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

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

What’s at Stake

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.

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.

Case Updates

January 15, 2021 | In the News: Sun Sentinel

Environmentalists challenge EPA change that allows Florida to control wetlands development

Tania Galloni, Managing Attorney, Florida Office, Earthjustice: “EPA is lowering the bar to allow a state, for the first time, to run the federal wetlands program without meeting federal standards. Developers have called this the ‘holy grail’ because it would make it easier, faster and cheaper for them to get permits for big projects with less oversight and accountability for environmental impacts.”