October 18, 2016
disclosure rule causes industry heartburn
Fla.—Calling it "a Pandora's box" and "a PR nightmare," a
group of environmental consultants, current and former regulators and lawyers
discussed the impact of Florida’s new pollution reporting rule.
emergency rule was enacted by Gov. Rick Scott last
month following the disaster at the Mosaic phosphate mine in Central Florida,
in which more than 200 million gallons of mildly radioactive wastewater poured
into the Floridan Aquifer.
incident sparked outrage, not just for potentially sullying the state’s
drinking water supply, but because it wasn’t publicly disclosed for almost
new rule requires immediate disclosure to the public and the media of any
pollution incident, no matter what type or size.
the rule was the focus of a panel discussion at the annual Southeast
Brownfields Conference, in downtown Jacksonville. Some called the rule a
knee-jerk response by the governor, and worried unforeseen consequences of its
implementation will hurt business development in the state. Since the focus of
Brownfield redevelopment is repurposing polluted property, some also expressed
fear the disclosure rules would virtually shut down that real estate market.
discussion contained far more questions than answers, however. Some panelists
questioned if state statue even allowed the governor to issue the emergency rule,
particularly the requirement to notify media. But until a final rule is
crafted, the emergency version is being interpreted broadly. Since it was
enacted 3 weeks ago, some 260 reports have been filed - ranging from a spill of
a quart of power steering fluid to a 5-million-gallon sewage spill by JEA.
Caspary, a former wastewater regulator with DEP, currently a consultant with
WSource, says the rule requires disclosures of incidents that may ultimately
pose no threat, but can cause public alarm and damage reputations.
concerns are of the potential notification to the press, and how social media
would react to that event. It could go very well – ‘congratulations to the
releaser, thank you for notifying.’ Or it could go very bad. And I think the
concern is: what if it goes bad?”
rule is being discussed at series of workshops around the state.
final workshop comes to Jacksonville on Oct. 26, 9 a.m., at the Department of
Environmental Protection’s Northeast District Office, 8800 Baymeadows Way West,
Suite 100, Conference Room 1A, Jacksonville, FL 32256.