In a press release sent out today, environmental law firm Earthjustice alleges that Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala, is “shutting out the public” and “refusing to invite” clean water advocates to his upcoming hearing on water pollution standards in Florida. According to the release, only representatives from the sewage, agriculture and fertilizer industries have been invited to testify.

Stearns’ hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which is titled  “EPA’s Takeover of Florida’s Nutrient Water Quality Standard Setting: Impact on Communities and Job Creation,” will center around a set of federally mandated standards to govern waterways in the state. Stearns, along with many of the agricultural industrial interests, is opposed to the criteria and argues that it would cost Floridians billions of dollars. The EPA has estimated costs to be between $135 million and $206 million.

“If Stearns wants to hear from his constituents, he should make room to hear from business owners and residents who have endured the public health threat posed by toxic algae outbreaks and fish kills at dozens of cold-water springs, at Sanibel Island, Naples, Daytona, and other tourist beaches, and along the St. Lucie, Indian St. Johns and Caloosahatchee Rivers,” said Earthjustice attorney David Guest, in the release.

“This is a surprising and for Rep. Stearns,” said Sierra Club Florida Staff Director Frank Jackalone called the hearing a “disappointing about-face” for Stearns, who was the only Republican in the Florida congressional delegation to vote against an amendment to the House Continuing Budget Resolution (sponsored by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta) that would have stopped the EPA from enforcing the Clean Water Act in Florida. It was rejected by the Senate.

The hearing will be held at 10 a.m. Aug. 9 at the University of Central Florida Alumni Center in Orlando.

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