In a newly published opinion piece in The Florida Times-Union, the St. Johns Riverkeeper’s Jimmy Orth had harsh words for Clay County Councilmember Mike Kelter. The Florida Independent first broke the story of Kelter’s lobbyist-like email to Florida Department of Environmental Protection reps, in which he suggested that politicians and industry reps needed to find an “‘exit strategy’  for the Numeric Nutrient issue.”

On Dec. 9, Kelter wrote an opinion piece for the Times-Union titled, “Lawsuits are no help to the river,” in which he argued that current standards (Total Maximum Daily Load) to measure nutrients in Florida waters are not only “scientifically sound,” but have “proven to dramatically reduce nitrogen and phosphorous levels” in the St. Johns River.

Kelter also argued that those filing lawsuits to seek harsher standards for water pollution are only “delaying cleanup,” and that the proposed numeric nutrient criteria “are based on scientifically and economically flawed assumptions and analyses.”

In addition, Kelter wrote that the projected costs of implementing the standards were reason enough to abandon them: ”According to independent analysis, numeric nutrient rules are likely to cost Florida residents and businesses between $1 billion and $7 billion more than we are currently spending statewide on water cleanup.”

An examination of internal emails by The Florida Independent revealed that many cost estimates concerning the nutrient criteria were vastly overblown.

In Tuesday’s Times-Union response, Orth wrote that Kelter “either has a short memory or isn’t that familiar with the history of the state”:

The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) that Kelter praises was established as the result of a citizen lawsuit. Regrettably, the state released a TMDL that was so woefully insufficient that a federal judge directed the Environmental Protection Agency to develop a more protective nutrient reduction plan.

Orth argued that the new criteria are founded on sound science, and also that those arguing against them were the “real impediments to cleanup efforts”:

Some politicians even suggest that current efforts have “proven to dramatically reduce nitrogen and phosphorous levels in the river,” while ignoring the widespread toxic algal blooms, unprecedented fish kills and an ongoing foam problem in the St. Johns River. Unfortunately, facts are often distorted and cost estimates grossly inflated in an attempt to frighten the public and maintain the status quo.

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