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In this issue, we have covered all the bases – the status of the Wekiva Study Area and what’s to come of the inspections from Senate Bill 550. The battle over the EPA’s Numeric Nutrient Criteria heats up – here’s our review of an important Congressional Hearing chaired by Florida’s own Rep. Cliff Stearns; and TRI-County giving you a voice as the National Research Council reviews EPA’s cost estimates. Open all the “click here’s”, there is lots to know.


It’s time to review the status of all the 2011 legislative action, the status of the state and federal agencies whose decisions and actions impact us, and the efforts of TRI-County Association H.E.L.P. It was a busy 2011 session and an even busier summer. Click Here for the Status Report.

July 25-26. Orlando FL. National Research Council and EPA

At the invitation of EPA, the National Research Council convened to review the cost estimates of implementing Numeric Nutrient Standards in the State of FL. There is a huge discrepancy between EPA’s cost estimates and the estimates of various industries and the municipal utilities to meet these nutrient standards. This concerns septic owners because septic systems are identified by EPA as a contributor of nutrients. In the EPA’s presentation, it identified “advanced wastewater treatment systems” (AWT) as their preferred solution to reducing nutrients, even though AWT does not meet nutrient reduction standards required by EPA. TRI-County Association H.E.L.P. attended this meeting and spoke on behalf of septic owners, challenging these issues. Click Here to read the full text of that speech.

August 11, 2011. Orlando FL. House of Representatives

Energy and Commerce Committee Congressional Hearing Convened by Rep. Cliff Stearns, the Committee’s agenda was to analyze the EPA’s move to overrule Florida’s previously approved plan to address nutrient impairment. Rep. Stearns indicated the committee would question EPA’s imposition of standards that seemed to be unrelated to need or likelihood of improving water quality. The committee heard testimony from EPA, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, Industry and Utility Association Representatives, Earth Justice and Gwendolyn Keys-Fleming, the EPA’s recently appointed administrator for this region. Ms. Keys-Fleming is a former prosecutor for DeKalb County, Illinois.

On the whole, we can only speak about what we observed – that EPA’s responses to Committee questions are best described by two words – inconsistent and arbitrary. The meeting was also attended by carefully choreographed pierced and purple haired students all wearing stickers crying “Slime Crime.” Love the drama, but on to the meaty issues. Our editorial comments are in red.

Testimony covered the following points:

  1. Modeling software, not scientific evidence, is being used to set the EPA’s standards. Yet, Ms. Keys-Fleming says the EPA will be happy to rescind the federal order if Florida can show its own standards are scientific!
    1. Editor’s Note: Is this the same as “guilty, until the defendant can prove himself innocent? Will it cost the State of Florida more millions to prove itself right, even though the EPA says it admires Florida’s wealth of scientific knowledge on the environment.
  2. Although EPA says it will not require wildly expensive purification technologies such as reverse osmosis and microfiltration to meet the Numeric Standards, the EPA rule does not say that, and other treatment technologies will most likely not meet their Numeric standards.
  3. Although EPA says it is open to allowing variances, the process of obtaining a variance is estimated to cost in excess of $1 million dollars with no guarantee of approval. Oddly, EPA’s cost estimates of implementing Numeric Criteria assume variances will be granted to most utilities.
    1. Editor’s Note: They must also be assuming utilities have that kind of loose cash floating around. Question: How much of the million is paid in fees to EPA?
  4. Tampa Bay was held up by EPA as the “poster child” for achieving pristine water quality. However, it was pointed out during the hearing that Tampa Bay does not meet Numeric Nutrient target numbers.
  5. The most recurring justification offered by EPA and Earth Justice for NNC was tourists don’t like algae blooms, and Florida’s economy will suffer if we don’t fix it. However, there is no scientific evidence meeting NNC standards will stop the algae blooms. In response to direct questions about the relationship between nutrients and algae blooms, the former prosecutor, now of EPA, offered the following statement, “I believe there is a cause and effect between nutrients and algae blooms.” And, Mr. Guest of Earth Justice exclaimed, “This is the United States! This (algae blooms) shouldn’t be happening!”
    1. Editor’s Note: An opinion loudly stated does not a fact make. We don’t see fact or science in either remark. We’re not sure what makes the United States so special it would escape an experience common throughout the world. Even a very surface search for information uncovers algae blooms were recorded in Florida in the pristine, pre-development 1700’s. Global economic woes have probably impacted tourism more than algae blooms.
  6. A final argument erupted between Earth Justice and FDEP as to what triggered the lawsuit and settlement. Earth Justice says the lawsuit is FDEP’s fault because FDEP stopped moving forward with its plan, and FDEP says it stopped because of the Earth Justice lawsuit.
    1. Editor’s note: With millions and millions of citizen dollars at stake, science should be the deciding factor. Since Earth Justice does not seem to be suing on science, only timing, justice would be well served if the lawsuit were withdrawn.
    2. Editor’s note: Heads up to the other 49 states! EPA’s stated intention is to use its experience in Florida to export Numeric Nutrient Criteria throughout all states. By the way, EPA has no skin in the game. The agency does not fund the mandates it creates, nor is it required to consider the cost of its mandates. They don’t seem to have the burden of proof either – that their mandate is will have the slightest environmental benefit. We hope those environmentally concerned students present at the hearing have parents with enough money to pay for both tuition and slime crimes, because the parents will definitely feel the financial pain of this rule.