Court Backs Need for Science in Federal Water Rules
Washington--The American Farm Bureau Federation scored a victory for sound science in federal environmental regulations. A U.S. District Court in Tallahassee, Fla., ruled that Environmental Protection Agency-imposed nutrient criteria for Florida streams and unimpaired lakes are unlawful because they are arbitrary and have no scientific basis.
The ruling resolves several challenges to federal numeric nutrient criteria imposed by EPA on Florida waterways. The court upheld EPA’s ability to issue federal standards under the particular facts at issue in Florida and upheld some of the particular EPA standards. However, the court agreed with arguments raised by AFBF and its co-plaintiffs that two key types of restrictions were unlawful. This aspect of the ruling underscores that sound science must support such costly, federally imposed actions, according to AFBF.
One of the key concerns of the court, and a central theme asserted by the AFBF group, was that EPA could not show that the streams criteria were needed to prevent harm to the environment, as required by Florida law.
“EPA attempted to impose standards that would prohibit any increase above naturally occurring nutrient levels in pristine waters,” explained Ellen Steen, AFBF general counsel. “The court recognized that EPA was arbitrary in assuming that any increase above pristine nutrient levels is harmful.”
EPA has until May 21 to revise the numeric nutrient criteria. AFBF is working with Florida and other industry groups in urging EPA to approve an alternative set of numeric nutrient criteria recently developed by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.