Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala, will host a congressional hearing on the economic impact of the EPA’s proposed water quality standards next week.

The EPA rules have been lauded by environmentalists, but harshly criticized by lawmakers, including Stearns himself. If its title is any indication, his Aug. 9 hearing likely won’t focus on the positive. “EPA’s Takeover of Florida’s Nutrient Water Quality Standard Setting: Impact on Communities and Job Creation” will be held at the University of Central Florida Alumni center in Orlando.

“Although the EPA originally accepted the standards set by Florida, under outside pressure the EPA decided to impose its own standards; numerous studies in Florida indicate that the Washington-imposed standards will have a devastating impact on Florida’s job creation, economy, and certain agencies,” said Stearns, according to a press release. “In this rare field hearing we will hear from witnesses how these EPA standards will affect Florida and from the EPA on why it is imposing its standards.”

The hearing will be the sixth of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in its regulatory reform series. Says Stearns, “Instead of bringing the witnesses to Washington, D.C., I am bringing the hearing to Florida so that we can hear from those directly affected by these standards.”

A recent meeting to discuss the economic impact of the criteria revealed that, though industry leaders argue vehemently that the criteria will be economically burdensome, the true cost of implementing harsher water standards are simply not yet known. Cost estimates — which have been performed by several industries, including utilities and agriculture — vary widely.

Jennifer Hecker, director of natural resources for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, pointed out during the meeting that no one has studied the cost of not implementing the criteria — i.e. the cost of water pollution to Florida’s fishing, tourism and real estate sectors.

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