In a letter sent to EPA Regional Administrator Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming, the head of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection requests that the agency “return to Floridians the responsibility for protecting Florida’s waters.”

The state department submitted new proposed water pollution rules to the EPA late Monday, along with several technical support documents, a memo from the department’s general counsel and other supporting materials. According to a recent judicial order, the new set of water pollution rules must be implemented by March 6.

According to Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard, the state’s “commitment to set numeric nutrient standards is underscored by [the state’s] extensive investment in the development of both nutrient standards and biological metrics that are the basis for these rules.”

“Florida advanced its efforts in setting numeric nutrient standards for our waterbodies, by presenting our rules for to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for final review,” Vinyard says in a statement. “A healthy environment depends on getting Florida’s water right, in terms of both water supply and water quality. No one knows our water better than Floridians, and these rules will allow us to effectively protect water quality in our state.”

Many environmentalists disagree — arguing that the state has done a poor job of managing its own water.

In 2008, a group of state environmental organizations filed suit against the EPA, alleging that Florida was violating the Clean Water Act since its water pollution rules weren’t stringent enough and, as a result, were leading to algae blooms and fish kills.

That suit was settled in 2009, with a mandate from the EPA requiring Florida to implement stricter rules. But the EPA’s criteria have been criticized for being too costly, with industry leaders arguing they could cost the state billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. Eventually, the EPA announced that it would allow Florida to develop its own rules. State officials say those rules are just as stringent as the EPA’s version, but environmentalists continue to cry foul, alleging that the state’s rules are less protective than having no standards at all.

“Our rules provide a clear process for identifying waters impaired by nutrients, preventing harmful discharges and establishing necessary reductions,” Vinyard says. “They provide a reasonable and predictable implementation strategy, and avoid unnecessary costs for Florida’s households and businesses.”

According to Vinyard’s statement, the EPA has indicated that it supports the state’s draft rules, and the state department is looking forward “to getting these rules on the books and implemented as soon as possible.”

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