Dear Friends of Florida’s Waters:

I hope this finds everyone settled into the new year and looking forward to working together for better protection of Florida’s waters. We know many challenges lie ahead and that means that we have new opportunities as well.  The people of Florida re-elected Rick Scott as governor for 4 more years and the Republicans continue to control both houses of the Florida Legislature.  Scott says that one of his top priorities is deregulation, which he believes will create a better job market in Florida. My imagination is stretched to the limit to envision fewer regulations in our state.  Not just environmental ones, but also energy policy and laws, insurance, labor, etc.  We have to educate our friends and neighbors about these changes as they happen.  The best way to stop the race to the bottom which Scott is hell-bent on winning, is to inform the electorate about what is going on around us. So if you don’t have a list of people that you want to help keep informed this year, then this is a good time to develop that list.  Feel free to send them anything that you get from Florida Clean Water Network.  If you are on Facebook please check our page there daily as we post helpful newspaper articles there everyday with short comments.  Often these go on our website as well.  And of course these e-newsletters can be forwarded also.

I’m sure you have all seen the news – very good news from Washington – that Obama WILL veto the Keystone pipeline if it is approved by Congress.  Yeah!

Here’s what you will read below:

1.  New Springs Council forms
2.  Legislation 2015:  fracking, septic tank study, funding for cleaner water in Lee County,
3.  Pollution credit trading –
4.  TMDLs and BMAPs – what the heck?
5.  NPDES permits – Pensacola Beach WWTP –
6.  Septic Tank Report – update


1.  New Springs Council forms – there’s good news for Florida’s springs to announce.  Recently several individual springs protection groups and Save the Manatee Club announced the formation of the Florida Springs Council in order to create a stronger, more effective effort to protect Florida’s springs.  The Council will use public education, legislation and legal options to strengthen protection of Florida’s beautiful springs, many of which are being decimated by over pumping of groundwater and extreme levels of nutrient pollution.  At the top of the agenda for the new Council will be to resurrect springs protection legislation that was introduced in the 2014 legislature, but quickly got watered down and eventually did not pass.  Florida Clean Water Network will attend an upcoming meeting and we look forward to working with this new group to help in any way possible with protecting and restoring Florida’s springs.

2.  Legislation 2015:  fracking, septic tank study, funding for cleaner water in Lee County,
FRACKING – HB169  has been filed in the house to prohibit well stimulation – another term for fracking for the production of oil and/or natural gas.  Apparently there is a Senate bill as well.  Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, and Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, have filed legislation to ban fracking in the state to protect the water supply, environment and robust tourism economy. More to come on these important bills.

SEPTIC TANK STUDY – The Florida Department of Health is expecting/hoping that the final year of nitrogen-removal from septic tanks studies will receive funding from the Legislature this year.  Final funding has been requested again this year.  It appears to me after reading the history on this study, that the completion of this study is being used by the legislature and possibly the Governor’s office to stall any action that could be taken on the statewide problem of septic tank pollution.  You will read more about this in our soon-to-be released septic tank report.

FUNDING FOR CLEANER WATER IN LEE COUNTY – Spearheaded by the mayor Kevin Ruane of the City of Sanibel, a coalition of local governments in Lee county, environmental groups (including Florida Clean Water Network) and politicians are asking the legislature in 2015 to help fund a plan for cleaner water in Lee County.  The plan is detailed in a 24 page report on what steps could be taken to begin dealing with the polluted water from Lake O that is regularly released down the Caloosahatchee River, causing massive problems for the river and estuary.  We added our FL-CWN name in support of this plan and will be asking our members to support the funding request.

3.  Pollution credit trading – DEP is holding a new round of public workshops on a statewide rule for pollution credit trading.  The meetings will be held:

Wednesday, January 14, 2015, 9:00 a.m.
PLACE: Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Central District Office, 3319 Maguire Boulevard, Suite 232, Conference Rooms A/B/C, Orlando, Florida

DATE AND TIME: Thursday, January 15, 2015, 9:00 a.m.
PLACE: Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Bob Martinez Center, Conference Room 609, 2600 Blair Stone Road, Tallahassee, Florida

I have written some draft comments on the proposed rule (shell game) and will circulate a comment letter after these meetings.  If anyone is interested in seeing my thoughts on the rule just let me know and I will send them to you.

