Fight over water pollution rules continues in Tallahassee, D.C.

By | 01.30.12 | 10:21 am

A pollution warning sign along the Caloosahatchee River (Pic by Florida Water Coalition)

The fight to allow Florida to write its own water pollution rules continues at both the state and federal level this week.

A bill designed to establish the state’s version of nutrient criteria for its waters passed its final committee last week and is headed for a floor vote in the House.

House Bill 7051 (sponsored by Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Fort Myers) would approve the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s numeric nutrient criteria, a set of standards designed to restrict waste in Florida waterways. The state rules were drafted as a lower-cost alternative to more stringent regulations proposed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which mandated that Florida implement a set of nutrient rules following a lawsuit bought by environmental groups. Environmentalists, who argue that the state version is less protective than having no rules at all, favor the EPA’s version, but both industry and state lawmakers have fought tooth-and-nail against them.

The Senate version of Caldwell’s bill will be heard by that chamber’s Environmental Preservation and Conservation committee later today.

In an interview with Southeast AgNet, Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee Chair Rep. Steve Crisafulli said Caldwell’s bill takes the “common sense approach.”

“It is a compromise based on what EPA has sent down to us,” said Crisafulli. “We would certainly be happy keeping things as they are, using the TMDL program, but given the circumstances that we’re in, we certainly feel that this is a better alternative than what EPA has placed on us for numeric nutrient and we’re hopeful that the Senate sees it that way and we can pass this out and move on without having any more impacts from EPA on the rule moving forward.”

Nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen (which are present in commercial fertilizers and industry waste) are both fiscally and environmentally detrimental to state waterways; they lead to large-scale algal blooms that choke off oxygen to other forms of marine life, leading to fish kills and devastating waterfront property values.

According to AgNet, U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, is expected to unveil a piece of federal legislation today that will further empower Florida officials to set the numeric nutrient standards for state waters.

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