A state senator's bid to help an Alachua County cement factory
is drawing fire from Jacksonville officials who say it might
permanently freeze local environmental regulations on businesses
in dozens of North Florida counties.
Critics say the measure, authored by Sen. George Kirkpatrick,
D-Gainesville, could eventually cause identical businesses in
Jacksonville to face different sets of rules based on whether
they're located north or south of the St. Johns River.
They have asked Gov. Lawton Chiles to veto the measure, which
the Florida Legislature passed this month, on its last day in
The bill "will work the absurdity of splitting the city of
Jacksonville in half . . . [with] facilities being subject to
two separate sets of rules," the chairman of Jacksonville's
Environmental Protection Board, M.F. Mass, wrote to Chiles last
Supporters say the criticism is wildly off base. Statewide,
they say, no more than a handful of companies are affected.
Lawyers have offered conflicting readings of the measure, an
obscure three-sentence clause tucked into a 22page mining bill
co-sponsored by Rep. Doug Wiles, D-St. Augustine, Rep. John
Thrasher, R-Orange Park, and Rep. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville.
Jacksonville-area lawmakers had supported the bill.
The mining bill was sent to Chiles on Wednesday. An aide said
the governor would review the bill during the next two weeks
before taking any action.
Kirkpatrick's clause prohibits local governments from changing
any environmental regulations that apply to businesses
"permitted and under construction as of May 1." The rule applies
only to businesses north of the Cross-Florida Greenway, a line
based on the Jacksonville-to-Gulf of Mexico barge canal that was
planned decades ago but never finished.
The St. Johns River is part of the Greenway, so the rule
applies on Jacksonville's Northside and Westside, but not in
Arlington or the Southside.
Supporters said Kirkpatrick wrote the clause to help Florida
Rock Industries, a Jacksonville-based company building a cement
plant in Alachua County. The $100 million plant has been
politically controversial, and county officials have considered
creating new air pollution laws that would affect the plant's