In this issue we are covering a mountain of news items. Much has happened since the Special Session in November. The newly elected Governor Scott and the Legislature have wasted no time bringing new people and a new focus to the table. Things are moving swiftly, and it will be a challenge to make sure you are aware of all that is going on, so you can be effective in your efforts to reach out to your legislators and have a voice in the decisions that affect you. As always, we ask that you pass information to your friends and acquaintances, and ask them to do the same.
NEW EPA STANDARDS TRIGGER LAWSUITS:
In a news article published by Fred Heirs, staff writer for the Ocala Star Banner, the lawsuit filed by Attorney General Bill McCollum last year against the EPA’s intent to force numeric standards on the entire state of Florida is now joined by lawsuits filed by five northwest Florida utilities, The Fertilizer Institute representing White Springs Agricultural Chemicals, and CF Industries, a phosphate mining company.
The utilities claim their plants already meet a high standard for treatment and their lawyer maintains, as did the state’s former FDEP director, Michael Sole, that the EPA’s limits are not based on sound science, nor do they take into account the unique characteristics of Florida’s rivers and streams. Costs for Ocala to upgrade treatment plants to meet the EPA numeric standards could cost the city up to $150 million and raise residential sewer fees several hundred dollars per year. Obviously, it’s not just septic system owners who should be concerned with the EPA action. Statewide, total estimated costs vary between $17 billion up to as high as $90 billion dollars.
The article also quotes Neil Armingeon, of the environmental group, St. Johns Riverkeeper, who describes those filing the new lawsuits as “polluters who would do anything to maintain the status quo.” St. Johns Riverkeeper is one of several groups that sued the EPA. The suit was settled out of court when the EPA agreed to impose strict numeric standards for Florida’s waterways.
GOVERNOR SCOTT’S NEW PICKS:
HERSCHEL VINYARD tapped as new head of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection.
The new director is an attorney specializing in environmental law, and comes from a background in maritime and electronics manufacturing. It’s a welcome change of perspective, hopefully one that will bring a sense of balance between environmental concerns and the business standards of return on investment.
BILLY BUZZET appointed Secretary of Department of Community Affairs (DCA)
A civil engineer, land use lawyer, former administrative law judge and V.P of Strategic Development for St. Joe Company, a recognized leader in design and development of planned communities, will head DCA.
Out-going Gov. Crist names four to the Wekiva River Basin Commission:
Former Senator Lee Constantine has been re-appointed to the Commission and will serve as chair.
Senator Constantine’s term ends 9/2012.
Seminole County Commissioner Brenda Carey is also re-appointed for a term ending in 2012.
Charles Lee, Audubon’s Director of Advocacy and registered lobbyist is re-appointed for a term ending 9/13.
Commissioner Luigi Damiani, Orange County Board of County Commissioners, appointed for a term ending 9/12
NEW CITIZENS’ GROUP FORMING IN TRI-COUNTY CENTRAL FL AREA:
Efforts are underway to formalize a new citizens’ group. Evolving from the intense grassroots efforts of the past four years, the group intends to establish a registered lobbying organization that will involve and represent the concerns and interests of homeowners, businesses, and organizations who stand to be impacted by environmental and septic rules and legislation. The immediate focus is not simply to respond to legislative and rule-making mandates, but to be in on the ground floor of developing issues such as the SB550 septic inspection re-write and protecting the property rights of those with septic systems in the Wekiva Study Area, still an outstanding item with the Dept. of Health, Bureau of On-site Sewage.
This website was launched as a result of that on-going grassroots effort, and will continue to publish information about the new group. Membership is offered to those residing in Orange, Seminole, and Lake Counties. For more information, please click on the “contact us” button and your e-mails will be forwarded to the proper person. All inquiries will be treated confidentially as has always been the policy of this website.
SPEAKING OF (and TO) LEGISLATORS:
· Thanks to our legislators for making sure November’s special session bill to delay inspections until July 2011 made it through to be signed by Gov. Scott.
· Three bills have already been filed to repeal the septic inspection provisions of SB 550. We will be tracking SB 82, SB 130 & HB 013, SB 168 and others as they are filed.
· All over the state, citizens are talking to legislators about the upcoming session and their concerns. In Santa Rosa County, a citizens group met with Sen. Evers and presented suggestions for rewriting SB 550. In Orange County, your editor presented to the Orange County Delegation Meeting a list of concerns and suggestions for the upcoming session. (read more). If you have not already done so, please convey your concerns and suggestions to your local county commissioners and state legislators. Committee meetings start this week (1-11) and session convenes in 6 weeks.
WORD FOR THE DAY is “PASSIVE.”
