New regulations threaten CF's plants in Florida - US lawsuit

13 December 2010 18:48  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US fertilizer producer CF Industries offered no immediate comment on Monday regarding news that it may shut down its operations in Florida because new environmental regulations would make it too costly to continue doing business.

CF Industries was suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida. The EPA also had no immediate comments on Monday.

The contested regulations set limits on phosphorus and nitrogen levels in Florida freshwaters.

CF alleged that the regulations were based on shoddy science and violated fundamental tenants of the US Clean Water Act. CF said in the lawsuit that the limits were too strict and threatened the Plant City Phosphate Complex in Hillsborough County, Florida, and the Hardee Phosphate Complex Mine in Hardee County, Florida, as well as proposed plant expansion efforts.

"CF anticipates that it will be economically, and may be practically, infeasible to meet those limitations, and thus CF may be forced to suspend some or all of its operations in Florida, and may not be able to sustain its mining operations in Hardee County," the company said in the lawsuit.

The EPA drafted the regulations as part of an agreement to resolve a separate lawsuit filed in July 2008, where the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club alleged that the state of Florida had failed to set limits for nutrients in the state's freshwaters. As a result, the EPA drafted limits on the state's behalf.

In August 2009, the EPA committed itself to those limits for freshwaters in Florida, and the final rule was signed in November 2010.

CF alleged that in order to develop the new criteria for nutrient limits, EPA regulators relied on procedures that were not scientifically sound, resulting in rules were arbitrary and capricious. For example, said CF, the new criteria included naturally occurring phosphorus and nitrogen, and therefore, otherwise pristine lakes, streams and rivers would be deemed polluted.

CF also said the regulations violated fundamental tenets of the nation's Clean Water Act, which gives individual states the main responsibility for establishing water-quality standards.

The EPA could intervene only when the state failed to adopt such criteria. However, according to CF, Florida already had one level of criteria that addressed nutrients found in fresh water, and the state has spent about $20m (€15m) over the last 10 years developing much more stringent criteria under a plan approved by the EPA.

The state published a draft of the criteria in July 2009, and planned to submit the draft for approval in 2011, CF said.

"Within the span of one year, EPA has derailed Florida's decade worth of work and jeopardised hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars, as EPA rushed to impose hastily prepared regulations that will adversely affect the citizens, local governments and businesses of the state," CF said in its lawsuit.

($1 = €0.76)

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By: Al Greenwood
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