Wasson & Associates, Chartered
Civil and Criminal Appeals and Trial Support
25 SE Second Avenue • Suite 740
Miami, Florida 33131
(305) 372-5220 Telephone
January 28, 2024
Re: Wilde Cypress Branch v. Hamilton
Our File No. 02648
To Whom It May Concern:
This is a request that your agency/organization take a simple and no-cost step to protect the natural environment from pollution and from overreaching by State government. We represent pro-environment clients including Charles O’Neal, President of Speak Up Wekiva, who sued the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and a real estate developer, Beachline South Residential, on behalf of the Waters of Orange County. Our complaint sought to enforce a provision in the Orange County Charter amendment affording legal rights to bodies of water and outlawing intentional and negligent pollution by businesses and government entities.
On March 4, 2020, the Orange County Charter Review Commission—acting under Florida Constitution Section Article VIII, Section 1(g)—passed a proposed charter amendment to protect Orange County’s lakes and rivers (the “Clean Water Provision”). On November 3, 2020, Orange County citizens overwhelmingly voted in favor of the Clean Water Provision by 89.2 percent, and it became Section 704.1 of the Orange County Charter.
The charter provision, Section 704.1 contains three fundamental parts: Section 704.1(A)(1) establishes that all waters in Orange County possess “a right to exist, Flow, to be protected against Pollution and to maintain a healthy ecosystem.” Second, Section 704.1(A)(2) establishes that all citizens of Orange County possess “a right to clean water by having the Waters of Orange County protected against Pollution.” And third, Section 704.1(C) outlaws intentional and negligent pollution by businesses and governmental entities.
Our complaint was dismissed based on the doctrine of “preemption,” with the courts (so far) enforcing this vague statutory prohibition on local efforts to protect the environment: “A local government regulation, ordinance, code, rule, comprehensive plan, charter, or any other provision of law may not recognize or grant any legal rights to a plant, an animal, a body of water, or any other part of the natural environment that is not a person or political subdivision, or grant such person or political subdivision any specific rights relating to the natural environment not otherwise authorized in general law or specifically granted in the State Constitution.” § 403.412(9)(a), Fla. Stat. (2020).
That state statute does nothing to regulate pollution and only ties the hands of concerned citizens and local governments who otherwise would take action on a local level. The question whether Orange County’s Clean Water Provision may or may not be enforced is a matter of statewide importance that we submit should be decided by the Supreme Court of Florida, not merely by the intermediate appellate court that affirmed the trial court's dismissal of our complaint. This is a request that your agency/organization join in petitioning the Sixth District Court of Appeal to certify to the Supreme Court of Florida that our appeal involves a question of great public importance, to wit: whether the Orange County Charter amendment that affords legal rights to natural and outlaws intentional and negligent pollution by businesses and governmental entities.
We will be filing in the Sixth District Court of Appeal a Motion to Certify Question of Great Public Importance which, if granted, will empower the Supreme Court of Florida to decide to take the case and restore Orange County’s Clean Water Provision as enforceable law. In connection with that motion, we are seeking the participation of public interest groups, environmental protection organizations and agencies, local governments, and others who agree that the issues involved in this case are matters of such statewide importance. Some of the reasons we believe the matter is so important are these:
--The preemption statute disenfranchises the hundreds of thousands of Orange County voters who approved the Clean Water Provision;
--The preemption statute wrests control over local environmental threats away from local governments and leaves the power in a statewide legislature that has shown little regard for the rights of nature and the protection of the environment.
--The preemption statute will further harm the already-damaged environment.
If your agency/organization would like to be involved in our efforts, we are asking you to sign on to an Amici Curiae Brief as a “friend of the court” in support of our planned Motion to Certify Question of Great Public Importance. All we would need from you would be three simple statements:
First, you would identify your agency/organization and its general role.
Second, you would include a statement of your group’s “interest in the case.”
Finally, you would complete this thought: The court’s decision holding that Orange County’s Clean Water Provision is preempted by section of the Florida Statutes is a matter of great public importance that should be so certified to the Supreme Court of Florida because . . . .”
Please call if you are willing to discuss assuming this important role as a friend of the court, and a friend of nature, a friend of local government, a friend of voting rights, and a friend of a heathy environment. If you have a lawyer who represents your organization in such matters, or one who would be interested in this situation, please forward this to her or him and we will be happy to coordinate our efforts with your counsel.
Roy D. Wasson
(305) 372-5220 Telephone