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Update on the EPA Numeric Nutrients Standards

Published: June 16th, 2011

By: Dennis G. Corrick

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This Dean Mead e-Alert provides news that is important to you about the EPA’s response to the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation’s petition for the withdrawal of the EPA numeric nutrient standards.

Attached to this e-Newsletter you will find a letter dated June 13, 2011, from the Acting Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), in response to a petition from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (“FDEP”) regarding the EPA numeric nutrients standards approved last year and set to be implemented in early 2012.

The numeric nutrient rules have been the subject of much controversy in Florida, including federal lawsuits by groups like the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, and the petition from FDEP to EPA which is referenced in the letter. In the letter, EPA recognizes that states have the “primary role” in establishing and enforcing water quality standards in their states. It acknowledges and recognizes that FDEP is involved in its own rulemaking process, and agrees to hold its response to the FDEP petition in abeyance until it has seen the results of that rulemaking. The letter is more conciliatory in tone than much of the EPA’s public discussion of the subject has been, and provides that EPA may be willing to extend implementation of its own standards if the FDEP rulemaking is satisfactory. But it is also clear that EPA is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward Florida’s rulemaking.

Given Governor Rick Scott’s suspension of rule making activity in Florida (Executive Order 11-01), it is unclear how rapidly FDEP will be able to move through its rule making process, even with EPA’s deadline looming.

The attorneys of Dean Mead will continue to monitor developments relating to the numeric nutrient standards. If you have questions, please contact Dennis G. Corrick of our Fort Pierce office at (772) 464-7700 or by email at dcorrick@deanmead.com.