U.S. Representative Steve Southerland, II (R- Panama City) has welcomed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s approval of Florida’s numeric nutrient standards for water quality, while also expressing concern about the agency’s decision to issue new proposed federal rules.

“I have often said that Florida, not federal bureaucrats, should come first when setting water quality standards for our state,” Southerland said. “For this reason, I am pleased that the EPA has heeded the will of a bipartisan coalition of Florida policymakers, business and industry officials, and community leaders who urged the federal government to build upon the successes already achieved at the state level to strengthen the health of Florida’s waterways.

“That said, the EPA’s decision to issue new proposed federal rules reminds us of the need to remain vigilant of the impact that more Washington regulation would have on Florida agriculture, small businesses, and hardworking families,” he said, in a news release.

John Hoblick, president of the Florida Farm Bureau, said the bureau appreciates Southerland’s efforts “to achieve an approach to water quality that balances the need for substantive resource protection with positive support for Florida’s economy. By introducing legislation such as the State Waters Partnership Act, he has demonstrated his leadership in creating policies that help preserve clean water as well as economic stability for Florida’s farms, businesses and families. We thank Rep. Southerland for his hard work on this issue.”

Southerland’s State Waters Partnership Act - introduced early in the 112th Congress - urges the EPA to build on Florida’s environmental successes by adopting the state’s science-based Numeric Nutrient Criteria. The EPA’s original 2009 plan for nitrogen and phosphorous standards would have singled out the state of Florida, and Florida alone, for stricter water quality regulations that would have destroyed 14,500 Florida agriculture jobs and cost over $4 billion annually, according to a joint study by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the University of Florida.

In a news release, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said it was pleased with the decision by the EPA approving the state’s numeric nutrient criteria, and that the result will be cleaner water.

“EPA’s decision confirms the efforts of hard working scientists at DEP. EPA’s decision is also supported by Judge Canter who, after fully reviewing the science and criteria, upheld DEP’s rules entirely,” wrote the FDEP. “DEP and EPA are working diligently to complete the job statewide, returning the focus to restoration rather than litigation.”

The FDEP release went on to say that while EPA has approved the state’s criteria, it was disappointed about EPA’s decision to issue new proposed federal rules.

“We will work with them to craft solutions that will allow the state to assume all nutrient criteria rulemaking in Florida,” wrote the FDEP. “Florida knows its waters best and we remain committed on the path to a state-lead solution, which is the best answer for Florida.”