US Florida water petitioners want White House to rein in EPA

18 October 2011 17:22  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--More than 5,700 Florida voters have signed a petition urging President Obama to halt US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) efforts to implement stringent water regulations in the state, The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) said on Tuesday.

The petition is in response to a 2009 decision by the EPA to impose plant nutrient standards on five Florida eco-systems that are more stringent than limits established by the state government.

It addresses the costs associated with the EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria rule, which several studies have estimated to be in the billions of dollars.

The petition, coordinated by the Florida Water Quality Coalition, was inspired by the “We the People” initiative that was recently launched by the White House. The initiative opens up the White House website to petition drives.

The administration said it will post a petition on the White House website when it attracts at least 150 signatures.

By obtaining more than 5,000 signatures, the petition, which was started in Florida in September, has met the signature threshold required to obtain a formal response from the White House, as well as assurance that White House staff will share the concerns raised by the petition with appropriate policy experts, TFI said.

However, the White House has since updated its threshold to 25,000 signatures within 30 days.

Florida voters who signed the petition believe the EPA’s rule will have “grave consequences on job creation and economic growth in Florida," according to TFI.

TFI, the national trade association representing the US fertilizer industry, supports the arguments raised by the petition and has consistently expressed its opposition to the EPA’s actions in Florida. 

“This rule has an enormous cost and little benefit, and we are urging the EPA to reconsider this action,” said TFI president Ford West.

“We advocate smart and targeted policies that address water quality without placing an undue economic burden on farmers and the industries that support them. Such policies can achieve both environmental and food security goals,” West added.

The federally derived nutrient rule signed by EPA administrator Lisa Jackson in November 2010 would replace the narrative nutrient criteria, which were already being applied by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with arbitrary standards and questionable science, according to TFI.

With 10.7% unemployment and job recovery uncertain, this rule is a threat to many sectors of Florida’s economy, including the fertilizer industry, TFI said.

"The EPA's actions in Florida represent the EPA’s over reach of the authority granted to it in the Clean Water Act,” according to TFI Vice President of Scientific Programs Bill Herz.

Herz also pointed to the agency’s attempts to establish a total maximum daily load (TMDL) for nutrients and sediment in the six states and the District of Columbia that surround the Chesapeake Bay as another area where the EPA’s scientific modelling is not robust enough to support the regulatory structure of the TMDL.

"The EPA TMDL standards are based on modelling information that was never designed for use in environmental modelling," Herz said.

"Modelling standards for nutrient runoff should be ceded by EPA to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which actually has data on such things as nutrient use and runoff levels," said Herz.

According to Herz, the EPA uses nutrient data derived from fertilizer sales figures.

The EPA did not immediately return calls for comment about the petition.


By: Frank Zaworski
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