Critics of federally mandated water pollution standards continue to challenge the costs and benefits of implementing the new water rules, while environmental groups maintain that the standards are necessary to ensure the health of Florida’s waterways, and its economy.

In 2008, the environmental law firm Earthjustice filed suit against the EPA on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. Johns Riverkeeper and the Sierra Club — alleging that the agency was failing to meet requirements of the Clean Water Act.

The group won the suit, but the fight has persisted, with agricultural and utility industry reps arguing that the rules will be too expensive to implement. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has since drafted its own set of rules as an alternative, which will likely be implemented after approval by the EPA. Last week, the the Florida House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill that would ease approval of the state’s proposed standards.

Free Market Florida, a group that sprang up from the ashes of the political committee that ran 2010’s successful “No on 4″ campaign, set its eyes on the EPA last year, releasing videos urging viewers to oppose the implementation of the agency’s criteria.

On Monday, the group unveiled a new ad aimed at the EPA, part of a series which Ryan Houck (Free Market’s executive director) says is meant to “draw attention to the job-killing consequences of excessive federal regulation and litigation under the guise of environmentalism.”

According to Houck, the EPA’s version of the nutrient criteria would cost the state “billions” and “eliminate 14,000 farming jobs.”

Calling Free Market Florida a “polluter lobbyist group” in a press release sent out yesterday, Earthjustice says the ads are “an affront to millions of Floridians who are living with the sad reality of polluted drinking water, toxic algae outbreaks and fish kills in their favorite rivers, springs, lakes, as well as on our tourist beaches.”

“Our tourism economy depends on clean water, and this group actually has the audacity to fight against that? It doesn’t make any sense,” Earthjustice attorney Alisa Coe says in the press release. “It is just common sense to set limits on the amount of sewage, manure and fertilizer that’s allowed in our water. … You would think that’s something everyone can agree on.”

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