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State of Florida files lawsuit against EPA. This is a welcome move, as the proposed Numeric Nutrient Criteria will bring devastation to Florida’s economy. New “Water Resources Select Committee” formed by House Speaker Rep. Dean Cannon. Congratulations to Rep. Trudi Williams on her appointment to chair this important new committee.

State of Florida v. EPA. Reported in the Orlando Business Journal, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010. “The State of Florida has filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency over what it calls the agency’s intrusion into Florida’s previously approved clean water program. According to a release, the lawsuit alleges that the EPA’s action is ‘inconsistent with the intent of Congress when it based the Clean Water Act on the idea of cooperative federalism’ with the states responsible for water quality and the EPA offering oversight.

Florida’s action is a result of EPA settling a lawsuit filed by Florida Wildlife Federation in 2008. The settlement forced the EPA to set pollution standards for inland surface waters and coastal waters. We have reported previously on this issue, including comments by Florida’s Senator LeMieux who is opposed to these standards. The Numeric Nutrient Criteria set by the EPA have been labeled unscientific, unachievable, and cost to our state have been estimated to be as high as $90 billion, and the increased costs to residents on sewers could go as high as $700 a year. Septic owners would also be impacted by rules formulated to achieve nitrogen reduction and compliance monitoring.

Select Committee on Water Resources. In a letter addressed to the entire House of Representatives, House Speaker, Representative Dean Cannon announced the formation of a new committee. Named the “Select Committee on Water Resources” Speaker Cannon has named Representative Trudi Williams of Ft. Myers as chair, and Representative Brad Drake of DeFuniak Springs as Vice Chair.

Other important appointments have also been announced:

Rulemaking & Regulation Subcommittee Chair, Rep. Chris Dorworth (Seminole County); Vice-Chair, Rep. Lake Ray (Jacksonville). Rep. Dorworth introduced HB 1565 last year, a bill that capped the amount an agency rule could cost residents and businesses to $1 Million over five years. Any rule carrying a price tag of more than that will have to be vetted through this committee. The bill was passed in the 2010 legislative session, vetoed by Gov. Crist in June 2010, and the veto was overridden in November’s special session.

Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee: Chair, Rep. Steve Crissafulli (Merritt Island), and Vice Chair, Rep. Rachel Burgin (Riverview).

Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee: Chair, Rep. Trudi Williams (Ft. Myers), Vice Chair, Rep. Steve Crissafulli (Merritt Island).

Hearings in these committees will be important to monitor as the septic system inspections language and other provisions of SB550 are debated and decided.

Editor’s Comment: A comment made by Senator Dennis Jones (Seminole, FL, Pinellas County) is worth repeating here. Sen. Jones served on the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee last year. His comment was made during the debate over delaying inspection until July 2011. It’s worth repeating here because misinformation abounds, obviously, and this is why we monitor committees. Regarding delaying inspections Senator Jones said,

“This was a large part of the springs bill that was about five years in developing due to Sen. (Burt) Saunders and Sen. Constantine,” Jones said. “With septic tanks being the number one cause, or certainly ranking, of pollution to our springs and our rivers, I’m concerned about taking this action at this time.”

Jones disputed opponents’ contentions the inspections would cost more than $500, saying the price would actually be about $185. Gaetz countered that the law would require inspections and “pump outs” of tanks that did not pass inspections.

Sorry, Senator Jones, but even the Department of Health doesn’t label septic systems as the NUMBER ONE CAUSE!!! Also, it’s a simple thing to have your legislative aide pick up the phone and call a local septic professional and ask the hard question – “how much will you charge a homeowner to do one of these inspections?” We did. It was about $500. Just the pump out so the tank can be inspected costs about $300. $185 is not even in the ball park.

This is the point…. Residents have a right to expect that decisions be made based on RELIABLE STATISTICAL EVIDENCE AND HONEST ESTIMATES OF COST. No doubt Senator Jones trusted his source of information and thought he was repeating good, hard “facts.” This kind of misinformation has been the norm over the course of the past few years, and it’s an important mission of ours to try to correct that situation, by communicating with our representatives, doing our homework, and publishing it. We have seen many instances of misinformation and opinion presented as fact even in some of the newspapers. That’s sad, as the misinformation tends to permeate and it sometimes leads to unintended and costly consequences to our citizens.