Earthjustice Files Appeal for Clean Water in Florida

Citizens deserve protection. Instead, Florida protects polluters


David Guest, Earthjustice, (850) 681-0031

Earthjustice filed an appeal in federal court today challenging the notion that Florida’s polluter-friendly regulations on sewage, manure and fertilizer pollution meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act.

“The Clean Water Act is supposed to mean clean water,” said Earthjustice attorney David Guest. “That’s not happening here in Florida, and that’s why we’re going to court. The evidence is all around us—dead manatees, dead dolphins, polluted drinking water, and green slime breaking out on our springs, rivers, lakes and bays.”

“The polluters think Florida’s pollution regulations are just great. That should make us all very suspicious. It’s like dictator applauding his new civil rights law.”

Today’s appeal was filed in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. John’s Riverkeeper, and the Sierra Club.

The appeal focuses on a binding legal agreement called a “consent decree” forged in 2009 between Earthjustice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Earthjustice sued EPA in 2008 to compel the agency to enforce Clean Water Act protections for Florida, because the state’s waters were breaking out in toxic green slime that sickens people, kills wildlife, and fouls drinking water. Instead of enforcing limits on pollution, the state‘s leaders, instead, spent decades bowing to the wishes of large polluters, especially Big Agriculture.

The EPA settled the suit by agreeing to enforce the Clean Water Act in Florida—specifically to set numeric limits on the amount of sewage, manure, and fertilizer allowed in public waters.

But five years later, the EPA has caved to polluter pressure—the agency now alleges that polluter-friendly rules adopted by Florida meet the terms of the 2009 legal agreement. Today’s appeal challenges that notion, and points out, specifically, that Florida’s rules don’t protect streams and canals.

“The EPA made a binding legal agreement five years ago to enforce the Clean Water Act in Florida,” Guest said. “Instead, now it is leaving the job up to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is doing the bidding of the big polluters and selling out the public.”

“We shouldn’t have to endure these nauseating algae outbreaks and fish kills,” Guest said. “This pollution is against the law.”

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