Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Urgent Action Alert - Numeric Nutrient Criteria THREATENED

Under the Clear Water Act, in 1998, it was determined that numeric limits for “nutrients” - sewage, fertilizer and animal manure pollution - were needed in Florida but the state dragged its feet for over a decade.

Over the past year EPA has finally developed and finalized quantifiable nutrient limits for our Florida’s freshwater bodies and is in the process of developing them for our coastal waters.

At the behest of the state’s biggest polluters, Congressman Tom Rooney wants to stop EPA involvement in numeric nutrient criteria (quantifiable limits on sewage, manure and fertilizer pollution).

Rooney has filed a rider to the current appropriations bill (Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution) that would de-fund the implementation of those new pollution limits; Rooney, whose district encompasses one of the state’s most nutrient pollution-threatened water bodies – the St. Lucie River.

Please call Congressman Tom Rooney today and ask him to withdraw his rider.  
His office numbers:

Washington DC          202-225-5792
Stuart Office               772-288-4668
Punta Gorda Office     941-575-9101
St. Lucie Office          772-461-3933

We also need to produce calls to Rep. Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Corinne Brown and Frederica Wilson to urge them to oppose the rider offered by Rep. Tom Rooney and speak up against the rider when it is brought to the House floor.

Rep. Alcee Hastings:  (202) 225-1313; (954) 733-2800; (561) 881-9618

Rep. Ted Deutch:  (202) 225-3001; (561) 988-6302

Rep. Corrine Brown:  (202) 225-0123; (904) 354-1652; (407) 872-0656

Rep. Frederica Wilson:  (202) 225-4506

Rep. Kathy Castor (202) 225-4506 (202) 225-4506:  (202) 225-3376; (813) 871-2817

Please contact me with any questions and PLEASE FORWARD THIS MESSAGE TO YOUR FRIENDS.

Read more for talking points... 

Rooney amendment to the FY11 Continuing Resolution

·        This week when the House considers the FY2011 Continuing Resolution, Congressman Tom Rooney (R-FL) plans to offer an amendment that would defund the implementation of the EPA rule to protect Florida’s waters from excess pollution from sewage, manure and fertilizer.

Amendment Offered By: Mr. Rooney
Amendment No. 13: At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following:
Sec. __. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement, administer, or enforce the rule entitled ``Water Quality Standards for the State of Florida's Lakes and Flowing Waters'' published in the Federal Register by the Environmental Protection Agency on December 6, 2010 (75 Fed. Reg. 75762 et seq.).

·        Oppose this amendment because it seeks to overturn a court ordered consent decree.  These numeric limits on pollution from sewage, manure and fertilizer comprise a rule that was the result of a 2009 consent decree in federal court.  This issue should not be on an appropriations bill.  This issue was agreed to in the judicial branch.   

·        Oppose this amendment because it will impede ongoing education about the established legal limits on pollutants threatening the health of people, fish and wildlife in Florida.

·        As a result of the consent decree in federal court, EPA proposed water quality standards for lakes and flowing waters in Florida in 2010 and then delayed publication of the rule to allow for additional comment and scientific review.

·        In an effort to facilitate public education and flexible implementation, the water quality rule, published on November 14, 2010, does not go into effect for 15 months (March 2012).  This amendment on the CR would not allow cities, towns, businesses and other stakeholders as well as the State of Florida a full opportunity to review the standards and develop flexible strategies for implementation.

·        Clean water is not just a regional issue but national in scope and deserves national support.


·        For more than a decade, even as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection increased its efforts to address pollution from these organic wastes, serious nutrient pollution persisted and grew worse.  In 2008, testing by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection revealed that 1,000 miles of the state’s rivers and streams, 350,000 acres of Florida’s lakes and 900 square miles of its estuaries were contaminated by nutrient pollution from sewage discharges and fertilizer or manure runoff. “The actual number of miles and acres of waters impaired [by these pollutants] is likely higher,” the DEP noted, “as many waters that have yet to be assessed may also be impaired.”

