Florida Governor Signs Water Quality Legislation

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Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a piece of legislation this week at the center of a long running battle between the state and EPA regarding regulation over water-quality standards. The new law would waive a requirement for legislative approval of rules proposed by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The legislation arose from EPA’s earlier action to impose federal numeric nutrient criteria (NNC) on Florida waters. This set business, agriculture, and municipality interests off a campaign to inform the public of the massive costs of implementing the federal standard as it was proposed.

After months of debate, EPA relented enough to allow DEP to propose its own water criteria for the state. Opponents of EPA’s NNC believe the state’s proposed rules are more realistic and not one-size-fits-all like the federal standard. Governor’s Scott signature on the new legislation allows DEP to move forward on its proposed rules.

“Today, Governor Scott made an important decision for the future of our state, signing Florida’s alternative to EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria into law,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in a statement. “I would like to thank the Governor for his swift action to ensure the EPA’s costly rules were not implemented, as they could have been detrimental to our state’s agriculture industry and business community.”

Meanwhile in Washington, DC, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a bill that would force EPA to accept the rules proposed DEP. The bill is a companion to similar legislation introduced in the House by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Panama City).

“Florida has one of the most aggressive water quality protection programs in the nation implemented by the people who know our state best, and it’s time the EPA stops bullying us into accepting another Washington-contrived mandate that would devastate job creation,” said Rubio of his bill. “This legislation simply reaffirms that states and the federal government should be partners in making sure our water is clean, and prevents Washington overreaches from harming our economy.”

Environmental groups have already filed an administrative law challenge to the proposed DEP rules, which they contend are too lax to halt or clean up algae blooms in Florida waterways.

Giles is editor of Florida Grower, a Meister Media Worldwide publication.

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