VIEWPOINT: Polluters sue for right to dump more toxins in Florida waters

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

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


by Linda Young

Dear Friends of Florida’s Waters:

I’ve been expecting the Florida Pulp and Paper companies to jump into the ever-expanding brawl over how much cancer-causing and toxic chemicals can be dumped into Florida’s waters and yesterday morning they threw their black hats into the ring with a petition for an administrative hearing.
Representing Georgia-Pacific (Koch Brothers), International Paper Company, West Rock, and Packaging Corporation, is Greg Munson, former DEP General Counsel and Deputy Secretary for water policy and now a partner in the Gunster law firm.
Georgia-Pacific (GP), owned by the famously wealthy and politically powerful Koch brothers dumps by far more toxic waste into Florida waters than any of the other companies.  GP has pulp and paper mills in Palatka, Perry and Brewton, Alabama, which is just across the Florida/Alabama line where the Escambia River crosses into Florida with tens of millions of gallons per day of industrial waste from the GP mill.
The Florida pulp and paper industry has been aggressively opposing better regulations for toxic discharges into Florida waters for years.
DEP’s newly proposed criteria for some 90 toxic chemicals is as weak as the agency has any hope of getting approved by EPA. But not weak enough to satisfy Florida’s polluters – purportedly. The controversial methodology that DEP used to develop the mesothelioma prognosis and cancer-causing criteria is more likely than not, primarily the brainchild and work of pulp and paper attorneys.  I think there’s a 50/50 chance that the pulp and paper lawyers are posturing and have two goals here:
1.  To give the appearance that the rule is somehow well balanced between competing interests (polluters and the general public);
2.  To rack up lots of billable hours.
The pulp lawyers did have one interesting thing to say in their petition.
They whined that if Florida’s new toxics rule becomes law, it could cause them to have to reduce their pollution, or worse yet, keep them from increasing their discharge of toxic chemicals in our waters.
OMG!!!!  When I try to make sense of that I have to wonder if they are upset about the 23 chemicals that the rule allows more of in the water, or the 39 that are going to have limits for the first time in Florida but at levels that are far less protective than EPA recommends?
What are they complaining about?  They say that this rule could prevent them from increasing their discharges and/or making products that create more toxics, which they would want to dump in our water of course.  Gee – how unfair!!!
On the bright side of this, Martin County filed a petition yesterday too. It was the last day to meet the deadline created by DEP’s August 4th publication (2nd one) of the notice for the rule changes and the ERC meeting (which occurred before the notice – on July 26th). This petition makes excellent points about the fact that their county – one of the more environmentally responsible in the state – is getting drowned in toxic pollution from Lake Okeechobee, which carries many of the same toxic chemicals that DEP is trying to allow more of in our waters.
HELLO!!!! What the heck is our governor trying to do to us?
The Martin County petition also points out that problem with the ERC itself. That little problem with two of the seats (environmental rep and local government rep) being empty and then the last minute appointment of Craig Varn to the ERC as a “lay citizen”.
Varn has not been approved by the Florida Senate, which Florida statutes require. Without his pre-determined, guaranteed vote, there would not have been a victory for Rick Scott’s cancer lottery/Monte Carlo/corporate welfare, kick in the teeth plan for Floridians. So very troubling for our crazy, Martian, goofball governor (Carl Hiaasen’s description, not mine! Although I wish I had thought of it first).
So now we wait to see what Judge Canter does with all this administrative insanity.
He has his work cut out for him as he sorts through the motions to dismiss and responses to motions and requests for this and that. Which date is the one that counts? Do any of the notices pass muster with Florida statutes? Do our laws mean anything anymore?  Especially to our insane governor?
I have this image in my mind of him lurching around the Capitol, arms flailing like a preying mantis on meth, screaming orders and demanding results that are completely nonsensical. Why else would a state agency, even one as dysfunctional as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection behave so irrationally?
It’s truly a puzzle, but I think it will all slowly unfold or unpeel, like an onion. Layer by layer, the stinking truth will be revealed. I’ll keep you posted on everything I learn, day by day.
For all of Florida’s Waters,
Linda Young
Florida Clean Water Network
Linda Young has been the executive director of the Florida Clean Water Network for 22 years, working to protect water quality and helping citizens have a voice in decision making that affects their community waters.  For more info contact her at and learn more about this issue at:


Leave a Reply