David Guest

David Guest uses a cattle prod, well at least figuratively. He needs to, given politics as usual in Florida. His cattle prod has come in handy in the fight to restore Florida’s Everglades.

Governor Rick Scott has some environmental advocates giving him credit for responding to valid concerns about the environmental initiatives in his new budget. Money will go toward protecting the increasingly polluted springs and a new initiative for Everglades restoration.  Erik Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation is one of them, complimenting the initiative and adding that,  “The governor understands that a restored and protected Everglades is an enormous economic driver.” Even the Florida Audubon Society has given the Everglades budget high marks.

Environmental lawyer David Guest sees all the restoration motives as questionable. From his perspective, they come from court orders from litigation and public outcry over pollution. He doesn’t see a devotion to the environment.

“If we didn’t bring out the cattle prod, they would still be dithering,” Guest said. “You have to look at the whole Rick Scott, the governor who has had the worst impact on protecting Florida’s waters of any governor in Florida history.”

Who is Guest? Guest what. He’s the Managing Attorney at Earthjustice since 1990. He looks forward to taking big polluters, both in the private corporate sector and government to court and having them face litigation. His first pollution cases were filed against pulp mills, sugar companies and the EPA. Since then, he’s turned his focus to water contamination to halt the growing number of algae outbreaks in the lakes, estuaries, and streams in Florida. They are a health hazard and harmful toward wildlife. Lose-Lose.

He’s taken the EPA, pulp mills and sugar companies to court for water pollution. For one case, in 2012, he filed a petition on behalf of Save Our Creeks and the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida for an administrative hearing with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection questioning the agency’s relationship with Florida agriculture giant Lykes Bros. Lykes Bros. owns most of the land along the contested Fisheating Creek.

“It’s crystal clear that DEP is in cahoots with Lykes,” Guest said. “That’s why we have this crazy $3 million plan to destroy the public’s rights to boat on Fisheating Creek.”

He shared the sweet taste of victory on his blog:

“I’m happy to announce that we won the latest legal skirmish in our 23-year quest to keep one of South Florida’s wildest waterways open to the public.

On July 5, an administrative law judge in Tallahassee upheld the public’s right to boat, fish and picnic on the wonderful Fisheating Creek in Glades County, south of Lake Okeechobee. That right was imperiled by agribusiness giant Lykes Brothers, which owns most of the land on both sides of the creek. Lykes planned to provide the state with 3,300 truckloads of free sand, and had proposed that the state use the sand to close off the creek to ordinary folks.”

David Guest was also behind the federal lawsuit filed in 2008 representing the Florida Wildlife Federation, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. John’s Riverkeeper, and Sierra Club in the case, challenging a decade-long delay by the state and federal government in setting limits for so-called nutrient pollution that triggers harmful algae blooms. In pursuing new limits on nutrient poisoning. In February 2012, a federal judge ruled that specific federal limits on sewage, manure and fertilizer contamination in state waters must take effect on March 6, 2012. Previously, state rules required a study of algae blooms be conducted and did not lead to preventive measures.He weighed in on the BP oil spill and how the spill could be investigated in criminal proceedings. To get a sense of what motivates David Guest, he’s worked on many similar cases securing public interest against excessive land claims, however, it’s always nice to read his own words, as a guest columnist for Herald Tribune on February 17, 2014,

“To anyone who has spent much time in Florida, the decline of our fresh water springs is heartbreaking. … Clear pools are now choked with algae. The algae gets so thick it shuts down glass-bottom boat rides because the water’s no longer clear enough to see anything.”

He continues, and I suggest you read his whole piece, by the way.

The truth is that springs pollution is both preventable and reversible. We can change this.”

It’s inspiring to watch him fight the good fight keeping polluters accountable.

Sources: Tampa Tribune, EarthJustice, Herald Tribune, Associated Press, Bloomberg



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