Statement from DEP Regarding Ruling By United States District Judge Robert L. Hinkle on Numeric Nutrient Criteria

“We are thrilled by today’s ruling by United States District Judge Robert L. Hinkle granting U.S. EPA’s motion to modify the consent decree to discontinue federal rulemaking and allow the Department to implement the most comprehensive numeric nutrient criteria in the nation.

“The Department can finally implement these additional standards for our treasured waterways, especially our unique set of springs, spring runs, lakes and estuaries. This is the necessary catalyst to move beyond litigation and end needless delays that prevented us from applying these additional protections.

“The Department would like to acknowledge our dedicated scientists, and thank EPA for working diligently to position Florida as the only state in nation with comprehensive criteria set for all rivers, streams, lakes, springs, estuaries, and coastal waters.

“Not only are the state’s rules the most comprehensive standards in the nation, no other state has even come close to adopting complete nutrient standards that cover all lakes, rivers, streams, springs and estuaries, providing 99 percent coverage of all state waterways.

“This marks a significant step forward in protecting and restoring water quality across Florida.”

Judge Robert L. Hinkle’s Order.

Background:

In March 2013, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reached an agreement to continue to protect Florida’s waterways from nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. Fulfillment of the agreement, coupled with the previous state and federal actions summarized below, will result in Florida having numeric nutrient standards for more than 99 percent of its lakes, streams springs, estuaries and coastal waters.

In June 2013, the ERC approved numeric nutrient criteria for the final 18 estuaries along the Springs Coast, along with 448 miles of open coastal waters. This capped a series on comprehensive rulemaking efforts that prevously adopted numeric nutrient criteria for the state’s lakes, rivers, streams and springs, and the estuaries from Clearwater Harbor to Biscayne Bay, including the Florida Keys. EPA approved all these numeric nutrient criteria, which was also supplemented by the Department’s August 2013 report to the Governor and Florida Legislature.

Florida taxpayers have invested millions of dollars to create the nation’s most comprehensive rules controlling nutrients. These rules account for the diversity and complexity of Florida’s waters and afford local communities and private interests the tools essential to protecting rivers, lakes, estuaries, and springs for the future and restoring those waterbodies that do not currently meet standards.

For more information, visit http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wqssp/nutrients.

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