issued a notice to Georgia-Pacific alerting them of its “intent to issue an environmental resource permit and easement to use sovereign submerged land.” The deal was already done and it demonstrates the corruption and collusion between the Kochs’ Georgia-Pacific and Jeb Bush; Rick Scott came late to the party, but he has continued the corruption and is as culpable as Bush and the Kochs.
One might think that despite what Jeb Bush, Rick Scott, and the Kochs wanted, a department created to protect the environment would automatically reject the pipeline, but this is, after all, Republican Florida where corruption appears to be business as usual. This is particularly true, as noted by the citizens and environmental groups behind the lawsuit, because “under Florida’s public trust doctrine, which has constitutional status and is enunciated in the Trustees’ own rules, the Trustees are mandated to make a careful, comprehensive, and full-blown determination of the public interest of the entire project.”
What that rule means is the FDEP and Florida Trust are “constitutionally” required to alert Floridians, well in advance, about the costs and benefits to the public in approving the toxic pipeline, as well as the money the Kochs would save by dumping tons of toxic waste into the river every day. That certainly did not occur when Jeb Bush approved the pipeline in 2003, and has never occurred because the public was not only denied receiving fair public notice, they were never afforded the opportunity to even request a formal evidentiary hearing on the pros, cons, and just compensation to the public for the pipeline. In fact, the first time most Florida citizens learned about the pipeline was after it was completed and Georgia-Pacific started pumping toxins into the St. Johns River early in 2012. It was then they began legal proceedings to get relief and save the St. Johns River.
It is highly doubtful that the Kochs, Jeb Bush, or Rick Scott will be held accountable for their parts in the corruption that threatens the St. Johns river. It is even more doubtful that the conservative Supreme Court would consider inconveniencing the Koch brothers by taking up their time or ruling against them and interfering with their profits. One imagines that the Kochs will include their two favorite Supreme Court Justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, in their next “secret” billionaire confab to recreate and confer with Georgia-Pacific executives and determine exactly what kind of outcome will best serve the Kochs and Georgia-Pacific. It is, after all, exactly what the brothers did prior to the Supreme Court hearing the Citizens United case and there is no reason to believe this will be any different.
One can be hopeful, though, that the details of this decade-long scandal and corruption involving Jeb Bush, Rick Scott, and the Koch brothers will alert voters to the corruption and subterfuge typical of Republicans; particularly if it profits their money machine’s machinations to devastate the environment.