Disputed cost estimates once again cited as reason to delay water quality standards
In a letter written to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Gov.-elect Rick Scott, Attorney General-elect Pam Bondi and Agricultural Commissioner-elect Adam Putnam requested more time and better science in drafting new water quality standards for Florida’s estuaries and coastal waters. The letter, which was signed by five other newly elected officials, came just two days before the Nov. 14 deadline to finalize the nutrient criteria affecting freshwater.
Though perhaps not surprising (Scott and Putnam have both been staunch in their opposition to the criteria in the past), the letter reveals yet another striking difference in opinion between politicians and environmentalists, who argue that the criteria are not only effective, but will be economically beneficial to the state in the long run.
The letter brings up the estimated cost of what the signees deem an “onerous regulation,” and says that the price of implementing the criteria “could impede our state’s economic recovery and increase the price of utilities, food and other necessities for Floridians.”
Many politicians and industry figures have tossed around cost estimations when defending their position against the criteria, but a recent examination of internal Florida Department of Environmental Protection emails suggests that cost estimation vary widely —even within the department itself.
One study, done by the Florida Water Environment Association, projected costs to be upward of $24 billion, while the EPA projects costs to be around $130 million. A look at the board of the FWEA shows that many of its members may have ulterior motives. The board features two employees of the utilities giant JEA, which would likely be faced with compliance costs, and representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection, an organization many accuse of siding with industry.
In their letter, the eight newly elected officials write, “According to a study done by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the EPA mandates set to be finalized this November 14th will impose capital costs of over $4 billion on municipal wastewater treatment utilities and over $17 billion on municipal storm water utilities.” But according to the Department of Environmental Protection, any and all cost estimates are based on hypotheticals and involve several assumptions, making it difficult to know the true cost of implementation until drafts are finalized.