EPA Letter from State Rep. Seth McKeel, District 63 Florida

Talk about too much government…
February 19, 2010 | Seth McKeel | No Comments

I’m going to venture off the transportation/economic development topics I have been covering of late and lead you in a fairly technical direction as it relates to water quality. I’ll provide plenty of links below so you may get as technically informed about this subject as you choose to. But while the topic is technically complicated, my message to our region is simple. This water quality issue amounts to a radical over-statement of government which could cost average citizens thousands of dollars for no apparent good cause. This one really is the “too much government” we speak about so often in politics. I believe government should invest the people’s money in ways that provide for critical health and safety while encouraging economic expansion and job creation. This one burdens us – and the timing couldn’t be worse!

The Calm After the StormHere’s the deal in a nutshell: Under the federal Clean Water Act, states are expected to develop numeric nutrient criteria. Nutrient pollution, i.e. excess nitrogen and phosphorus levels in water bodies, can cause harm to aquatic ecosystems and threaten public health. Through the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) and its water management districts, Florida has established robust standards and enacted programs to support water quality. In September of 2007, DEP produced a Numeric Nutrient Criteria Plan which outlined its approach for developing numeric nutrient criteria throughout the state. This plan was submitted to and agreed upon by the US Environmental Protection Agency. But in the summer of 2008, along comes the environmental group EarthJustice filing a lawsuit in federal court against the EPA Administrator alleging that the agency had failed to comply with its responsibility under the Clean Water Act to force Florida to expeditiously adopt numeric nutrient criteria. As a result, EPA hastily issued a proposed rule in January 2010 establishing numeric nutrient criteria for Florida water bodies and giving us until this October to comply with the new regulations.

In my opinion, Florida Citrus Mutual said it best “…the lawsuit-driven proposed numeric nutrient criteria coming from EPA are 1) technically and scientifically unsupported; 2) arguably economically unattainable, creating major hardships for every sector of Florida’seconomy and local governments; and 3) not reasonably related to the health of flora and fauna (i.e. freshwater and marine-based plant and animal life) of Florida’s waters.” More info from Citrus Mutual here.

Moreover, a consortium of Florida’s water and wastewater utilities estimate costs to implement this baseless numeric criteria range from $650-$750 per year, per household in Florida. And that’s just households. Imagine the cost to small businesses? (pdf)

I am working diligently with my colleagues in the Florida House to petition EPA for an extension of the comment period and for additional public hearings throughout our state. But the bottom line here is this: Floridians can’t afford this, nor can our small businesses, and nor can our agriculture industry, which would be unfairly punished in this scheme. In fact, agriculture is leading our state out of this economic recession (more on that later) and it continues to play a major role in our regional economy. Environmental and industry leaders have praised the state’s efforts to improve water quality. Why not allow the rigorous standards we already have in place sufficient time to prove effective. Now just isn’t the time to impose this clumsy, heavy-handed piece of bad government on folks.

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