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Florida Fights EPA on Clean Water Rules

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An algae bloom on Christopher Creek exemplifies Florida's water quality issues, even as the state's attorney general is choosing to fight the EPA over clean water rules. Credit: Earthjustice.
An algae bloom on Christopher Creek exemplifies Florida's water quality issues, even as the state's attorney general is choosing to fight the EPA over clean water rules. Credit: Earthjustice.
 By Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - FL - Producer, Contact
July 8, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida's State Attorney General Pam Bondi is getting the state involved in clean water lawsuits lately and conservation groups contend she's on the wrong side of the issues.

On Tuesday, a federal judge rejected a case by the American Farm Bureau Federation, that Bondi joined as a friend of the court, that would have stopped restoration of Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.

David Guest, managing attorney with the environmental law firm Earthjustice, calls Bondi's involvement "hypocritical."

"It's a tragedy that Florida, with problems that are really worse than the Chesapeake Bay, and our Attorney General is joining with the factory farm corporations to try to get off the hook and prevent this problem from being solved," says Guest.

Last week Bondi, joined six other states in suing the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA over whether smaller tributaries are covered under the "Waters of the United States" rule, which governs implementation of the Clean Water Act.

Bondi claims it's a state's rights issue, saying, "Florida is better suited than the federal government to establish the regulatory rules necessary to protect our unique waterways."

Kathy Aterno, Florida director of the nonprofit group Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund, says the state of Florida is doing a terrible job protecting its waters, so she's OK with the EPA taking the lead.

"They could have a stronger standard on fertilizer use, for instance, on residential communities and even for agriculture," says Aterno. "So there's lots of things they can do to protect our waters that Florida is not currently doing."

She says the issue is particularly relevant in Florida, which is second only to Alaska in numbers of acres of wetlands.

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