Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Industrial agriculture, developers, and lax sewer plant operators continue to falsely claim that clean water costs too much

For over a year opposition to the EPA rule (numeric nutrient criteria) to limit nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in Florida’s freshwater and coastal water bodies has come from the state’s major polluters. Their ridiculous cleanup cost claims since last November – two months even before the first EPA proposals were released – have been based on the cost of converting every wastewater treatment facility in the state to reverse osmosis (the method normally used to convert salt water to fresh water). Nowhere in the country, and certainly not in all of Florida, is that level of wastewater treatment required to meet cleanup requirements.

To date, polluter attempts to thwart the development and implementation process of the rule have been unsuccessful; however, in recent months they have accelerated the pace of their lobbying efforts.  On October 20, forty-seven Florida businesses and other groups wrote Congress urging action to delay the water-quality standards; the list includes our state’s worst polluters and those agencies responsible for pollution clean-up. 
Many of them are the usual suspects:  Associated Industries of Florida, Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association, PCS Phosphate – White Springs, Florida Pulp and Paper Association, Florida Cattlemen's Association, Florida Pest Management Association, Florida Poultry Federation and Florida Crystals Corporation.  The entire list is below.

Of particular note on the list are the Florida Association of Counties (FAC), the Florida League of Cities (FLOC) and the Florida Stormwater Association (FSA). The polluter coalition has been pushing communities all across the state to pass anti-numeric nutrient criteria resolutions and in at least one case has convinced a county (Palm Beach County) to use taxpayer dollars to include an anti-EPA rule insert in all monthly residential water bills.

While FAC, FLOC and FSA have been great allies in the battle to preserve a community’s right to regulate pollution prevention, the fear of cleanup costs, flamed in particular by the state’s waste water utilities operators, has cities and counties worried about their fiscal liabilities. However, what they are ignoring are the public health threats and diminished property values polluted water imposes on their communities; local waterfront economies have been devastated by harmful algal outbreaks in every part of the state each year since at least 2005.

The polluter coalition now named “Floridians for a Prosperous Future,” has also been reaching out to labor federations; they are requesting audiences at union-body gatherings to ask them to join in their efforts. On October 5, a CF Industries (phosphate mining) representative spoke to the West Central Florida Federation of Labor. Fortunately, the Sierra Club was allowed equal time at that gathering and the Tampa-area labor federation chose not to join the opposition.

And finally, what many in the environmental community consider as further proof of DEP’s historic failure to appreciate their role and responsibility in the protection of our state’s resources, former DEP heads Virginia Wetherell, Coleen Castille and Jake Varn recently joined the call to delay the EPA rule; Wetherell and Castille actually joined the opposition coalition “Don’t Tax Florida” (precursor to “Floridians for a Prosperous Future”) right off the bat.

It is not lost on our state’s water quality advocates that it was on their watch that the levels of water pollution reached the heights at which now require aggressive action. EarthJustice attorney David Guest, who filed the lawsuit that resulted in the new EPA Rule on behalf of the Sierra Club and other organizations, said: “It’s no surprise that now they want to try to save face. They did such a bad job protecting public health that the federal government has had to intervene to get Florida to clean up water pollution. It’s unconscionable that these former officials are siding with polluters to block water cleanup instead of standing up for the public. It is an insult to ordinary Floridians.”

For more information on numeric nutrient criteria please see previous posts Big Florida polluters still pressuring Congress to drop EPA Water Rules (Oct. 26) and Florida has an ugly problem (Sept. 29).
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Cris Costello
Red Tide Campaign Coordinator

Full list of signatories to October 20 letter to Congress
Associated Industries of Florida
Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association
PCS Phosphate – White Springs
Florida Pulp and Paper Association
Florida Cattlemen's Association
Florida Pest Management Association
Florida Poultry Federation
Florida Crystals Corporation
Palm Beach County Water Utilities
Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council
Florida Gulf Coast Building & Construction Trades Council
Florida Home Builders Association
Manufacturers Association of Florida
The Fertilizer Institute
CF Industries Holdings, Inc.
Florida Citrus Processors Association
Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association
Indian River Citrus League
Florida Section American Water Works Association (AWWA)
Florida Electric Cooperatives Association
Peace River Valley Citrus Growers Association
Association of Florida Community Developers
Floridians for Industry, Jobs, and Growth
Gulf Citrus Growers Association
Florida Electric Cooperatives Association
Florida Beverage Association
Florida Farm Bureau Federation
Florida Water Quality Coalition, Inc.
Farm Credit of Central Florida
Farm Credit of Northwest Florida
Farm Credit of Southwest Florida
Florida Land Council
United Food & Commercial Workers
Florida Recycling Partnership
Farm Credit of South Florida
Florida Citrus Mutual
Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association
Farm Credit of North Florida
Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of FL
Florida Rural Water Association
Florida Chamber of Commerce
South Florida Aquatic Plant Management Society, Inc.
Florida Stormwater Association
Florida League of Cities
Florida Association of Counties