Stopping the EPA’s Rubber-stamping of Florida Wetlands’ Destruction

The EPA greenlit Florida’s proposal to take over the permitting process when developers want to build on sensitive marshes, cypress forests, ponds, and other wetlands.

Case Overview

On behalf of our clients, Earthjustice filed suit to stop an attempt by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to allow Florida to fast-track wetlands permits for construction projects that will degrade and ruin Florida’s natural landscape, all in violation of federal environmental laws. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The agency approved Florida’s proposal to take over the federal program that issues permits when developers and others want to fill sensitive marshes, cypress forests, ponds and other wetlands — Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. In EPA’s rush to push this through, the agency skirted procedural requirements — failing even to make the state program legally effective.

The lawsuit points out that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of Florida’s application to assume jurisdiction over the Clean Water Act permitting program is unlawful because:

  • Florida fails to demonstrate adequate authority to carry out the wetlands permitting program
  • Florida fails to ensure protection of animals and plants under the Endangered Species Act
  • Florida fails to demonstrate it has sufficient funding and staffing to implement and enforce the program.

The state program does not have equivalent permit requirements, enforcement authority, access to courts, public notice, public participation opportunities, and other components that are integral parts of the federal program.

A purple gallinule carefully walks on lily pads in the Everglades in Florida.
A purple gallinule carefully walks on lily pads in the Everglades in Florida. (Diana Robinson / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Case Updates

February 23, 2024 In the News: Politico

Permitting ‘Chaos’: Florida DEP to seek stay of judge’s wetlands ruling

Tania Galloni, Managing Attorney, Florida Office: “The judge got it right. There’s a lot of reasons this program is illegal.”

February 22, 2024 In the News: Florida Phoenix

Court ruling stops Florida’s sloppy wetlands permitting, saves panthers

Tania Galloni, Managing Attorney, Florida Office: “’It’s hard’ is NOT a reason to not comply with federal law.”

Female panther at the Picayune Strand State Forest in Collier County.
February 20, 2024 Update

Florida’s Wetlands Win Protections in Court

The ruling halts two massive development projects that would have disturbed the last remaining habitat of the critically endangered Florida panther.