Brian Mast charges Nikki Fried with not doing her job under Clean Waterways Act
Red Tide on the Southwest Florida coast. Image via AP.

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Fried responded that Mast doesn't know what he's writing about.

Environmentalist Republican Rep. Brian Mast is accusing environmentalist Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried of not doing her job to protect Florida’s waters.

Mast on Monday said Fried was not following through with water pollution test reports and inspections required of certain properties participating in the state’s Best Management Practices Program, leading to uncertainty whether they were following guidelines to reduce pollution.

He went so far as to accuse her of shielding polluters from scrutiny.

Fried’s spokesman responded Monday that Mast doesn’t know what he’s writing about. She’s holding polluters accountable as required by law, despite not getting funding support or cooperation from the administration that she needs to do so, Franco Ripple said in the response.

Mast’s charges came in a letter the Stuart Republican sent Fried Monday. Specifically, he contended her Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has not followed requirements set in the 2020 Clean Waterways Act requiring reports on monitoring nitrogen and phosphorous use. Those are the agriculture fertilizer agents most associated with algae blooms, red tides, and environmental and public health degradation from Lake Okeechobee to both coasts.

Mast contended that the Clean Waterways Act requires quarterly reports on the Best Management Practices Program from Fried’s department to the Department of Environmental Protection. He requested that Fried send all her records in compliance with the Clean Waterways Act to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

“As a result of your refusal to abide by the law, polluters in Florida are being given a free pass while the people you were elected to represent are having their lives put at risk,” Mask wrote.

Ripple said Mast reads the law incorrectly. And he never bothered to ask anyone about it before firing off his missive, Ripple said in his retort.

“It’s another political stunt from the Congressman who seeks media attention first and asks questions never. Had the Congressman asked, he would know there is ongoing biweekly coordination between FDACS and FDEP on data collection under SB 712, which does not specify quarterly data reporting,” Ripple said in a response.

“Had the Congressman asked, he would know that FDEP held up approval for months of our BMP manual needed to collect data, and has also failed to take action on any of the 6,000 noncompliant farms we have referred to them for BMP enforcement. The Congressman also might want to ask the Florida Legislature why they chose not to fund any of the positions our Office of Agricultural Water Policy requested this year for BMP data collection,” he continued.

Both Mast and Fried have sought to position themselves as champions of environmental protection, albeit on opposite sides of partisan wars. Water, algae, red tides, and environmental protection were forefronts for their political campaigns and have been policy priorities since.

Mast — who represents parts of Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties on Florida’s southeast coast — also has bucked Republican establishment on matters of water protection.

“Unfortunately, it’s just the latest attempt from the Congressman to distract from his failed environmental record voting for more pollution,” Ripple charged. “While getting the facts may not be a high priority for the Congressman, he can rest assured that Commissioner Fried and our department’s scientists are leading the way on data transparency, and are working every day on ending harmful algal blooms, reducing nutrient pollution, collecting environmental data, and protecting Florida’s waters.”

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]


9 comments

  • tom palmer

    May 3, 2021 at 12:24 pm

    The so-called Clean Waterways Act has plenty of loopholes for ag pollution. The Legislature is the problem because it passes (or refuses to pass) laws.

  • Arthro

    May 3, 2021 at 1:37 pm

    Of course she is not doing her job. She’s too busy running for Governor. Maybe Fried should resign as Ag Com while she runs for Governor. We need somebody who is focused on what is best for Florida (like protecting Florida waters), not another career politician who is more concerned about the next job than the current one. Smells like Charlie Crist all over again…

    • Sari

      May 3, 2021 at 6:53 pm

      How many politicians are concerned about anything other than their re-election or their next office? We don’t have many who ran for office because they were concerned about Florida and its residents. Most of them, from Federal government on down, are all the same. Too sad

    • Tjb

      May 4, 2021 at 5:08 pm

      Our governor is too busy running for President. Now ”Baby Trump DeSantis” is playing to his base and not for Floridians.

  • JoAnne

    May 3, 2021 at 4:29 pm

    Agree. All Fried cares about is her political career not Florida.

    • andrew sanders

      May 4, 2021 at 12:43 pm

      Like Sari said: All any politician cares about is their political career!

    • Tjb

      May 4, 2021 at 5:10 pm

      I guess DeSantis and Nikki have something in common. But Nikki is a better person by a mile.

      • Kyrah

        May 7, 2021 at 12:39 pm

        I haven’t trusted Nikki Fried since I saw she made over $1.4 million the first year she began as Florida’s agriculture commissioner. PLEASE Google it! She pushed through medical marijuana while owning a huge stake in it. Also her fiancée owns a marijuana company. (Conflict of interest?). That should be investigated by the Florida DOJ!
        She only worries about furthering her own interests politically and financially!

  • MEE

    May 5, 2021 at 7:45 am

    Brian Mast is a One-Trick Pony whose focus is so narrowly tied to Lake Okeechobee, while Rome is burning. It’s time to put on some long pants (Yes, long pants) and focus on our democracy (What’s left of it at this point) rather than worry about the water issues in his small district.

Comments are closed.


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