The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday that it has agreed to an independent review of the cost of compliance with new Florida water quality standards.
The EPA has projected that a set of numeric nutrient criteria would cost local businesses and communities somewhere between $135 million and $206 million, but the state Department of Environmental Protection’s cost projections differ greatly.
The state department, which has been accused of siding with industry by citing overblown and faulty cost estimates, has estimated costs at more than $2 billion for the agricultural industry alone. A recent Florida Independent report revealed that Department of Environmental Protection employees has even touted industry-derived cost estimates when questioned by state lawmakers.
The announcement of a secondary cost analysis comes nearly a month after Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., implored EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to “suspend application and enforcement of the rule while providing for an independent analysis of the costs of compliance.” According to Nelson, an independent review will shed light on whether certain assumptions about the criteria — such as the claim that all state utilities will have to invest in the most technologically advanced types of wastewater-treatment equipment — are true.
On April 6, Jackson responded that, while the EPA still stands by its cost estimates (which would average about 2o cents a day for Floridians), the agency does agree that an independent review of costs should be performed, especially at a time when “the economic impact of the rule is dominating the public discussion in Florida.”
In her letter, Jackson says that the EPA has already begun work with the National Academy of Sciences to review the costs of the numeric nutrient criteria. Calling them a “highly reputable and independent organization that has the capability to do such economic reviews in a non-partisan, non-biased manner,” Jackson wrote that the academy will review the agency’s cost estimates “in comparison with those of other stakeholders.”
According to EPA public affairs specialist Davina Marraccini, Jackson’s letter covers as much information as is currently available about the independent review to be performed.