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Sen. Nelson holds important position in EPA water vote

An upcoming Senate vote could be crucial to the implementation of the EPA’s Florida water quality rules, and much of the pressure rests on the shoulders of Sen. Bill Nelson. #

The Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution included a one-sentence amendment that would stop the EPA from implementing its freshwater numeric nutrient criteria. The rider was sponsored by Congressman Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, and was one of a handful of political and legal measures being taken to ensure that the nutrient criteria never get off the ground. #

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the budget bill 237-189 early Saturday. Only 17 Republicans voted against the rider, and 16 Democrats voted for it, three of whom are familiar faces to Florida: Alcee Hastings, Corrine Brown and Ted Deutch. In an email sent to The Florida Times-Union, Brown said that she didn’t feel that the EPA “took into account all the work that Florida’s utilities and businesses have done in reining in pollutants and other contaminants in our waters.” #

The Senate is expected to vote on its own budget bill within the next week, and much of the pressure to do away with Rooney’s amendment rests with Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. Though he has touted his allegiance to the environment (specifically, the St. Johns River) for years, Nelson endorsed a similar rider last fall that died in committee. And on Sept. 16, 2010, only one month after expressing concern over a mysterious foam in the St. Johns River (likely a result of excessive nutrients), Nelson penned a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urging a delay in finalizing the criteria. #

Now, the Sierra Club is pleading with supporters to call the Nelson’s office to ask him to oppose the rider. The environmental organization also encourages supporters to send thank you messages to Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Cliff Stearns, Kathy Castor and Frederica Wilson, who all voted against the rider. #

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