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Florida agriculture department testifies against EPA water pollution rules

This morning’s hearing on Florida water pollution rules, sponsored by the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, was much of the same. Agriculture and industry groups remain vehemently opposed to the EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria, a set of rules to govern nutrient overload in state waterways. #

The hearing was dominated by industry names, while almost no environmental interests testified. In his testimony, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Rich Budell again argued that the criteria will be extremely costly for the state, and could negatively affect job creation. #

“DACS, working in cooperation with the University of Florida Food and Resource Economics Department, estimated the implementation costs just for agricultural land uses at between $900 million and $1.6 billion annually,” said Budell. “This could result in the loss of over 14,000 jobs for the state of Florida.” #

Other organizations have estimated the costs of implementation to be even higher. The EPA, the federal agency that created the criteria, has estimated the costs of implementation to be around $236 million annually. Other studies, which have been commissioned by large coalition of Florida industry and utility groups, have touted estimates of up to $8.4 billion annually. #

“From an agricultural perspective, I can tell you without question that virtually no sector of Florida agriculture can comply with the final EPA nutrient criteria without the implementation of costly edge-of-farm water detention and treatment,” said Budell. “Construction of these facilities takes land out of production and requires ongoing operation and maintenance. Few growers can afford to implement this kind of practice.” #

Environmentalists (and citizens) who support the criteria argue that overblown cost estimates touted by critics are merely scare tactics. An earlier investigation of Florida Department of Environmental Protection emails revealed that those estimates were initially disputed by the state (though department representatives now tout estimates also in the billions.) #

Read Budell’s full written testimony here (.pdf). #

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