Posted by: reefrescue | December 12, 2010

Florida fights for rights of polluters

By Carl Hiaasen

Farms, mills and municipalities that use Florida waterways as a latrine got more good news last week from their stooges in Tallahassee. The latest battle to stop the enforcement of federal pollution laws will be paid for by state taxpayers.

Outgoing Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson — backed by Attorney General Bill McCollum — has sued to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing revised clean-water standards for Florida’s rivers, creeks and lakes.

Standing stoically in support of the polluters, McCollum and Bronson say the new water rules are too costly, and based on flawed science (interestingly, data provided by the state itself). Endorsing that lame position are their successors, Attorney General-elect Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner-elect Adam Putnam.

To hear all this whining, you’d think the EPA had ambushed Florida businesses with the new water regulations. Not even close.

Back in 1998, the EPA ordered all states to cut back pollution of so-called surface waters with damaging nutrients from farms, ranches, septic tanks and sewage-treatment facilities. The agency set a deadline of 2004 and then — in the anti-regulatory spirit of the Bush era — basically did nothing to follow up.

In 2008, environmental groups finally sued the EPA in order to compel enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act.

It’s not some new piece of radical legislation. It was born in 1948 as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, and expanded significantly under Richard Nixon in 1972, and again in 1977.

Floridians who aren’t familiar with Clean Water Act can be forgiven, because it has never been taken seriously here by companies that dump massive volumes of waste into public waters, or by the politicians who are supposed to care about such crimes.

The Everglades wouldn’t be in its current dire condition if authorities at all levels hadn’t skirted and even ignored the law, permitting ranchers, sugar farmers and developing cities to flush billions of dirty gallons of runoff into the state’s most important watershed.

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