Preventing another Piney Point

Protecting our environment is Eric’s key priority as a native and future representative of Pinellas County, including his hometown of St. Petersburg. The environment is critical to our survival, and we have the duty to leave our state, our country and our planet better than we found them for the generations to come. We are not currently meeting that mark. 

In Congress, Eric will draft and file legislation that requires the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency to oversee and approve plans for toxic chemical storage facilities such as Piney Point. Eric’s experience working on national security and as Senior Advisor at the Pentagon, and thus with the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as his role in helping to draft the Everglades Restoration Act makes him uniquely qualified to draft, pass, and implement this legislation.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has proven itself to be unwilling and unqualified for approval and oversight of such dangerous sites and these serious tasks must be handled by federal experts at the Army Corps and EPA.

Politicians in Florida on both sides of the aisle are responsible for this, prioritizing their relationships with corporations instead of our environment. Corporations fund their campaigns, bolster their political careers, and in return the politicians look the other way when it comes to regulating corporations in order to fight against climate change. As a candidate for Congress, Eric will not partake in this status quo.  Corporate PAC money is not part of his campaign because on day one, he’ll be ready to fight to protect our environment without interference from donors. 

We need bold and immediate action to address the climate crisis, and listening to corporations over environmental scientists will not bring the change we need. 

Piney Point Disaster – Background

On March 25, 2021, leaks were discovered at Piney Point, an industrial phosphate plant being used for phosphogypsum storage in Manatee County, bordering the Tampa Bay.

Despite repeated warnings from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, beginning as early as 2008, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Manatee County Port Authority chose not to take action against HRK Holdings, the private company and site owner. Even though the Department of Environmental Protection had the funds to close the site for good, they chose to leave it open for future business opportunities.

As a result, and as predicted, tears in the plastic liner in 2021 led to the emergency dumping of 200 million gallons of hazardous water into Tampa Bay. This led to the worst red tide bloom in over 50 years – the only Red Tide bloom generated in Tampa Bay – resulting in the death of hundreds of tons of fish, sealife, and wildlife that live on the water, and the environmental impacts are still being calculated.

Making Sure this doesn’t Happen Again

  • The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has de facto abdicated their responsibility for these sites by their actions, which, at best, were negligent because they were asleep on the job, or at worst, they were prioritizing monetary gain over protecting our water and wildlife.
  • The FDEP cannot be trusted to oversee chemical storage facilities, and we must end the practice of allowing them to be used as for-profit assets by the state and out-of-state corporations.
  • In Congress, Eric Lynn will draft and file legislation that requires the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency to oversee and approve plans for toxic chemical storage facilities such as Piney Point.  The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has proven itself to be unqualified for approval and oversight of such dangerous sites and these serious tasks must be handled by federal experts at the Army Corps and EPA.
  • Whether opening a new site, closing a current site, or transferring materials from one site to another, no plans are put into action until the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA approve the steps, with appropriate public comment.

Holding those Responsible Accountable

  • We need to send a strong message to future companies with any interest in opening or acquiring chemical storage facilities for monetary gain. 
  • These facilities are not hands off investments, they are hazardous sites that pose threats to our environment and well-being.
  • Harsh penalties must be issued to HRK Holdings LLC, their investors, and any others responsible for causing this damage.

Recovering from Piney Point

  • The total damage caused by the Piney Point disaster is still being measured, and likely still growing. 
  • While Eric vows to file legislation that will work towards preventing another Piney Point disaster, we also need to study the repercussions of what’s already happened so we can recover accordingly and be prepared to recover more quickly in the future.
  • We need grants for universities and other scientific research facilities to measure the impact Piney Point had on our wildlife and drinking water – both short and long term – while measuring other pollutants that may still exist in our waterways or in our soil.

Eric is a St. Petersburg native. He grew up here, graduated from St. Petersburg High School, and his kids attend public school here in St Petersburg. When Eric was a Legislative Director in Congress, he helped write the Everglades Restoration Act. Unfortunately, the climate crisis has been met with inaction since and even denial by corporations and right-wing extremists. That’s what brought us to a disaster like Piney Point, and as your representative in Congress Eric will be ready on day one to file legislation that ensures another Piney Point disaster never happens again.

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