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Nancy Smith

Cliff Stearns, Rick Scott Turn Up Heat on EPA

April 22, 2011 - 6:00pm

Florida continues to pile grief on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the standards it set for the Sunshine State to comply with the federal Clean Water Act.

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala, wrote a stinging, three-page, all-business letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, challenging her to prove -- paper trail included -- that the federal numeric nutrient rulemaking is necessary to keep Floridas lakes and flowing waters clean.

Then, on Friday, Gov. Rick Scott announced that he authorized the state Department of Environmental Protection to file a petition with the EPA, demanding the federal agency take its criteria back and allow the DEP to decide what Florida's clean water criteria should be.

Said Scott, Florida is one of the few states that have a comprehensive program in place to address excess nutrients, and we continue to lead the nation in developing innovative tools to ensure the health of our states waterways. I look forward to working with the EPA to reach an agreement that will promote clean water standards in the way that makes the most sense for our state.

Stearns, in his call for transparency, said he wants "a detailed, chronological description of all EPA actions and decisions relating to the rule, an explanation of the scientific and technical analyses for EPAs determination that Florida required federal criteria to comply with the Clean Water Act, and if the EPA had conducted any analysis of the cost to businesses to comply with the rule."

State numbers crunchers claim the cost to implement EPA standards which to this point, even by the agencys own admission, lack sound science to prove they would be a fix for the nitrogen and phosphorous pollution of lakes, rivers and streams would be both significant and oppressive even in a good economy.

Stearns said in his letter, The state of Floridas $5.7 billion to $8.4 billion annual cost estimate is 20-to-40-fold higher than the EPAs estimates."

Stearns, who is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, wants chapter and verse on how the EPAs decisions were made on its numeric nutrient criteria from Nov. 4, 2008 to the present. And he wants it by May 5.

Stearns letter is provided in an attachment below.

No other state in the nation has the EPA dictating statewide numeric nutrient criteria for its clean water.

Leaders in the Legislature, the entire Florida Cabinet and Floridas congressional delegation have concluded that the EPAs criteria were less conceived out of necessity to create safe water than to comply with a 2009 legal settlement with environmental groups, including the Sierra Club. The groups had sued the agency for not enforcing the Clean Water Act in Florida.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.
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