EPA may have to reject Florida’s new, higher water pollution levels because citizens weren’t properly noticed

Editor’s Note:  Florida’s Environmental Regulation Commission, July 26, lowered pollution criteria for 23 toxins allowed to be dumped in Florida waters, 18 of which are known carcinogens.  The new standards were developed by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection.  Under the same new rule, DEP also set criteria for 39 new chemicals that previously had no limits. 

The new rules are in response to new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards, issued last year, based on updated science.  Some of DEP’s new guidelines, including allowable PCB levels, are higher than EPA’s.

Martin County, the City of Miami, and the Seminole Tribe sued DEP, saying the new standards are dangerous to human health; that proper public noticing procedure was not followed; and that the ERC commissioner seats designated for local government and the environmental community were not filled by Governor Rick Scott in time for the July 26 vote.  Various corporations in the pulp and paper industry also sued DEP, protesting the new standards are too high. 

Click here to read Clean Water Network’s rebuttal to DEP’s new rule

by Linda Young/Clean Water Network

 

Tallahassee, FL – Tallahassee attorney David A. Ludder put the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on notice [September 20] that the newly adopted “toxics rule” that the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection will soon submit for approval, will arrive with a toe tag reading: Death by Disregard for Public Participation.

Representing the Florida Clean Water Network and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Mr. Ludder’s letter alerts EPA to Florida’s disregard for federal rules that require states to give adequate notice and information to the public before holding a formal adoption hearing.

“Recent attention has focused on the DEP’s questionable notices and whether they followed Florida’s legal requirements. However, there are federal requirements under the Clean Water Act that states they must adhere to as well,” said Ludder. “These requirements have been ignored and EPA has a mandatory duty to disapprove the new rule,” said Ludder.

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Help us protect our coastal resources!

Specifically, federal rule at 40 C.F.R. § 25.5 provides: ** *
(b) Notice. A notice of each hearing shall be well publicized, and shall also be mailed to the appropriate portions of the list of interested and affected parties required by §25.4(b)(5). Except as otherwise specifically provided elsewhere in this chapter, these actions must occur at least 45 days prior to the date of the hearing. * * * Reports, documents and data relevant to the discussion at the public hearing shall be available to the public at least 30 days before the hearing.

These requirements were not met by the Florida DEP.

“The state is playing fast and loose with the law and with the health of humans and wildlife in Florida’s waters,” said Linda Young of the Florida Clean Water Network. “Fortunately, federal law requires that the public has a fair chance to participate in important decision making.”

“Lowering water quality standards for numerous pollutants including cancer-causing chemicals is obviously an issue of great public interest and importance.” said Jennifer Hecker, Director of Natural Resource Policy, adding “The state needs to go back to renotice and hold more public hearings now that it is clear they did not meet the appropriate noticing requirements.”
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida and the Florida Clean Water Network are calling for additional workshops, including several in South Florida, to be followed by a new formal adoption hearing before the Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC). Additionally, there is a widespread public outcry for the Governor to fill all seven seats on the ERC with appropriate representatives from public sectors, as required by Florida Statutes. Appointments must be approved by the Florida Senate as well.

Link to letter: http://www.enviro-lawyer.com/2016.09.20_Fla_HHC_Comment.pdf

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