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Florida environmentalists slam New York Times’ Everglades story critical of Charlie Crist

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WUSF’s Scott Finn has a must-read report in response to a recent New York Times investigation questioned the price tag, environmental value and the politics of the deal with U.S. Sugar to restore the Everglades. But several environmental activists say the New York Times allowed itself to be used as a tool of Crist’s enemies.

The headline on the New York Times website sums it up: “A Deal to Save the Everglades Could Rescue U.S. Sugar Instead.”

The story has upset several Florida environmentalists, including lawyer David Guest, head of the Florida chapter of Earthjustice:

“That’s not accurate. That’s not a correct representation,” he said. “You will not find a responsible environmentalist in the state of Florida that does not say that in a strong, clear voice.”

And here’s Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation:

“I think that it doesn’t paint a completely accurate picture,” said Fuller. “There was a suggestions that there was something nefarious. I think they sort of blew up the political intrigue angle on this more than they needed to.”

The story questioned why Crist abandoned a plan by former Gov. Jeb Bush to build a huge reservoir and try a largely-untested method of the large scale injection of water into aquifers.

The New York Times story hinted the change was meant to benefit U.S. Sugar and its law firm, where Crist’s ally, U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, was a partner.

But Alan Farago of the group Friends of the Everglades says Crist abandoned the Bush plan because of science.

“Gov. Bush is quite critical of the U.S. Sugar deal, but in fact, the plan that he advocated and committed a billion dollars to was also based on very, very uncertain technologies and investments,” Farago said. “For instance, the largest man-made reservoir in the world, which is now sitting off U.S. 27 in a state of half-completeness.”

Environmentalists are upset that the story targeted Crist’s ties to U.S. Sugar, but failed to highlight the connections involving Crist’s opponent, former House Speaker Marco Rubio.

Jeb Bush hasn’t officially endorsed Rubio, but he’s said in an interview that he’s proud of Rubio and what he’s done.

And Rubio and Bush both have ties to Florida Crystals – the big competitor to U.S. Sugar which opposes the land preservation deal.

According to the Palm Beach Post, Rubio has received more than $14,000 from the Fanjul family, which owns Florida Crystals, and the company’s chief lobbyist. Full story here.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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