The Florida House of Representatives on Friday unanimously approved a bill to ease approval of a set of proposed state water quality standards drafted in response to a set of federal pollution limits, which many argue are too expensive to implement.
Also known as the “numeric nutrient criteria,” the rules were drafted in response to a federal mandate requiring the state to implement a more stringent set of criteria. Though the federal Environmental Protection Agency was set to implement standards in the state, the Florida Department of Environment Protection drafted its own set of rules as an alternative.
Technically, House Bill 7051, which was passed on Friday, would waive legal requirements that the Legislature ratify proposed rules that would cost more than $1 million to implement. But the main purpose of the bill is to establish the state’s version of the nutrient rules, directing the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to submit its own rules to the EPA for review under the Clean Water Act.
The state rules are largely supported by agricultural, business and utility interests, but opposed by environmentalists who support the federally drafted rules.
A coalition of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation and the St. Johns Riverkeeper challenged the state’s version of the nutrient criteria in December, arguing that the standards are so poor they “would actually be less protective” than no standards at all. A hearing on that challenge is slated for next week.
The bill will now move to the Senate, where it is also expected to pass, and then on to Gov. Rick Scott, who has said he supports the state rules.