HERE’S A HEAD’S UP FOR ALL OUR LEGISLATORS:
Just about the time people are thinking they have used the most plain language everyone can understand, someone comes along and invents A WHOLE NEW MEANING. In this case, the word is “passive.”
Old meaning…according to Websters, passive means functioning without the aid of machinery, as a pump; inert; inactive, motionless.
New meaning…according to DOH, Bureau of On-Site Sewage, Interim Study on Nitrogen Reduction Strategies Study, February 1, 2010, 1.3, page 4, “passive” has a new meaning, and we quote:
“The FDOH had undertaken in 2007-2008 a study of passive technologies for nitrogen removal. The definition used in that study and since then for “passive” is:
Passive: a type of onsite sewage treatment and disposal system that excludes the use of aerator pumps and includes no more than one effluent dosing pump with mechanical and moving parts and uses a reactive media to assist in nitrogen removal.”
Here’s the POINT! Legislative budget language says “The (2010) report shall include recommendations on passive strategies for nitrogen reduction that complement use of conventional onsite wastewater treatment systems.”
QUESTION #1. When the General Appropriations language was drafted for Line Item 471 in the 2009-2010 budget, did the legislators’ use the old meaning – no moving parts, or the “new” DOH meaning – with moving parts?
QUESTION #2. What definition did DOH use when they implemented the study?
QUESTION #3. Is DOH ignoring studying inert, non-mechanical methods of nitrogen removal because they define “passive” differently than everyone else?
QUESTION #4. FOR OUR LEGISLATORS… Did you mean for the DOH to study ways to introduce pumps into a conventional system? Since we all typically use the STANDARD DEFINITION OF PASSIVE, we all (legislators and citizens alike!) thought the whole idea was to find ways to reduce nitrogen using NO ELECTRICITY, NO MECHANICAL MOVING PARTS.
QUESTION #5. Would someone please look into this? From checking with a few people, it is questionable that the TRAP committee ever voted on the definition change, and obviously, only a few people have picked up on it.
From your editor.
One theme has emerged from the past two years. This has not been a battle for solutions. It’s been a battle over agendas. That’s clear from the rhetoric and from the attempts to pass rules and manipulate a pre-determined outcome and solution that have a devastating impact on residents. These battles have been over rules that defy logic and legislative intent with no promise of achieving the stated goal of nitrogen reduction. Supporters of these rules – and we are naming names – such as the environmental groups have labeled residents and businesses as devoted polluters. The association that supposedly represents septic and PBTS contractors has lobbied actively and then reversed themselves about their support for unwarranted and highly profitable inspection and mandates, when even their members objected to the association position.
Clearly, the manipulation, the name-calling and vilification of our state’s residents and our business owners has to stop. For Mr. Armingeon of St. John’s Riverkeeper to make the statement he did is insulting, untrue and counterproductive. We have heard similar statements from the press, Sen. Constantine, Mr. Lee, and many others involved in this. It’s time they acknowledged they do not have a corner on appreciating and protecting the environment. As an example, your editor has been recycling glass since the ‘70’s when brown, green, and clear bottles had to be separated by color and driven to a once a month to a recycling center. Another resident active in our grassroots effort has painstakingly replanted her entire yard in native plants in order to reduce water consumption. It’s truly beautiful. This resident spends all her vacation time kayaking Florida’s rivers. And, there are many more like this.
It’s time to come to the table and evaluate all options, bring to the discussion solutions instead of agendas, evaluate everything in terms of win-win, instead of winners and losers. How do you distinguish between solutions and agendas? Test to determine who gets hurt and how much. Strive for “do no harm” to the humans or the environment. Achieve outcomes that are better than expected for both. There is no room anymore for rules, proposals or so-called solutions that are accomplished through deception and manipulation.
Every rule pushed by DoH so far smacks of agenda, not solution. So, we are urging the polar opposites to open the door to discussion. Dump pre-conceived and arrogant mind-sets. Trust, but verify that the rationale is not self-serving, the science is correct, and the solutions will be livable and effective. No nitrogen remedy should be adopted simply because it’s easier to test for compliance! Ask! Is there a verifiable need? Is there a solution that will do the job as good or better with fewer negative consequences? No one should suffer severe economic hardship to make the DOH job easy of testing for compliance. Every human has a right to stand equal in importance to nitrogen, and every human and creature needs clean water. Go for Win-win. This is not an exercise in power politics and padding bureaucratic authority and budgets. Language matters – so say only what is true and productive. God gave us all two ears and one mouth, so we would listen twice as much as we talk. Show respect for the concerns of others, and sincerely entertain solutions you never thought of.