Florida politicians, industry heads, and even former environmental agency heads have all become vocal opponents of EPA efforts to implement water quality standards that would limit the amount of waste that can be dumped in Florida waterbodies. They have all engaged in letter-writing campaigns decrying the costs to the industry associated with following the rules.
Through a public records request, The Florida Independent has obtained an email from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection that details at least one effort to convince several Florida politicians to oppose the criteria.
Sent on Feb. 24, 2010, the email was written by engineer Mike Kelter, the founder of Legacy Civil Engineers in Green Cove Springs. Legacy’s website touts the importance of staying informed on legislative issues, stating that Legacy is committed to “keeping our clients informed of changes that could potentially affect the way they do business in the future.”
Kelter’s email, which was originally sent to the EPA’s Jan Mandrup-Poulsen and then forwarded to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Darryl Joyner, mentioned the American Public Power Association Legislative rally, which is described on the association’s website as “an opportunity to influence policymakers” on issues concerning the public power community.
Kelter wrote that “every City has a dog in the numeric nutrient fight” and that while in D.C. for the rally, he took time to speak with several Florida politicians regarding the water quality standards:
Even though these officials were in Washington to lobby on matters pertaining to energy, their public works and wastewater departments were fixing to bleed badly if numeric nutrients rules were implemented. Seventeen of Florida’s 33 municipal electric utilities were at the meeting, including heavy-hitters such as JEA, Orlando Utilities Commission, Lakeland Electric, Gainesville Regional Utilities, and Ocala Electric.
Kelter mentioned scheduled meetings with a host of state politicos, including Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla., Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Jacksonville, and Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and suggested that the EPA needs to find an “‘exit strategy’ for the Numeric Nutrient issue.”
Calling Washington a “cesspool,” Kelter wrote that the “issue of cost containment … appears to be resonating with Florida’s Congressional delegation”:
We talked for an hour about cost containment with Senator Nelson; 35 minutes with Senator LeMieux; and 20 minutes with Congressman Stearns. Both Senator Nelson and Senator LeMieux directed their chiefs of staff to set up meetings with Lisa Jackson’s USEPA staff regarding these matters. It was very clear from the conversations, that our Congressional delegation is hearing about Numeric Nutrients from the folks back in Florida. We need to keep the e-mails and letters coming.
Kelter’s efforts appear to have been effective.
Only months after he met with them, both Sens. LeMieux and Nelson penned letters to the EPA’s Lisa Jackson, arguing for further delays in implementing the standards. Crenshaw also came out hard against the nutrient criteria, attempting to attach a rider to an Amendment that would essentially cut funding for the EPA.
The issue Kelter refers to as “cost containment” has been an important one for the agencies drafting the standards. Both the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the EPA has cited very different estimates of how much the new rules will cost the industry. Many believe that some projections are overblown.
The text of Kelter’s email, in full:
I am in Washington, DC this week. I flew in on Monday, on my own dime, to participate in the American Public Power Association (APPA) Legislative rally. My target is EPA.
First, I know that everybody is very concerned about the economy. Let me reassure you that everything is fine in our Nation’s Cesspool—er I mean Capitol. There is plenty of new infrastructure construction going on everywhere. New government buildings are going upward. The shops and restaurants are filled with money-spending customers. I can sleep well tonight knowing that our Federal employees will not go without a meal or a coffee break.
Yesterday, I placed an impromptu resolution in front of the APPA Resolutions Committee. My resolution expressed APPA support for the Resolution of Disapproval filed by Senator Murkowski (R, Alaska). Senator Murkowski’s resolution (and a companion House bill being filed by Rep Barton) pre-empts USEPA from enforcing greenhouse gas emission standards under the current Clean Air Act. Believe it or not, Murkowski’s bill has a chance of passing the Senate because only 51 votes are required to pass a Resolution of Disapproval and no filibuster is allowed. The Dems in the House are worried enough about November that they might even support passage of Barton’s bill. It is unlikely the President will sign the bill if it does pass, but the measure would send a pretty strong message to EPA. My resolution passed, so APPA members can now lobby collectively in favor of the measures.
I did something else yesterday morning that is having a pretty good effect on the Hill. Yesterday during a breakfast meeting with elected and appointed officials from the Municipal electric community, I pointed out that everybody’s City has a dog in the numeric nutrient fight. Even though these officials were in Washington to lobby on matters pertaining to energy, their public works and wastewater departments were fixing to bleed badly if numeric nutrients rules were implemented. Seventeen of Florida’s 33 municipal electric utilities were at the meeting, including heavy-hitters such as JEA, Orlando Utilities Commission, Lakeland Electric, Gainesville Regional Utilities, and Ocala Electric. I cannot be more proud of the Electric Utility representatives for jumping into wastewater and stormwater issues on behalf of their public works counterparts.
I met yesterday with Cliff Stearns, Bill Nelson and George LeMieux. We spend a few minutes in each meeting lobbying issues specific to electric generation. The remainder of each meeting was devoted to numeric nutrients and carbon dioxide. As the senior municipal elected official in those meetings, I packaged my comments around the concept of “cost containment”. I told the Senators and Congressman that our communities have spent our entire treasuries cleaning up water under TMDL and improving energy efficiency in our electric distribution systems and that our Cities were financially tapped-out and would be unable to finance the costs of new USEPA regulation. I suggested that USEPA needed to find an “exit strategy” for the Numeric Nutrient issue and that Congress needs to pull USEPA’s teeth with respect to green house gas regulation. Matt Brower, the Electrical Director for Ocala, presented a letter at each meeting showing an estimated cost of Numeric Nutrient wastewater compliance in Ocala in the range of $100 – $120 million. Teala Milton, the Chief Public Affairs officer for JEA, pointed out that 14,000 JEA customers have services cut-off every single day because they cannot pay their bills. Jennifer Hunt, the Chief Financial officer for Gainesville Regional Utilities, stated that customers who get cutoff pay additional charges to reconnect and that, once behind in their utility bills, never get caught up again. It painted a touching picture when contrasted to the luxury our Congressional Delegation sees on a daily basis in Washington, DC.
The issue of cost containment, as presented by our Electric officials, appears to be resonating with Florida’s Congressional delegation. We talked for an hour about cost containment with Senator Nelson; 35 minutes with Senator LeMieux; and 20 minutes with Congressman Stearns. Both Senator Nelson and Senator LeMieux directed their chiefs of staff to set up meetings with Lisa Jackson’s USEPA staff regarding these matters. It was very clear from the conversations, that our Congressional delegation is hearing about Numeric Nutrients from the folks back in Florida. We need to keep the e-mails and letters coming.
I have scheduled meetings today with Congressman Mica, Congressman Crenshaw, and Congresswoman Brown.
One more comment before I go up the Hill: It is a sorry state of affairs when private citizens, such as myself, spend their own money to fight a battle that should be waged by State Employees at FDEP. FDEP is not pulling its own weight in this fight. Shame on them.
I am flying out of this cesspool tomorrow.