Environmentalists: EPA and Florida DEP Struck “Back Room Deal”

By Stephanie Carroll Carson, Florida News Connection

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It took more than three years, but the federal EPA and Florida Department of Environmental Protection have agreed on limits for the pollutants that cause toxic algae outbreaks. But some environmentalists say the deal is inadequate, filled with loopholes, and it will do little to stop the green slime outbreaks that have fouled beaches and harmed wildlife.

According to Earthjustice attorney David Guest, there should have been more public input in developing the plan.

“Back-room deals like this are the very worst thing that you can get in trying to protect the health of Floridians,” the lawyer declared.

The EPA began working to set pollution limits for Florida in 2009 after a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of several environmental groups.

Before the plan is enacted, it must be reviewed in federal court to be sure it complies with the Clean Water Act. The DEP’s Secretary has been quoted as saying the new limits are “adequate to protect water quality.”

With increasing algae outbreaks and with dead manatees washing up on southwest Florida beaches, Guest asserted, there is no time to lose.

“This comes at a time when the DEP is seeking to assume more responsibilities for implementing the Clean Water Act. At the same time, they are firing the most experienced scientists and administrators in the whole agency,” he charged further.

According to published reports, 25 employees were fired in the Tampa office alone, and another 14 positions were eliminated.