It is bad enough when some corporation or industry contributes to the destruction of our water resources, but it seems especially egregious when the guilty party is the very agency charged with protecting us. We have seen this with Florida’s own DEP and here it is also (and not the first time) with our federal EPA.
Thanks to Linda Young of Florida Clean Water Network who has worked tirelessly for decades for Florida’s clean waters.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
EPA REFUSES TO PROTECT FLORIDA WATERS FROM TOXIC DISCHARGES
Dear Friends of Florida’s waters:
Human Health Toxics Criteria Update –
EPA responded to our eight-year-old petition at practically the last minute before the deadline set by the court. It was not surprising that they refused to comply with the Clean Water Act – again. You can read their response by clicking on the bold headline at the bottom of the page. Essentially they say that its not the best use of their time and resources since Florida has been working on developing its own criteria for the past 25 years and will likely someday submit something for EPA to approve or disapprove. They use the excuse that the rule/criteria that the Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC) approved last July is being challenged.
Actually, it was challenged by two local governments and the Seminole Tribe, but those petitions for administrative hearing were dismissed by the DOAH judge based on a claim that they were not timely filed. That is the issue being litigated at the court of appeals right now. There has not been any litigation yet on the merits of the rule. So, in my opinion, EPA is using the pending appeals as just another excuse to do nothing about the fact that Florida is 25 years overdue in setting limits on how much of these 120 toxic chemicals can be discharged into our surface waters. We have heard so many excuses from EPA over these decades as we have pushed them to either make Florida set limits on these chemicals or do it on the federal level. Their excuses no longer hold water for me.
So, our lawsuit is over. Another suit can be filed by anyone who has standing, which could be anyone who uses Florida’s surface waters. My inclination right now is to not file another suit – at least not right away. Here are a few of my reasons:
1. We know that the current EPA will continue to be uncooperative; The Trump administration has made it clear they will not be enforcing any environmental laws;
2. FL-CWN would have to file in Pensacola Federal Court, which is the worst possible place to file an environmental case;
3. If we sued and won, EPA would likely approve whatever Florida sends to them for review. Until there are major political changes in Florida, we can’t expect to get Human Health Toxics Criteria that will be protective of humans or aquatic life.
4. A suit will be quite expensive and likely more than FL-CWN could afford alone.
Assuming that FL-DEP submits its adopted criteria to the EPA and the EPA approves them, FL-CWN may file suit against EPA because of FL-DEP’s failure to provide notice required by federal law.
Florida desperately needs better leadership in Tallahassee. Hopefully the next election will bring positive changes and new directions. Thank you to everyone who wrote letters and emails of support, attended meetings, got local resolutions signed, donated to our legal fund and did great media work on this issue. Maybe there will be a better time to press this issue in the near future and if so, FL-CWN will work with our members and friends to get the protections for our waters that are promised to us in the Clean Water Act and which we desperately need.
One thing I ask you to remember: The polluters are responsible for the fact that our state government and FDEP will not regulate these toxic and/or cancer-causing chemicals. Who are these polluters? Pulp and Paper is the largest industrial polluter in Florida (and the country) and they fight any regulations more than any other polluting industry. They have fought these regulations tooth and nail. The phosphate industry, electric power companies, and chemical companies are also powerful voices that have fought us. Agricultural companies could theoretically be affected if we actually had these regulations, but we don’t regulate pollution from agriculture in Florida so, I’m not sure they are really much of a factor. Many friends suspect that the oil and gas industry is partially to blame and that may be true. I don’t know that for a fact, so I’ll reserve my opinion on that.
When you hear environmentalists say, “we have solved the point-source pollution problem and now we have to address non-point source pollution,” – please don’t believe them. This could not be further from the truth. I’m not sure why they say that over and over, but its simply not so. Please don’t believe it.
Sorry this is such bad news and that I have nothing cheerful to report. I’ll look hard for something encouraging to tell you in the very near future.
For all of Florida’s waters,
Linda L. Young
decision regarding our petition for updated Human Health Toxics C