The federal agency tasked with protecting the environment recently announced that it would allow the state of Florida to create its own water quality rules — and thereby not implement the controversial federal criteria. In a statement released yesterday, Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, lauded the decision while still directing a few jabs at the federal agency.
The decision to require the state of Florida to implement a set of federally approved standards to regulate nutrient overload in waterways has been highly controversial. Lawmakers and industry leaders argue they would be extremely costly and nearly impossible to implement.
Environmentalists say that they are necessary to help deal with the all-too-often algal blooms and fish kills that affect important waterways like the St. Johns River. In a letter sent Monday to Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard, the EPA stated that it would repeal the “federally promulgated numeric nutrient criteria” if the state can adopt criteria that are ”sufficient.” The EPA still must approve the criteria before they can be implemented, but the agency has essentially given the reins to the state.
The question that remains is whether the state will come up with effective criteria. State waterways are currently governed by a vague and ineffective narrative standard, which says that “in no case shall nutrient concentrations of the body of water be altered so as to cause an imbalance in natural populations of flora or fauna.”
In his statement, Ross called the EPA announcement a “step in the right direction,” but said that Floridians are the only ones who know how to take care of their water.
Ross’s statement, in full:
Yesterday’s announcement by EPA is a step in the right direction. I have requested, and will continue to demand, a face to face meeting with Administrator Jackson on this issue. In addition, the Oversight Committee, of which I chair a subcommittee, will continue our investigation into the proposed rule, its economic impact and the radical groups behind it. These regulations are patently unscientific and contrary to the EPAs own Science Advisory Council findings. In addition, Florida consumers and employers cannot afford increased energy, food, and input prices. Water is Florida’s lifeblood and no one knows how to take care of that lifeblood better than Floridians. We welcome anyone from EPA to Florida – as a tourist.
Ross also spoke out against the criteria during a video aired during a recent water issues forum in Orlando, which was hosted by the lobbying group Associated Industries of Florida — an organization that hasn’t been shy about its opposition to the criteria.
“I apologize I cannot be with you in person, but someone has to keep an eye on the EPA,” joked Ross, who said that business “should not have to contend with the federal government as an enemy.”
Ross said that the decision to promulgate the water-pollution rules was the result of “junk science” on the part of “fringe environmental groups … holding Floridians hostage.”
As a former small business owner, Ross said he often asked the federal government the hypothetical question, “Have you walked a mile in my shoes?” According to him, the EPA is out of touch with the state, and therefore, the very problem it is trying to solve: “The folks at the EPA have nice shoes … not a drop of mud on them, and they haven’t walked in Florida’s waters.”