What is in this article?:
- New water/nutrient regs: an added challenge for growers
- Win, win situation
• Florida is recognized as a national leader in implementing a sophisticated suite of water quality and technology-based nutrient management programs to protect its water bodies.
• We think agriculture is typically one contributor of nutrients to any water body. And agriculture should be involved in these discussions and, depending on how large the source is, probably should be a significant part of the discussions.
Win, win situation
“It’s really a win/win in my opinion because people buy the products and benefit due to using them more efficiently. They’re getting more for their buck, so to speak. And the environment wins because less is lost from the edge of the field.”
Why Florida’s situation is important…
“There are a couple of reasons Florida may be precedent-setting. There are several aspects of the federal law that are precedents. First is the use of this particular approach in regard to streams.
“Another piece of it was partially vacated (by the court) — the concept known as ‘downstream protective value (DPV).’
“DPV allows the EPA to set a number — what they call a ‘pour point’ — which is where a stream enters a lake. Then, they back that regulatory DPV regardless of what the watershed’s contribution is to the non-attainment of the lake.
“To be clear, the judge said it isn’t valid to subject DPV for a lake already in attainment. But if a lake is in non-attainment, the judge allowed it to proceed.
“In regard to the DPV allowed to stand, you could have many factors. Imagine a lake with a bunch of vacation homes around it, all on septic. So, a major source of nutrients in the lake happens to be leaking septic from those homes.
“Streams flowing into the lake could actually be improving the lake’s water quality. Yet, EPA has this regulatory overreach straight up the watershed. That’s a concern on the federal precedent level and someone might go after that on appeal.”
Florida’s new rules on nutrients…
“What’s interesting is that the regulatory standards look very similar between the Florida rule and federal rule.
“I think the primary difference — and this was looked at in a report by the National Academies of Science — is the Florida rule is preferable because it has a biological confirmation step. It doesn’t just assume a water body is impaired because its numbers exceed the numeric criteria.
“It requires confirmation and TFI thinks that’s appropriate. Nutrients are naturally occurring and they vary naturally. There can be situations where you’re above thresholds and yet not putting a water body at risk of a critical imbalance.
“You don’t want a system that will, statistically, put multiple water bodies out of compliance simply by chance when, in fact, many of them are actually healthy.”
Where does this go from here?
“It’s our sincere hope that the EPA takes up the Florida state rule and accepts it in its entirety. The subsequent rule-making that the Florida DEP is working on would complete the picture. We think that’s a critical next step.
“The EPA will always have back-stopping authority. But the right next step is for Administrator (Lisa) Jackson to give this back to Florida. They’ve worked very hard for it and deserve that.”
What are chances of that happening?
“I think they’re good. It’s an election year and the (Obama) administration understands there’s a perception out there, whether they agree or not, that their environmental agenda is impending the economic recovery.
“A lot of people want to put good, solid jobs back in the United States because of where we are with the energy situation. But they’re afraid because of the regulatory agenda and what that might mean from a cost perspective. It’s so uncertain, right now, between air and water regulations.”