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Florida, Congress scrutinize EPA water quality guidelines

After challenging businesses across the country to submit some of their biggest regulatory gripes, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, received responses from companies large and small. Among them: Florida business and business lobby groups that are strongly opposed to new EPA water quality rules. #

In a press release, Issa called his project “an opportunity for private industry to put forward detailed and specific examples so that both the American people and policymakers can determine for themselves what actions can be taken to create jobs.” #

In total, 220 companies wrote (.pdf) to Issa, explaining regulatory impediments to financial success. Some, like Florida fishing captain Steve Papen, run small operations, while others, like the Agricultural Retailers Association, are heavy-hitters. #

In an interview with Roll Call, Papen said he was critical of the state’s strict fishing regulations, which have recently included banning certain species of grouper and snapper from area nets. In his comment to Issa, Papen called the regulations “outdated” and “out of control,” and said that he felt he was being “exploited on every level.” #

Also at the top of the list? One of the most oft-criticized regulatory agencies in the country: the EPA. #

Associated Industries of Florida, the Agricultural Retailers Association and the Florida Farm Bureau all complained about the EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria, which would place strict restrictions on effluent dumped in Florida waterways. In their complaints, Associated Industries and the Florida Farm Bureau said that the criteria were sure to “stymie job growth in Florida.” #

All three groups have blasted the criteria in the past, arguing that they are too costly and not based on sound science. In a January letter criticizing the rules, Associated Industries estimated costs of implementing the standards to be upwards of $3 billion. Their source? A study funded by several polluting agencies. #

Industry representatives aren’t the only ones lashing out at the standards. During a Thursday meeting of the state House Select Committee on Water Policy, several Florida representatives expressed their concerns with the standards. #

State Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Palatka, said federal standards were an impediment to cleaner Florida waterways, and directed comments to the environmental groups responsible for the lawsuit that forced the EPA to implement standards. #

In comments directed at Sierra Club lobbyist David Cullen, Van Zant said, “If things have gotten worse it is because your lawsuit has blocked us from implementing our standards.” #

In an article in the Florida Tribune, state Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, who chairs the committee, was quoted as saying that the standards would be next to impossible to implement. “There are some criteria that you just can’t meet,” she said. “Even in the Everglades that are beautiful and pristine, the criteria that they want is less than what is naturally occurring there.” #

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