Home > News & Media > EPA water plan could cost billions, Florida says

EPA water plan could cost billions, Florida says

Palm Beach Post – April 23, 2010

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed water regulations could cost Florida residents billions of dollars and result in the loss of more than 14,000 jobs, according to a report issued this week by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Florida agricultural producers are alarmed about the strict numeric standards the EPA is in the process of developing for the nutrient levels in the state’s lakes, streams and coastal areas. The agricultural community says the extremely low nutrient standards being proposed may be impossible to achieve and would put them out of business. The standards would apply only to Florida.

“There is no way Florida agriculture, including the $9 billion citrus industry, can survive if the EPA actually follows through with their proposal. Of course we all want clean water, it is essential to our livelihood in agriculture, but we need to set reasonable goals,” said Michael Sparks, executive vice president/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual of Lakeland.

The study, conducted in conjunction with University of Florida economists, estimates that the total initial costs for Florida agriculture to implement the additional practices will range from $855 million to $3 billion. Recurring annual costs would be an estimated $271 million to $974 million. Lost revenues associated with land taken out of production to implement additional on-farm water treatment and retention practices are pegged at $631 million, the report said.

EPA officials could not be reached Friday, but the agency’s position is stated in a fact sheet on the issue. The proposed limits on the nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorus – would improve water quality, protect public health, aquatic life and the long-term recreational uses of Florida’s waters, which are a critical part of the state’s economy, the agency said.

During the past two months, the EPA has held six public meetings across Florida on the proposed regulations.

Charles Shinn, assistant director of government and community affairs, Florida Farm Bureau Federation in Vero Beach, said Friday, “Any new regulations must be based on sound science that is peer reviewed. This is lacking with where the EPA is thus far.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, said Friday, “This report confirms what we have all feared. The economic ramifications of this proposed rule would be devastating to our state. … Now is not the time to punish Florida’s small businesses, workers and farmers with increased costs while they struggle to survive.”

U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Bartow, has organized a bipartisan request from 20 members of Florida’s Congressional delegation asking EPA to take more time and to involve a third-party scientific review .

Last month, EPA agreed to seek more public input and announced it would delay the implementation of some of the proposed rules until 2011. Comments on the proposed rules are due at the end of this month.

To read the report, go to www.flcitrusmutual.com/industry-issues/water/numericnutrient.aspx.

Click here to view this article online