Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala, will host a hearing on a set of federally mandated water pollution rules tomorrow in Orlando. The hearing will examine the economic impact the rules could have on certain industries — like utilities, agriculture, and construction. The closed hearing has earned the ire of environmental groups, and a look at the list of those invited to speak reveals why.

The hearing is the sixth in the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Regulatory Reform Series and will be held at the University of Central Florida. Its title, “EPA’s Takeover of Florida’s Nutrient Water Quality Standard Setting: Impact on Communities and Job Creation,” suggests the focus will be on the high-cost estimates attributed to the criteria.

As The Florida Independent has reported in the past, many of the industries likely to be affected by stringent water rules (like agriculture and utilities) have sponsored cost estimate studies that are significantly higher than the EPA’s and have even been disputed within the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

According to an internal memo (.pdf) on the committee’s website, the hearing will feature a slate of panelists opposed to the criteria and one — representing the EPA — who will most likely be supporting them. The list of witnesses includes Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming, regional administrator for the EPA, who will be followed by representatives from Florida’s Department of Agriculture, the dairy industry, utilities, and the president of the Florida Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council.

The memo highlights several of the cost estimate studies that were performed in conjunction with the industries opposing the criteria, noting that there is “widespread controversy over EPA’s actions to impose standards without regard to Florida’s own judgment of what standards would be effective.”

Among the issues to be examined at the hearing are the “economic and regulatory impacts of EPA’s standards on communities and job creation in Florida,” as well as the impact the criteria would have on the water quality in the state.

Inquiries made to the committee’s office about whether environmental interests were also invited to participate in the hearing were not returned.

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