A group of Florida lobbyists, along with agriculture and industry executives, are once again pushing hard against EPA water quality rules, using cost estimates written in part by potentially affected industries to make their case.

In a letter dated Jan. 6, 2011, lobbyists and industry executives cited arguably overblown and biased cost estimates to defend their stance that the EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria will negatively impact the state’s economy, as well as job growth. The letter was addressed to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the chairman of the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and signed by Barney Bishop, president of the business lobbying firm Associated Industries of Florida, as well as several key Florida agricultural and industry leaders, such as the Florida Farm Bureau and the Florida Water Quality Coalition.

The letter references several studies which estimate the potential costs associated with implementing the nutrient standards:

Although EPA refused to commission an independent review of its nutrient rulemaking, various Florida governmental and private entities have performed economic analyses. The results are astounding. One privately funded independent economic analysis concludes that in “the most likely scenario,” the first phase of the EPA rulemaking will impose statewide costs ranging from $3.1 to $8.4 billion per year for the next 30 years.

This particular study was conducted by the environmental consulting firm Cardno ENTRIX. According to a November press release on the company’s website, its study was conducted on behalf of the Florida Water Quality Coalition, a group whose name seems to indicate it is an environmentally friendly organization.

But in a Tampa Tea Party posting on Meetup.com titled “EPA HEARING – Draconian Water Quality Standards for the State of Florida,” the Water Quality Coalition is described as one made up almost entirely of industry heads:

Florida Farm Bureau and many other agricultural groups have partnered with business interests to form the Florida Water Quality Coalition. This coalition is working to stop this federal regulation in the courts, through regulatory bodies and by working with Florida’s Congressional delegation.

FFBF and the coalition are asking that Florida’s members of Congress urge EPA to reconsider its actions and withdraw the determination that Florida adopt the numeric nutrient standards.

In January 2010, the Water Quality Coalition joined the Florida Pulp & Paper Association and other industries that will likely be affected by the EPA’s rules in seeking to further delay implementing the standards.

One of the other studies referenced in Associated Industries’ letter, completed in conjunction with the Florida Water Environment Association, was essentially written by industry itself. A Florida Independent investigation found that its results were disputed within the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

In an email, St. Johns Riverkeeper Neil Armingeon expressed his distaste at this most recent attempt at derailing the nutrient standards. “Polluters will stop at nothing to maintain our state’s polluted waterways,” he wrote. “I worked in Louisiana for over a decade. I’ve never seen a more hysterical, falsehood-based campaign as this one, and it’s largely utilizing taxpayer monies. … It is impossible to shame the polluters in Florida.”

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