After fighting the federal Environmental Protection Agency — and winning — over its ability to set water quality standards for state waterways, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection would have to establish those criteria by the end of 2014, under the terms of a bill quickly making its way through a state House of Representatives committee. The bill, approved Wednesday by the House State Affairs Committee, follows Friday’s deal between the DEP and EPA over the maximum levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in Florida’s coastal streams, estuaries, rivers and intercoastal waterways.
The DEP will begin holding workshops next month with a goal of having new levels set by September, according to a report by the News Service of Florida. A lawsuit by the Environmental Group EarthJustice challenging the EPA-DEP deal could upend either timeline for new pollutant levels. A prior settlement of a lawsuit against the EPA over Florida’s failure to establish minimum pollutant levels led the EPA to demand Florida set so-called “numeric criteria.” Elected officials at the state and federal levels railed against that decision and convinced the EPA to let Florida have another chance to get it right.
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