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David Guest's blog

Many years ago, a friend of mine was just starting out in the environmental movement, and the late Florida environmental activist Marjory Stoneman Douglas (she authored the classic Everglades: River of Grass) offered some advice.

If you're going to do this kind of work, prepare to have your heart broken, because even when you win, you're never done.

Our long fight to get clear standards to control pollution from fertilizer, animal waste, and sewage hit a major milestone this week (Nov. 15), when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced new, enforceable limits in Florida—the first ever in the U.S.

EPA scientists worked in conjunction with scientists at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to set these important limits on excess nutrients—phosphorus and nitrogen—which are wrecking waters in Florida and all over the U.S.

The EPA committed to set these new limits after Earthjustice, representing Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, and St. Johns Riverkeeper, sued in 2008.

It turns out that these former secretaries are at drastically at odds with public opinion. The EPA reports that it has received 22,000 public comments on the proposed new nutrient pollution standards, and 20,000 of those comments were in support of the standards.

Earthjustice won a key victory at summer's end in our long-running fight to restore the Florida Everglades. A court-appointed Special Master recommended that the state be allowed to abandon a $700 million reservoir project in the southern Everglades Agricultural Area.

Florida's St. John's River is fouled this summer with green slime, and dead fish are washing up on its shores. Every time it rains, nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen poison this river and others all over Florida. The poison comes from sewage, animal manure and fertilizer.

It is a crisis big enough that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed in November 2009 to set the first-ever legal limits for nutrient poisoning.

<Update: The EPA has revealed the chemical ingredients list of what's in the dispersant being put on oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico. Earthjustice sought the information through the Freedom of Information Act.>

Here in Florida, the oil spill calamity in the Gulf of Mexico is poised to undo years and years of our hard work to keep Florida's waters clean. That is a sobering and devastating fact.

Since a recent judicial order in Florida's efforts to restore the Everglades hit the news, many people are asking: What does it mean?

The short answer is that it creates both risks and opportunities.

The twists and turns of this case are pretty complex, so let me explain what Federal Judge Mareno's order does. The judge granted a motion to force the South Florida Water Management District to spend $700 million to build a reservoir in the southern Everglades Agricultural Area.

February 13 was an amazing day in Florida. Wearing black to symbolize an oil spill, thousands of people took to the state's beaches in a massive "Hands Across the Sand" statewide protest opposing offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

We formed human chains to protect the state's famous white-sand beaches, and sent a message to our state Legislature that Floridians don't support oil drilling—especially in a state with an economy that runs on tourist business.

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.