U.S. Judge Threatens EPA With Contempt on Everglades

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kate Hornyan (202) 265-7337

U.S. Judge Threatens EPA With Contempt on Everglades

EPA Administrator Jackson Personally Summoned to Detail Pollution Compliance

WASHINGTON - A frustrated federal judge stopped just short of a formal contempt of
court finding against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its
failure to stem mounting pollution in the Florida Everglades.  The court
did suspend the State of Florida's authority to issue water pollution
permits and ordered EPA to immediately undertake dramatic remedial
action to reduce Everglades pollution levels. 

The April 14,
2010 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Alan Gold followed a contempt
hearing into repeated violations by EPA and Florida's of a 2008 ruling
by Judge Gold directing the agencies to comply with phosphorous limits
for sensitive Everglades waters.  In withering language, Judge Gold
found EPA guilty of "dereliction of duty...contrary to the Clean Water
Act" and -

  • Ordered EPA to formally notify Florida that it is
    in violation of federal law and "establish specific milestones
    to ensure that the State of Florida does not continue to ignore, and
    improperly extend the compliance deadline for meeting the
    phosphorous...criterion in the Everglades Protection Area" (Emphasis in
    original);
  • Suspended the power of  Florida to issue any new
    water pollution discharge permits affecting the Everglades until EPA 
    certifies the state is in compliance with the judge's order; and
  • Required
    EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to "personally appear before this Court
    on Thursday October 7, 2010 at 9:00 am to report to the
    Court on compliance with the order."(Emphasis in original)

Judge
Gold is still holding in reserve whether to make a formal contempt
finding, carrying civil or criminal penalties, against EPA and Florida. 

This severe court action underlines the profound breakdown of
EPA's clean water program in Florida, according to Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  "In Florida, EPA's clean water
program is an utter basket case," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff
Ruch, noting that this is only the latest in a long string of adverse
court rulings suffered by the agency.  "While this case has long roots,
today Judge Gold takes EPA to task for decisions and evasions entirely
within the Obama administration."  EPA still has yet to even name a
Regional Administrator to oversee its programs in Florida and other
southeastern states, several months after the agency named "RAs" for
most of the other regions.  Ironically, today Administrator Lisa Jackson
is delivering an address at the "Coming Together for Clean Water"
conference on healthy watersheds.

At the same time, EPA has been
forced by other court rulings to directly set water quality standards
for all Florida waters but that effort is beset by many of the same
deficiencies found in its handling of the Everglades.  PEER and the
Council of Civic Associations (CCA), a citizens group for government
accountability, have severely critiqued EPA oversight and have
repeatedly called for a house cleaning in the EPA Southeastern regional
office. 

 See the 2008
court decision with which EPA has yet to comply

View
the call by PEER and CCA for changes in EPA Florida operations

Look at the
weak EPA effort to address worsening pollution in Florida's waters

 

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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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