A group consisting overwhelmingly of state utilities and agricultural representatives penned a letter to Florida’s U.S. House and Senate members Tuesday, pleading for more time to review the EPA’s water quality criteria, parts of which are set to be finalized next month.

The letter, which was released Tuesday, requests “an independent scientific and economic review of EPA’s proposed criteria in its entirety,” and says that the implementation of the rule will “add substantial new costs on all Floridians.”

The letter suggests the EPA continue to use “science-based nutrient water quality programs which have created measurable environmental improvements in Florida’s estuaries, lakes, rivers, and streams.”

Several Florida environmentalists would disagree that current standards have created “measurable improvements” in area waters, especially lately.

This past summer has been nothing short of a nightmare for St. Johns Riverkeeper Neil Armingeon, who has seen the river invaded by blue-green algae that caused a rash of fish kills (a host of suspicious bird deaths occured around the same time, too). More recently, a thick foam that, in some places, was as much as several inches thick, emerged.

Armingeon has been emphatic in his view that industries like those that wrote the letter should be governed by stricter standards, so that the river can eventually heal. In fact, the St. Johns Riverkeeper was one of five environmental groups that filed a consent decree against the EPA, alleging that the agency “failed to perform a non-discretionary duty to set numeric nutrient criteria for the State of Florida as required by the Clean Water Act.”

In January 2009 (during the final week of the Bush administration), the EPA made a determination that the existing narrative standards governing bodies of water were insufficient, and that numeric nutrient standards were necessary to meet the standards of the Clean Water Act. Still, the Sept. 14 industry-penned letter states that the EPA rulemaking effort “was spawned by litigation, not science” and that Florida state scientists “have raised serious questions regarding the scientific validity of EPA’s proposed criteria.”

Agencies represented in the letter are a who’s-who of state polluters: The list includes the Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association, the Florida Farm Bureau, the Association of Florida Community Developers and The Fertilizer Institute.

Read in full or download the letter:

Letter Re: EPA Nutrient Standards

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