EPA Puts Off New Protections for Florida's Coastal Waters

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jerry Phillips (850) 877-8097; Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

EPA Puts Off New Protections for Florida's Coastal Waters

New Scientific Peer Review Defers Estuarine and Coastal Standards until 2011

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Long-awaited federal standards to stop excess nutrients from fouling
Florida's coastal waters will not be ready this year, according to
correspondence released today by Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (PEER). Instead, the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency will proceed with standards for springs, lakes and streams this
year but standards for estuaries and coastal waters will undergo a new
"third party review of the scientific basis" - a process that will last
until 2011.

This action means that relief for Florida's most
polluted waters will not be forthcoming anytime soon. EPA will only
propose new standards for estuaries and coastal waters in 2011,
beginning a long public comment and rulemaking process that will likely
extend well into 2012, a presidential election year.

The March
17, 2010 letter from Peter Silva, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water
programs, to Michael Sole, Secretary of the Florida Department of
Environmental Protection (FDEP) states: .

"First, the Agency
has decided to delay finalizing promulgation of the ‘downstream
protection value,' or DPVs with respect to downstream estuary protection
and to address this issue in the 2011 estuary and coastal
rulemaking....Second, EPA will seek additional third party review of the
scientific basis for water quality standards to protect downstream
estuarine and coastal waters. We commit to consult with FDEP on the
scope of third party review and will announce in early April the
specific plans for that review."

EPA is proposing to create
objective or numeric standards for Florida waters as a result of
settling an environmental lawsuit charging the agency with failure to
enforce the Clean Water Act. The EPA numeric standards would replace
state narrative criteria, which have been widely criticized as
ineffective.

"This appears to be more foot dragging by EPA,
which has spent years avoiding doing its job for Florida's waters,"
stated Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former water enforcement
attorney with FDEP. PEER has criticized EPA's proposed standards as too
weak as a result of political compromises. "If the estuarine standards
need scientific peer review, why don't the standards for springs and
streams also need scientific review?"

Despite the current
controversy, numeric water quality criteria are not new in Florida. A
numeric phosphorus criterion for the Everglades was established more
than a decade ago and yet the Everglades still receives an excess of 100
tons of phosphorus per year, based on EPA's own studies. This month,
U.S. District Court Judge Alan Gold is holding a hearing to consider
holding EPA in contempt of court for failing to abide by his 2008
decision ordering enforcement of the Everglades' standards.

"If
EPA has not protected the Everglades, with its already established
numeric phosphorus limits, why should we expect anything different even
if EPA does establish numeric nutrient criteria for the other water
bodies in the state?" asked Phillips, noting that EPA has yet to appoint
a Regional Administrator for Florida and the other Southeastern states.
"The Obama administration promised change but all we have seen so far
is more of the same. Real change is needed and the EPA Southeastern
Regional Office is as good a place as any to begin."

 

Read
the EPA letter

See the PEER
critique of the EPA standards

Examine Judge
Gold's decision castigating EP dereliction in the Everglades

Look at
exploding pollution levels in Lake Okeechobee

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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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