By THE PALM BEACH POST
December 6, 2011
With the state Department of Environmental Protection reverting to what critics once derisively called "Don't Expect Protection," Floridians who want clean rivers, lakes, streams and estuaries must depend on the federal courts.
Today, the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission almost certainly will approve the state's proposed anti-pollution rules that most certainly would not protect the state's waters. Call it a temporary victory for polluting industries and the Obama reelection effort.
2008, the environmental law firm Earthjustice filed a
lawsuit, alleging that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was not
enforcing the Clean Water Act in
So in November 2010, the EPA proposed rules that nearly matched what the state proposed. Of the 22,000 public comments to the EPA, 20,000 were favorable. The two agencies took 13,000 water samples. This was sound science. The EPA gave the state 15 months to implement the standards. Instead, the state sued in January to block the standards. Then last month, the EPA basically agreed to the state standards, no doubt because President Obama didn't want the hassle in the largest swing state.
Earthjustice attorney David Guest said in an interview that the state rules would give polluters a "get-out-of-jail-free card." Any body of water found to be substandard, he said, could shed that designation with a "biological assessment" that a private consultant could provide. "These standards will be easy to manipulate. And the standards were written by industry. This wasn't just a matter of 'input.' They wrote them."
Fish kills and algae blooms continue to be problems in state waters. This state's leaders regularly proclaim that Floridians live in "paradise." That description will not apply if the state continues to stall on rules that would protect the most important resource of "paradise." Notably, according to material on the Environmental Regulation Commission's website, the proposal set for a vote today does not include the St. Lucie River estuary.
Earthjustice went back to back to court last week.
Officially, the defendant is the Department of Environmental Protection, but
the lawsuit is a reaction to the EPA backing down. Perhaps the courts can
- Randy Schultz,