This week, EPA signed the final numeric limits for nutrient pollution in Florida. This potentially precedent-setting move has implications for other states, as it is the first time EPA has set water-quality standards for a single state.
We’ve covered this issue before, while EPA was still holding public hearings on the standards. In summary, EPA had directed a number of states to set nutrient limits about a decade ago, and although the Florida Department of Environmental Protection had been working on such standards, the process took too long and environmental groups sued EPA in 2008 for failing to enforce the Clean Water Act in Florida. Under a consent decree with the Florida Wildlife Federation, EPA was to set numeric standards first for Florida’s lakes and rivers and then for estuaries and coastal waters. On November 14, 2010, EPA signed the first part, “Water Quality Standards for the State of Florida’s Lakes and Flowing Waters.”
Some groups were, right up until the signing of the rule, protesting that the limits were too burdensome, possibly unachievable, and without proven environmental benefit. Seven newly elected Florida officials, led by governor-elect Rick Scott, sent a letter to EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson on November 12, asking for a delay to give them time to analyze the economic impact of the rule. The letter cites capital costs of more than $4 billion on municipal wastewater treatment utilities and more than $17 billion on stormwater utilities to comply with the rule. It also suggests that the methods EPA used to set the limits are scientifically unsound. Others, such as the Clean Water Network, applauded the move and regretted only that it would take such a long time—15 months—to fully implement the new limits.
You can see EPA’s summary of the rule here, as well as links to the complete Federal Register notice and to records of the public hearings held in February and April of this year.