A federal judge ruled last week to allow Florida to set water quality standards for its waterways.

Several years ago, industry groups and state legislators criticized a 2009 agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency and environmental groups calling on EPA to set numeric criteria for nitrogen and phosphorus in the state's waterways. The Florida legislature last year passed a bill backing an agreement with EPA that called for the state, rather than the federal government, to set limits.

“For years, Florida has been making the case that it is best positioned to manage the health of its own bodies of water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had proposed numeric nutrient criteria that would have cost Florida businesses billions to implement, and in many cases had little measurable impact on the health of our waters,” said Adam Putman, Florida commissioner of agriculture, a written statement.

In September, the EPA approved all of the proposed standards submitted by Florida and asked the U.S. District Court to approve its plan to allow Florida's approved nutrient criteria to replace those proposed by EPA. The judge's decision this week ruled against those groups who may appeal the decision.

“A ruling approving the EPA request from U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle served as a solid endorsement of Florida's scientific approach to managing the health of its waters and opened the door for EPA to withdraw all of its final and pending rules,” Putman says.

“Basically this was a foregone conclusion that most everyone was expecting to see eventually," said Kerry Kates, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association director of water and natural resources. "Even though EPA did approve DEP’s rules in their entirety, this was the last major legal obstacle we had to contend with. But everything has been proceeding under the assumption that the consent decree would be modified and everything regarding NNC would be handled at the state level.”