A newly released Mason-Dixon poll reveals that 68 percent of Floridians are opposed to the EPA’s new water quality rules, a 7 percent jump (.pdf) from a similar poll conducted in August 2010. Though an apparent boon to industry groups who have long argued against the implementation of the standards, the poll questions seem to be biased.
The poll, which surveyed registered Florida voters, was sponsored by Associated Industries of Florida, a lobbying group that has worked hard to combat the EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria.
Of the 625 Floridians questioned, the overwhelming majority were against the implementation of the standards “if it resulted in an increase of $700 in [the] average annual water bill.” Many would argue that figure (and therefore the poll itself) is based on overblown cost estimates.
During a September River Summit in Jacksonville, Paul Steinbrecher cited the same figure, saying that the nutrient criteria “will double the average monthly residential water/wastewater bill … an increase of $700 a year for the average resident.”
In addition to acting as environmental sciences director for JEA, one of St. Johns River’s top point-source polluters, Steinbrecher is also the president of the Florida Water Environment Association. Though it describes itself as being “committed to the preservation and enhancement of the global water environment,” the association’s board consists of a host of industry reps who would likely face higher costs and more stringent restrictions should the EPA standards be implemented.
An investigation into emails between representatives of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection revealed that one Water Environment Association claim (that the criteria would cost upwards of $8 billion) was questioned within the state’s environmental department. The EPA has estimated costs to be around $130 million.
Though they would lead to cleaner Florida waterways (and likely a reduction in toxic algal blooms and fish kills) the nutrient criteria have been notably unfavorable with industry interests that would be subject to harsher regulations once they are implemented.
Even industrial and agricultural reps outside of Florida, worried that their states could be subject to similar mandates, have started speaking out against the criteria. In a Feb. 15 letter (.pdf) to members of the U.S. Senate and House, representatives of more than 50 organizations (including Georgia-Pacific, Koch Fertilizer, and the US Cattleman’s Association) asked that the EPA be stopped from implementing or enforcing the criteria:
The size of these costs for Florida alone is reason enough to justify this action, but when you consider the fact that 49 other states could be subjected to similar scientifically unsound criteria, it is all the more pressing that the EPA revisits these standards. … The work done to fight the EPA’s Florida NNC rule should be carried out in way that considers the damage its enforcement would have on the citizens of the rest of the nation.