With a warning that coming federal action on water quality could deliver a devastating blow to Florida’s struggling economy, two former Florida Department of Environmental Protection secretaries and leaders from Florida taxpayer advocacy and business groups joined together last week in an effort to alert Florida citizens to onerous and arbitrary water quality standards that lack scientific merit and could soon force Floridians to pay higher costs.
In order to rid itself of a lawsuit filed by environmental groups, EPA is poised in January 2010 to propose costly and arduous standards for Florida’s streams, canals, and lakes and by January 2011 for coastal waters. These standards will apply only to Florida and will likely include one-size-fits-all nutrient numerical criteria that are unscientifically sound and apt to halt Florida’s current environmental processes and derail Florida’s economy.
Groups opposed to the action say unfair and impossible-to-meet federal restrictions would punish Florida even though the state has been recognized as a national leader in protecting clean lakes and rivers through its model Total Maximum Daily Loads program and numerous other programs.
“These new restrictions would force us to start over with arbitrary numerical criteria that have no scientific basis and will only hinder our efforts to clean up our waterways,” said former DEP Secretary Virginia Wetherell.
Wetherell noted for nearly ten years Florida has spent millions of dollars to scientifically evaluate the quality of its water and develop and implement the mechanisms necessary to clean up pollution.
Former DEP Secretary Colleen Castille added, “During my time at DEP protecting water quality was a top priority. We worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the EPA on this issue and reached a solution that worked for all, the environment, the citizens and the taxpayers’ wallets. This overreaching proposal by EPA will only lead to more lawsuits, putting the goal of clean water on the back burner. I am convinced the best way to protect Florida’s diverse and unique water resources is to address it on a water body by water body basis.”
Devastating Economic Impact
Leaders among local government and the business community agree the regulations would in effect impose a federal water tax on Florida that could devastate the state’s economy.
“Creating an arbitrary standard will hit every Florida family in the wallet,” said Paul Steinbrecher, vice president of the Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council. “Our data shows that just the wastewater treatment capital improvement costs could reach $50 billion in Florida and add $720 to a family’s yearly sewer bill.”
Steinbrecher added strict regulations would tax an already suffering economy by forcing utilities to increase their rates on average by as much as $62 and in some places over $100. This could be devastating for the 12% of Floridians who live at or below the poverty level. The group announced a new website at www.DontTaxFlorida.com to highlight the threat to Florida’s economy.
“This unilateral federal action would put a stake in the heart of job creation and put the brakes on Florida’s economic recovery, just as it is needed the most,” said Dominic M. Colabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. “Floridians will pay a high price if this becomes reality with higher taxes and fees, consumer products that will cost more and fewer job opportunities with lower wages and salaries.”
Source: Don’t Tax Florida Press Release