Protect Florida’s water

November 8, 2011  |  No Comments  |  by Barney Bishop  |  News

Orlando Sentinel – July 26, 2011

Last year’s hysterical reaction from opponents of tougher federal clean-water rules was, unfortunately, only the beginning.

Since the Associated Industries of Florida’s Barney Bishop hammered “radical left-wingers” for daring to impose new regulations that would strap businesses, we’ve seen a lawsuit from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

The pair sued those awful left-wingers running the Environmental Protection Agency for imposing what will be new limits on how much phosphorus and nitrogen can get into waterways from sewage plants, industry and other sources.

Elections Central Florida’s John Mica got into the act, too, introducing legislation in Congress that would blunt the EPA’s ability to toughen Florida’s ineffective water-pollution limits. The EPA’s “almost unprecedented power grab” would create a “regulatory nightmare,” Mica gasped on the floor of the U.S. House.

Central Florida’s Sandy Adams injected her trademark hyperbole. The congresswoman tied the EPA’s coming rules to clean Florida’s waterways to an imagined plot by President Obama to undermine anti-pollution efforts. And her office said the new EPA rules “would effectively kill job creation throughout Florida.”

Fortunately, Mica’s bill won’t make it to a vote in the Senate, which appreciates that the EPA should have the ability to draft and enforce rules making states comply with the federal Clean Water Act.

And, fortunately, the nonprofit National Research Council, which is holding meetings this week in Orlando, is continuing its months-long, deliberate study of what kind of financial burden the EPA’s tougher water standards would truly impose on the state.

Make no mistake, Florida needs these new standards. A near-dead Lake Apopka, a chronically sick St. Johns River and the region’s many algae-bloom-filled springs cry out for them. And with the NRC scientists examining the cost of making improvements to sewage plants, stormwater systems and septic systems, we expect they’ll show that the financial burden from the standards will be significantly less than the $1,000 per year per sewage customer that opponents contend. The EPA’s own estimate: $11 per resident.

If the arguments against the EPA’s tougher nutrient standards sound familiar, that’s because they’ve been used over and over again by reactionary lawmakers to eviscerate sensible regulations. The anti-environment gang in Tallahassee killed state growth laws they said killed jobs. What nonsense.

Washington lawmakers dropped efforts at meaningful climate-change legislation, and this month even tried to repeal sensible regulations designed to curb the use of wasteful light bulbs.

They did so saying these regulations stifled the ability of businesses to grow. Or cost businesses too much. Or would burden the public because consumers will get saddled with the costs.

Regulations frequently carry costs. But the cost of doing nothing can be greater. The state’s lax water rules have allowed pollutants to choke Florida’s waterways, lower property values and threaten the state’s ability to draw tourists.

Opponents of the new EPA water rules also need to turn down their rhetoric if only for this reason: The EPA’s new rules aren’t one size fits all. The agency will let businesses and communities propose alternative standards if they can demonstrate that those alternatives would effectively protect the water.

The EPA wants Florida to clean its waterways without submerging its businesses. That’s something anyone who calls Florida home also should want.

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