4.  TMDLs and BMAPs – what the heck?  Speaking of pollution and shell games.  The Florida DEP has become the national expert in making sure that big polluters are never held accountable for their pollution and that the Clean Water Act is never implemented or enforced in Florida.  If you live in Florida, then you live near a polluted water body of some kind, whether it is a spring, lake, river, sound, estuary or coastal waters.  Many of you have been actively involved in trying to work within DEP’s scheme designed to circumvent section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act which basically says these polluted waters must be identified and then cleaned up.

Over the past 16 years or so in Florida a series of steps have unfolded through the regulatory process, driven by large polluters such as pulp and paper, phosphate, agriculture, electric power companies, etc. to assure that citizens have no voice in decisions about their waters and that these big polluters are never required to reduce or stop their pollution. They demand assurance that they will never be held accountable for the damage they have done and continue to cause.  Here is a short synopsis of what these steps are and how they have created a trap for any possible enforcement of section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act:

1 – First there is clearly a pattern across the state of doing as few TMDLs as possible by keeping polluted waters off of the 303(d) list;
2 – then for the waters that do make the list, DEP adopts TMDLs that are based on biased or faulty data;
3 – then eventually (usually late) DEP will develop a BMAP that is hideously inadequate to result in any improvements and usually require very little action by pollution sources;
4 – then by changing water quality criteria for numerous parameters such as nutrients, dissolved oxygen, and others they can go back and revise the TMDLs  to either weaken the previous TMDL or eliminate them all together.
5 – Now they are developing the “pollution credit trading” rule which uses much of the voodoo from items 1 – 4 as a basis and then makes it possible for polluters to make money on their pollution.

In short – don’t step in DEP’s/polluters trap.  Working within this system is largely a waste of time.  We need to expose it for what it is and find other ways to deal with pollution.  Most likely, working with your local governments is the best way.  Lee County is a good example of citizens and local governments working together to overcome pollution that is being aided and abetted by our government.  Educate your friends and neighbors and work locally.  Eventually better people will get elected into office and sanity will be restored.  Right now the inmates have taken over the asylum and they are going crazy.  With the re-election of Rick Scott, the polluters are foaming at the mouth over his talk of more deregulation.  There will be no limit on what they will try to do.  I’m not trying to depress anyone – just be ready for what may come and be thinking of a way to keep pushing your goals forward.  We will eventually prevail.

5.  NPDES permits – Pensacola Beach WWTP – In mid-December Florida Clean Water Network and several other groups and individuals submitted comments on a proposed permit for the Pensacola Beach WWTP to continue discharging up to 2 million gallons per day of treated sewage into Santa Rosa Sound.  Our comments are available to anyone who would like to see them.  We have requested a public meeting and that was granted but no date has been set.  We are requesting that a timeline for getting the discharge out of the Sound be written into the proposed 5 year permit.  The current discharge has already created a dead zone around the discharge pipe and will continue to cause further degradation of these Outstanding Florida Waters if the discharge is not removed.

6.  Septic Tank Report – update – just as we were almost ready to release our long-awaited report in mid-December we received some additional information and data that had been previously unavailable.  That information is now being added and we expect to release our report very soon.  Be patient – it will be here soon!!!

I know this is a bit long and I apologize for that.  My New Year’s Resolution is to write these updates more frequently and to keep them shorter.  Thank you for everything you are doing to help protect Florida’s waters and let’s make 2015 a great year for our work.

For all of Florida’s waters,
Linda Young
Executive Director
Florida Clean Water Network
P.O. Box 5124
Navarre, FL  32566

About the Author

Linda Young has been the executive director of the Clean Water Network of Florida since 1994. From 1989 to 1997, she founded and published a monthly statewide environmental newspaper. Over the past twenty three years, she has co-founded some of the most long-lasting and effective environmental organizations in the Southeast, including the Gulf Restoration Network, Gulf Coast Environmental Defense and C.A.T.E. She holds a B.A. in Communications from Southern Oregon University and a M.A. in Political Science/Campaign Management from the University of West Florida.

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