Florida Stands to Lose If New Standards Allowed

Two former Florida Department of Environmental Protection secretaries and leaders from taxpayer advocacy and business groups recently alerted residents that onerous and arbitrary water quality standards could force Floridians to pay higher costs, according to a Nov. 13 press release.

To settle a lawsuit that involves Earthjustice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is poised in January to propose standards for Florida’s streams, canals, and lakes and by January 2011 for coastal waters, the groups say. These standards will apply only to Florida.

A hearing on the issue is scheduled for today in Federal Court in Tallahassee.

Groups say unfair federal restrictions would punish Florida – a national leader in protecting clean lakes and rivers.

“These new restrictions would force us to start over with arbitrary numerical criteria that have no scientific basis and will only hinder our efforts to clean up our waterways,” said former DEP Secretary Virginia Wetherell.

Wetherell noted Florida has spent millions to scientifically evaluate the quality of its water and implement mechanisms necessary to clean up pollution.

"During my time at DEP, protecting water quality was a top priority. We worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the EPA on this issue and reached a solution that worked for all, the environment, the citizens and the taxpayers' wallets,” added former DEP Secretary Colleen Castille. “This overreaching proposal by EPA will only lead to more lawsuits, putting the goal of clean water on the back burner. I am convinced the best way to protect Florida's diverse and unique water resources is to address it on a waterbody by waterbody basis."

The group says the regulations would in effect impose an economically harmful “federal water tax” on Florida.

“Creating an arbitrary standard will hit every Florida family in the wallet,” said Paul Steinbrecher, vice president of the Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council. “Our data shows that just the wastewater treatment capital improvement costs could reach $50 billion in Florida and add over $720 to a family’s yearly sewer bill.”

Steinbrecher added strict regulations would tax Florida’s suffering economy by forcing utilities to increase rates on average by $62.
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