Monday, October 26, 2020

Tell USEPA to NOT allow the State of Florida to take over federal permitting of our waters

By Monday, November 2nd, let’s flood the EPA with as much citizen opposition as possible !

US EPA is accepting public comments on the State of Florida's request to take over federal permitting under the Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 404 that is meant to protect the Waters of the US, including our springs and wetlands. It's hard enough ensuring that 404 permits issued by USACE are protective enough. If the state takes over, it will be even harder to stop greedy and politically influential developers and other special interests from paving over our remaining wetlands and polluting our waters.


Submit comments in writing by no later than Monday, November 2nd (before midnight). Submit them either via email to 404Assumption-FL@epa.gov or via the regulations.gov portal (here). Include the Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2018-0640 with your submission. Do not include personal or business information you do not wish to be part of public records.


* Our thanks to all that have already submitted comments and/or spoke up at the EPA virtual public hearings *

 

Talking Points

 

The Everglades Coalition, the Florida Conservation Coalition and Waterkeepers Florida are among groups representing thousands of Floridians that have repeatedly opposed the state assumption of the CWA 404 permitting authority. Check out this folder for reasons these groups and other partners have expressed opposition.

  • USEPA must deny the FDEP's application to assume CWA Section 404 dredge and fill permitting authority from the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

  • Florida's water resources generate billions for our economy and deserve the highest level of scrutiny and protection -- something that FDEP is not well-positioned to provide.

  • Florida’s wetlands are essential to our resilience and drinking water supply, and are unique ecosystems that draw tourists and new residents to our beautiful state. 

  • State 404 permitting assumption would add more regulatory burden to FDEP - an agency that cannot meet its existing regulatory demands.

  • Even now, the FDEP does not have the resources required to equitably and meaningfully protect and improve our wetlands, springs and other waters via its own existing state-run programs. FDEP has failed to demonstrate how it could possibly undertake the extensive review and monitoring needed for federal 404 permits when it cannot properly steward what is already under its purview. 

  • FDEP is already too underfunded to properly carry out its own programs and there is no commitment that additional annual  federal funding will be available to support the state’s assumption of a new permitting authority.

  • Turning “federal actions” into “state actions” will impact the level of review and interactions between federal and state government agencies that would otherwise be required under federal law.  For instance, the state would not be required to follow the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). That means that an Environmental Assessment (EA) or an Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) will no longer be required, nor the same level of public participation opportunities.

  • Florida does not have a state law that parallels NEPA, which means that 404 permit applications processed by the state will be made with far less data and would no longer be subject to the rigorous review of environmental impacts and project alternate analysis provided under NEPA, nor the same level of federal review that weighs the need for a project versus loss of environmental benefits.

  • This shift in authority will impact how our waterways are used and developed -- posing severe consequences to wildlife, critical habitat, and ecosystem function.

  • This will fast-track development permits for powerful special interests that want to exploit Florida’s wetlands and other water resources for profit. 

  • FDEP will not have the checks and balances needed when they review 404 permit applications from other state agencies and water management districts. FDEP will essentially be like a fox guarding the hen house.

  • There is also significant concern about how state assumption will impact compliance with the Endangered Species Act. Florida has far more federally listed species than New Jersey or Michigan, the only two states that have assumed 404 federal permitting.  State assumption is likely to result in less time and expertise involved in the analysis of project impacts on vulnerable wildlife.

  • It is unclear how state assumption will impact the level of federal review needed to protect historic and cultural resources, including sites of importance to tribal nations.

  • Because of the long-term consequences of this decision, we request for USEPA conduct additional in-person public hearings, when safe to do so, across the state as it is unreasonable to assume that the two conducted virtually in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic have provided the equitable and adequate opportunity for affected communities to be heard. To proceed with just only two virtual hearings when the public cannot meaningfully participate is exclusionary.

  • EPA must deny FDEP's application package for assumption of the Clean Water Action Section 404 authority in order to ensure Floridians retain the critical federal protections and oversight that our wetlands, springs and other vulnerable water resources so desperately need.



Photo courtesy of Waterkeeper Alliance