·        All across Florida, this pollution jeopardizes the health of aquatic ecosystems and fisheries, public health, the ability to swim and boat in lakes and rivers, and Florida’s most important industry – tourism. Algae outbreaks plague many lakes, rivers and springs. The outbreaks can make boating and swimming dangerous or impossible, result in massive fish kills, and reduce waterfront property values.
·        In August 2009, EPA entered into a Consent Decree with Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, and St. Johns Riverkeeper, committing to propose numeric nutrient criteria for lakes and flowing waters in Florida by January 14, 2010. Under the original consent decree, final rules needed to be issued by October 15, 2010 for lakes and flowing waters, however to allow for additional comment and review on October 27, 2010, the original deadline of October 15, 2010 was extended to November 14, 2010 for EPA to finalize numeric nutrient criteria for Florida’s lakes and other flowing waters.


·        Stephen Johnson – the Bush Administration EPA Administrator – authorized his Assistant Administrator for Water to make a formal determination as to whether, under the Clean Water Act, numeric limits for “nutrients” -  sewage, fertilizer and animal manure pollution of water – were needed in FloridaFlorida had a narrative standard which was unenforceable. 

·        In January, 2009, that determination that numeric limits were needed was made and was enthusiastically endorsed by Mike Sole, the head of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. 

“The State of Florida recognizes that more needs to be done to address nutrient pollution in our rivers, streams, lakes and estuaries, and these actions will help our State and all of our stakeholders prevent and better manage sources of nitrogen and phosphorus from entering our waters,” said Mike Sole, Secretary of FDEP.[1]

·        Currently, Florida has an unenforceable narrative nutrient standard that says in essence that levels can’t be so high that they cause problems.  That is equivalent to having a speed limit sign that reads “Drive At A Reasonable Speed Considering Weather, Traffic And Lighting Conditions As Well As Other Relevant Factors.”  Numeric standards are like speed limit signs with numbers on them –like “SPEED LIMIT 55 MPH.” 

·        In August, 2009, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced it was proposing numeric nutrient limits on nutrients.  The proposal was based on several years of work and a major data collection effort.  However, the Department elected to await the EPA proposal, which came five months later, in mid-January of 2010.  Because the scientific methodologies for setting standards for freshwaters are well-established, EPA’s proposed numeric limits are very similar to those proposed by the State of Florida, slightly lower in some areas and slightly higher in others.  

·        EPA based its cost estimates on a census of sewage treatment plants in Florida and the cost of upgrading to comply with how the Clean Water Act would apply the new standards.  The cost was about $150 million per year.  The cost estimates from opponents of several hundred of millions (or even over a billion per year) are based on the incorrect premise that reverse osmosis would be required in all sewage plants, that new and prohibitively expensive regulations on agriculture would be required, and that cities would be bankrupted by the cost of new stormwater treatment works.

·        EPA’s estimates are based on the Clean Water Act’s real world application.  Sewage costs would increase somewhat, agricultural pollution is almost all non-point source pollution and is exempt from Clean Water Act permitting, and cities can reduce fertilizer pollution at no cost by adopting Smart Fertilizer ordinances that restrict use in the rainy season.

  • Given that EPA’s proposal is nearly the same as EPA’s; the same costs would be incurred under either alternative.  The growing number of toxic algae outbreaks and fish kills around Florida renders inaction a non-viable alternative.

  • Florida estuaries will have numeric limits set for them in about 18 months.  For freshwater lakes and streams, EPA developed a full methodology that was published 10 years ago in the federal register; no similarly well-developed methodology has been developed for estuaries.   

  • In order to speed the process for estuaries, a peer review panel will examine and make recommendations concerning the best methodology to establish nutrient limits for estuaries.

  • The EPA proposal for South Florida canals is being refined so that canals can be divided into subclasses based on geography, hydrology and other factors.  This refinement will require re-publication of the new proposal and a delay in final adoption. 

Thanks for all your efforts!
Cris Costello
Regional Representative