In an op-ed published Sunday in the Ocala Star-Banner, GOP Rep. Cliff Stearns goes head-to-head with environmentalist Frank Jackalone, the head of the Florida Sierra Club.

Jackalone recently accused Stearns, R-Ocala, of doing an “about-face” on clean water standards in Florida, saying that Stearns is taking sides in his stance on the EPA’s “numeric nutrient criteria,” a set of standards to thwart algal blooms and fish kills in state waterways. In his retort, Stearns says that his stance has remained the same and that Jackalone’s recent opinion piece is “deep with rhetoric, but very thin with facts.”

Many state environmentalists (including Jackalone) have recently expressed disappointment with Stearns. Though he recently hosted a hearing on the water pollution rules, to critics, it was one-sided and explored the cost of implementing the criteria, rather than the cost of pollution for industries like tourism and fishing.

A look at the list of witnesses at the hearing revealed that, while industry and agricultural representatives were plenty, only one environmentalist (an attorney for environmental law firm Earthjustice) was invited to speak. Stearns’ staff claimed that no additional environmental leaders were included because they didn’t ask to be, but, as recently reported by The Florida Independent, several other environmental groups maintain that they did attempt to be included, and were shot down.

In his op-ed, Stearns argues that, as chairman of a House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, his panel is concerned with ”targeting regulatory reform that would promote job creation.” He goes on to write that the state of Florida has estimated the costs of implementing the criteria to be between $5.7 billion and $8.4 billion a year. As previously reported by the Independent, those are industry-derived numbers that many (including the EPA) view as overblown.

From the op-ed:

The testimony from the hearing demonstrated that the EPA ignored important, science-based steps when imposing its broad-brush standards. The results are overly broad standards that will cost huge sums to implement, with no clear benefit to the quality of Florida’s waters.

I am an elected official and accustomed to baseless political attacks. However, Jackalone and the Sierra Club also misrepresented the facts to the people of Florida regarding the critical issues of water quality and job creation, and for that, they should be ashamed.

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