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Earthjustice: Everglades Land Deal Means Big Savings to Floridians

November 13, 2008

Reaction is positive so far to Governor Crist's announcement Wednesday of a final deal with U.S. Sugar Corporation to buy 180,000 acres of land at a reduced price. The deal would allow the company to remain in business and will be one of the largest environmental land purchases in history. Environmental groups are calling it a good deal for consumers, as it will save money in the long run, according to David Guest, managing attorney for Earthjustice.

"Over the long haul, this is going to save a vast fortune for the consumers; It’s going to protect the water supply, and provide a much more cost-effective Everglades restoration, which is inextricably intertwined with the sustainability of southeast Florida."

In the revised deal, Florida pays $1.34 billion instead of $1.75 billion, and then the company keep it’s mill, railroad lines and citrus processing plant. The agreement is a sign of good government, says Guest, going forward in spite of the financial crisis.

"When you're saving big bucks for the consumers over the long run, you shouldn’t be blinded by the fact that we have a temporary downturn, and there is a future beyond that and what's great about Charlie Crist is that he can see that future."

Allowing U.S. Sugar to stay in business may protect the jobs of nearly 2,000 workers, and could allow the company to transition to other kinds of industry including the potential of an ethanol plant.

Critics say the deal comes at a bad time, with the state facing a $1-billion deficit that could get even worse due to the national financial crisis, which could make it difficult to raise the money to pay for the purchase.

Gina Presson/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - FL