Putnam Speaks to the FL EPA Water Nutrient Standards Issue

Gary Cooper Citrus, Florida, Sugar

Just in from Congressman Adam Putnam’s office:
ORLANDO – Congressman Adam Putnam today submitted a statement to the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the agency’s proposed rules for numeric nutrient standards for Florida waters:
“Thank you for the opportunity to share my views on this important matter. Floridians understand that water quality will determine the future of our state. People from all over the world come to Florida to dive off our coasts, fish in our rivers, and swim in our lakes. In addition to the natural attractions, Florida’s water and weather allow us to be our nation’s main domestic supplier of fruits and vegetables during the winter months. And simply put, there is no other place on Earth like the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee.
For these reasons, Florida has done more than any other state to study nutrient pollution and control – spending more than $20 million to collect data. While the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had already established nutrient criteria many years ago, the agency was in the process of developing numeric standards at the time the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) entered into its consent decree with Earthjustice.

Despite the difficulty in establishing numeric standards, DEP moved forward with EPA on an EPA-approved plan to establish numeric standards by the end of 2010. However, in August 2009, EPA voluntarily entered into a consent decree with Earthjustice without consent of or consultation with DEP. The resulting accelerated timeline prevented DEP from gathering additional, useful data for protecting Florida’s waters.

Additionally, it is worth noting that even though EPA is using slightly different methodologies to determine water quality, they are relying on data DEP provided. EPA now seeks to impose federal regulations based on data obtained by state resources using methodologies with which state scientists disagree. Were it not for the scientific data Florida tax payers rightfully funded, EPA would not likely have enough information to move forward with these regulations. Now, these same tax payers will be punished by the unnecessary costs associated with the proposed regulations. This heavy handed approach is exactly why people have become frustrated with Washington bureaucrats. Unfortunately, these actions will have a chilling effect on other states, discouraging future collaborative efforts with EPA to restore our environment.

As our state struggles with an unemployment rate of 11.8%, the likely financial burdens resulting from these regulations could not come at a worse time.

• Local governments will be forced to add costly new pollution control measures to current stormwater management programs. Utilities in the Florida Panhandle estimate that capital costs for treating waste water could result in substantial increases in utility fees.
• Private employers will bear the cost of litigation when a water body is misclassified as being impaired.
• Pollution control technology will be costly to obtain, if it is even available to meet the proposed standards. According to DEP, the technology does not exist for conventional municipal wastewater facilities and agricultural operations to meet the EPA proposed criteria.
• Overall, DEP claims that “the cost of compliance will force an investment of billions of dollars without environmental benefit.”

Furthermore, the proposed rule does not adequately account for nutrients which flow into Florida from neighboring states. Floridians will be forced to bear the burden for pollution caused by residents of other states. The foreseeable conflicts this will create between our neighboring states is like watching a slow moving train-wreck.

In conclusion, I once again urge EPA to truly collaborate with DEP in developing attainable numeric nutrient standards. To date, the only collaboration I have seen is between EPA and a few litigants. According to DEP Secretary Sole, under the proposed rule, 80% of pristine Florida rivers and streams will be classified as “impaired.” I fail to see how these contradictory conclusions between scientists will be helpful for the public in understanding these proposed rules. Indeed, despite the potentially widespread impacts these regulations will have on the state, Floridians do not yet understand their costs and benefits. They have also not been subject to debate by elected representatives. More public hearings and discussions are necessary and appropriate. We all share the same goal and desire to protect Florida’s waters. And I believe we are close to having attainable, science-based standards. It is my hope EPA will address these concerns and use the collaborative approach as a model for future environmental protection measures.

Since 2001, Putnam has represented Florida’s 12th Congressional District, which includes most of Polk County and portions of Hillsborough and Osceola counties.