In a statement sent out yesterday, Earthjustice attorney David Guest made clear his distaste for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection secretaries involved in the implementation of Florida’s forthcoming numeric nutrient standards. The FDEP has come under fire as of late for its failure to draft a set of standards that measure nutrient levels in concentrations, rather than loads. The EPA has requested the standards be measured in concentrations but, thus far, the FDEP has stuck with its decision to keep the standards as is.

In 2008, Guest’s group, Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit on behalf of several environmental organizations, seeking to require a stricter set of standards to govern nutrient waste entering Florida waters. Since then, there have been several hurdles to the standards’ implementation, such as opposition from industry and agricultural leaders as well as Florida politicians.

But many have now begun to take a closer look at the organization tasked with protecting Florida’s environment, the FDEP. In the past several months, FDEP heads have shown growing resistance to the standards.

During a September River Summit, the FDEP’s Daryll Joyner said that he thought the EPA was underestimating the cost of implementing the standards. Saying that he found EPA estimates of $130 million to be “way off base,” Joyner said his department had estimated costs to be in the billions.

In an interview with The Florida Independent, Florida Wildlife Federation head Manley Fuller got straight to the point when asked what he thought of the FDEP’s sudden resistance to the standards:”[The FDEP] are minimizing the extent of the problem, resisting change and being short-sighted because they have allegiances to industry.”

From the Earthjustice press release:

The widespread pollution of Florida’s public waters happened on these DEP secretaries’ watch. It’s no surprise that now they want to try to save face. They did such a bad job protecting public health that the federal government has had to intervene to get Florida to clean up water pollution.

It’s unconscionable that these former officials are siding with polluters to block cleanup instead of standing up for the public’s right to clean waters. It is an insult to ordinary Floridians.

These former secretaries are drastically at odds with public opinion. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that it has received 22,000 public comments on the proposed new standards to control nutrient pollution, and 20,000 of those comments were in support of the standards.

The public is appalled at watching Florida’s waterways get destroyed by this very preventable pollution. It was sickening to watch a 100-mile-long algae bloom cover the St. Johns River once again this summer, with dead fish washing up on riverfront property along the river’s length.

Florida is rock bottom in the U.S. in terms of protecting its waters from pollution. Across the United States, scientists report that 30 percent of bays and estuaries and 44 percent of streams have unsafe water.  But in Florida, it is much worse — more than 98 percent of the state’s bays and estuaries, and more than 54 percent of its streams, are unsafe to swim and/or fish in.

Florida has 22 major beaches that are unsafe to swim for at least two weeks out of every year.  The state ranks fourth-worst for drinking water quality in the U.S. and tenth in the number of Clean Water Act permit violations.  Pensacola was ranked as the worst in the nation for drinking water, followed closely by Jacksonville at tenth worst.

If these former secretaries had been doing their jobs, this would not have happened.

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