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NFC: Fw: another great editorial on TMDL rule

Here's another great editorial in the St. Pete Times about our rule
challenge.  Please pass it on and let the Times know you appreciate their
support for our position on cleaning up Florida waters.

A Times Editorial

Loopholes for polluters
 St. Petersburg Times,
published September 15, 2001 

Florida has rewritten its clean-water plan in a way that benefits big
polluters. Not only will the degradation of lakes and rivers be harder to
stop, but the polluters will have it easier sidestepping responsibility
for the damage they've caused to public property. Florida needs to expand
the criteria for lakes and rivers to make the state's impaired-waters
The list is important, for it determines which waterways may be protected
by strict pollution discharge limits. It also acts as a compass for
guiding public money toward cleanup and conservation efforts. The state
Department of Environmental Protection says the new rules are designed to
help eliminate the number of "marginally" polluted lakes and rivers from
the state's list, thereby freeing the limited resources of government to
focus on the worst of the worst. Yet in reality the rules will accelerate
that slide, while easing the pressure on heavy industry to adopt better
practices and pollution-control equipment. 
Polluters will have a field day with the loopholes. Waterways won't make
the list if the pollution was caused, in part, by heavy rains; if
"reasonable assurance" exists that new pollution-control technology could
lessen the problem; or if the waterway was expected to improve in the
near future. Sewage spills would not be considered, nor would the dumping
of medical wastes. Companies could violate their discharge permits; plant
pipes could break -- neither would land a waterway on the state's
polluted list. 
In short, it's more difficult to make the list and less important if you
do. Between 200 and 300 waterways -- a third or more of the 1998 list --
could be dropped. 
The whole purpose of a polluted-waters list is to draw public attention
to the scope of the problem. No one expects every dirty waterway to be
included, or that every cleanup will be fully funded. But DEP's new rules
make the exercise moot. Ignoring pollution won't make it go away. The
rules build a fire wall for heavy polluters. DEP is helping utilities,
pulp and paper mills and other industries avoid blame. Those concessions
are inappropriate; the state's job is to regulate. They also give big
polluters an opening to litigate, which could delay for months or years
protection against dumping in some troubled waters. 
Environmentalists are challenging the rule in a proceeding before a state
administrative judge. DEP should not need a legal finding to realize the
rule is weak, vague and counter-productive. There's nothing wrong with
wanting to ensure that Florida's polluted waters list is backed up by
good science. But in this case, science is fronting a corporate handout. 

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