Good news here and hopefully more cities and groups will follow suit. No one with any sense or concern for human health or well-being can approve the actions of the flawed Environmental Regulation Committee (ERC,) who recently gave license to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which is a rubber stamp for industry, to increase poisons in our water. Experts who know what they are talking about already tell us our drinking water is unsafe (Florida’s Safe Drinking Water Program Is ”Very Sick.”
It is only to promote industry (dollars here) that our DEP wishes to increase our cancer risks: view some of our earlier posts: (Cancer-Causing Chemicals Will Go Nicely With Toxic Algae, Flesh-Eating Bacteria) (Help Overturn New Water Standards) (Seminole Tribe Sues DEP) and finally, (“Perfection is the Enemy of Progress” — Cari Roth, Chair of ERC”)
We don’t expect our decision makers in places of power to be experts on everything they pass judgement on. However, we do expect them to be smart enough and honest and subjective enough to listen to experts and take their advice. Sadly, that was not the case with the majority of the flawed ERC, nor is it the case with many of our legislators.
Continue reading for Jeff Burlew’s article in the Tallahassee Democrat:
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
More join legal fight over water pollution limits
Jeff Burlew, Democrat senior writer
8:30 p.m. EDT August 24, 2016
The city of Miami and others are joining the legal fight against proposed new surface water standards approved last month by the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission.
The city, in an administrative petition filed Tuesday, said the new standards for chemicals that can go into Florida’s rivers, lakes and estuaries would result in more pollution and higher health risks to residents.
It says the Department of Environmental Protection, which put forth the new limits, failed to meet its obligation to ensure the standards will allow people to safely eat Florida seafood and drink local water.
“The department has justified its loosening restrictions on the permissible levels of carcinogens in Florida surface waters by asserting that its scientific model is valid, without offering any justification for the need for loosening the standards to begin with,” the city said. “In other words, there is simply no countervailing interest that would justify any increased risk to Florida citizens, even if that risk is within scientifically acceptable standards.”
DEP in May unveiled proposed new limits on dozens of toxic chemicals that can be dumped into Florida surface waters. The agency is supposed to update its surface water standards from time to time under the federal Clean Water Act but hasn’t since the 1990s.
The proposal included updated limits for 43 chemicals already on the books and new limits for another 39 chemicals. And while DEP said the new limits would provide better protection for Floridians, environmental groups say they would weaken restrictions on a number of chemicals, including carcinogens like benzene.
The ERC, whose members are appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, approved the new limits in a 3-2 vote during a contentious public hearing in Tallahassee on July 26.
The vote prompted harsh criticism by environmental groups not only over the substance of the standards but also over how the department rolled them out for ERC approval.
Two seats on the commission designed for representation by members of local government and the environmental community had been vacant for months by the time the proposal went to the ERC.
Another seat, set aside for representation by a lay person, was filled in May. However, Scott appointed not a lay person to the seat but rather DEP’s recently departed general counsel, Craig Varn, who hasn’t been confirmed by the Senate.
Linda Young, executive director of the Florida Clean Water Network, said DEP needs to start over with its proposal and follow procedures laid out in statutes and rules.
She noted that the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee, a bipartisan legislative panel, wrote DEP July 20 saying its public notice on the new standards was “incomprehensible to members of the general public” in violation of statutes.
“I think they need to pull the whole thing,” she said. “They need to have more workshops around the state. They need to fill the seats. And they need to have a new hearing.”
The Seminole Tribe of Florida challenged the new limits earlier this month in filings with the Division of Administrative Hearings. The tribe said the ERC hearing was held too early, before a 28-day public notice period ended. It also said the standards would harm tribal members’ ability to safely hunt and fish across millions of acres of land and waters in south and central Florida.
The city of Miami filed its own action but also filed to intervene in the Seminole Tribe challenge, which prompted objections from the state.
Also on Tuesday, the Florida Pulp and Paper Association Environmental Affairs filed its own legal challenge against DEP’s rule revisions. The association said DEP relied on a flawed methodology in developing its new limits, which could affect how much wastewater paper mills are allowed to release.
“Additional limitations may require the mills to reduce their current operations or may prevent future expansion or conversion of products produced at the mills,” the association said in its petition.
It’s possible, if not likely, that Administrative Law Judge Bram Canter will consolidate the cases. A hearing in the Seminole Tribe case has been set for Sept. 6 and 7, but it’s possible that could be pushed back.
In other developments, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed formal comments with the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday asking for federal oversight to make sure Florida’s drinking water is safe. The comments were filed as part of a request by the state for more authority in implementing requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act, PEER said.
“If EPA wants to prevent another public health calamity like Flint, Michigan, it needs to supervise Florida’s safe drinking water program,” said Jerry Phillips, a former DEP enforcement attorney and director of Florida PEER.
Contact Jeff Burlew at [email protected] or follow @JeffBurlew on Twitter.