Only weeks after reports surfaced that Florida U.S. Reps. Ander Crenshaw, R-Jacksonville, and Allen Boyd, D-Tallahassee, were attempting to introduce a rider that would essentially delay the EPA’s Numeric Nutrient Standards from taking effect, rumors of another rider have begun to circulate.
The proposal of Numeric Nutrient Standards came about after several environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the St. Johns Riverkeeper, filed suit against the EPA, alleging that the Clean Water Act mandates the use of standards to protect Florida waters. The groups won, and at least part of the standards are slated to go into effect come October.
But David Guest, an attorney with the environmental law firm EarthJustice, says that “the word on the street” is that several congressmen from Florida, including Boyd and Crenshaw, along with several “polluter-lobbyists” are again trying to delay the standards from ever taking effect. The list of those allegedly scheduled to meet with the Florida congressional delegation is long and includes lawyers, Florida utility representatives, and fertilizer and phosphate-mining representatives.
Guest seems almost certain that something is in the works, and claims to have his information on good authority. “I know for a fact that they are [in Washington] because I know which congressman they’re meeting up with. I can’t say who it is, but I can say that [a meeting concerning the rider] is going to take place tomorrow,” Guest says. “They’re on the move. When you have that many lobbyists in one place at one time, it’s never good.”
Barbara Riley, Crenshaw’s communications director, says the representative is currently in Washington, D.C., but only because the House is in session. “He has no ‘rider’ regarding pollution limits under discussion with anyone,” Riley says. “The previous amendment was drafted, but never offered in committee and will not be offered at any point moving forward.” Concerning his original rider, which was never introduced due to a canceled meeting, Crenshaw stated that he only hoped for more time to find “better science.”
Emails to several other rumored supporters of the rider were not returned.
One of the St. Johns River’s most oft-noted polluters, the Rice Creek paper mill of Georgia-Pacific, has made several efforts to lower its impact, regardless of the current lack of nutrient standards. Jeremy Alexander, public relations officer for G-P, says that the Palatka mill is in compliance with Total Maximum Daily Load allocations as adopted by the U.S. EPA for the Lower St. Johns River Basin:
[The compliance] is due, in large part, to the environmental improvement package installed at Palatka that was developed by the U.S. EPA, FDEP and Georgia-Pacific (more than $200 million in capital upgrades that improved effluent water quality). … In addition, [G-P] continues to evaluate additional technologies that could further improve effluent quality including conversations with the SJRWMD focused on additional nutrient reductions.
Regarding reports that Rep. Crenshaw has close ties with Georgia-Pacific, Alexander says that he is “not aware” of any meetings between the congressman and G-P employees.