Judge Alan Gold is slated to hold a highly anticipated and crucial hearing tomorrow concerning the restoration of the Everglades, in which he will approve or deny an EPA-developed plan that will halt agricultural poisoning in the area.

The case was initiated by Friends of the Everglades and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians in 2005, when the two groups filed suit against the State of Florida and the EPA, alleging that agricultural chemical pollution in the Everglades was a direct violation of the Clean Water Act. In 2008, Judge Gold ruled in favor of Friends and the Tribe, but pollution never ceased. In April 2010, Gold ordered the EPA to prepare a clear and comprehensive plan to restore the Everglades.

According to a press release from the Friends of the Everglades, Gold has three primary interests in Friday’s hearing:

(1) the technical merits of EPA’s Amended Determination (the plan or road map to achieve Everglades water quality standards) and whether he should approve it; (2) how EPA is going to enforce its plan to make sure it gets done; and, (3) where are the funds going to come from to implement the plan and in what time frame.

In its release, Friends vehemently opposed what they called “[the South Florida Water Management] District’s efforts to shift the burden of stopping agricultural pollution onto taxpayers.” In the past, the district has claimed that stopping agricultural pollution could cost billions and would come almost entirely at the expense of taxpayers.

From the release:

For almost thirteen years now, the State of Florida and the SFWMD have burdened taxpayers with the cost of treating private industry’s agricultural chemical pollution. The EAA polluters pay nowehere near 100% of the costs of the pollution that they cause. Best management practices by farmers are woefully inadequate. If South Florida taxpayers alone were required to fund the treatment marshes, it would cost the average homeowner in South Florida somewhere between an extra 7 cents to 16 cents a day to save the Everglades. If the Florida legislature fairly allocated pollution cleanup costs to the polluters, the cost to taxpayers would be dramatically less.

The South Florida Water Management District declined to respond to the Friends’ claims when contacted.

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