Judge Robert L. Hinkle on Saturday, February 18, 2012 upheld the 2009 determination that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had jurisdiction to mandate clean water regulations on the state of Florida’s major water bodies. In 1998, EPA mandated Florida to develop new rules to develop nutrient criteria on limiting phosphorus and nitrogen in waterways, which was mandated to prevent algal blooms and fish kills. Naturally, Florida did not comply with the EPA deadline, causing for Environmentalist to file suit in 2004. This was resolved in 2009, when Florida was mandated to follow EPA regulations, and develop cleaner water regulation. This being said, the standards developed were not more stringent than the Clean Water Act, causing for Florida to similarly file suit, as Florida claimed their standards were effective enough. Therefore, back to the present, Florida has lost the filed suit against the claims that the majority of these provisions mandated were unnecessary and costly, with Judge Hinkle stating EPA’s numeric nutrient standards are necessary for Florida’s waters, but also invalidated certain standards the water quality criteria from EPA. Hinkle concluded that lake and spring data was sound based on the various environment models utilized. This being said, the EPA was unable to develop acceptable stream criteria based on modeling and field studies, and thus adopted stream criteria using a different approach. Hinkle not only marked the data and models as questionable, since increases in nutrient levels above EPA dictations only resulted in increases in flora and fauna, but also stated that based on lack of citation, the rulings are unwarranted and too severe.
Both sides have expressed victories here, but it seems the major victory has gone to the states. With EPA’s cost-benefit analysis not expressing job loss as a cost, and adding in co-benefits to benefits (i.e. lack of pollution leading to epidemiologic factors leading to less sick days and therefore less private business cost and less public cost in medical expenses). This is a huge win for the states – if states are allowed to challenge EPA legislation when sound evidence does not exist for a case – what would this mean for the Mercury MACT rule? What will this mean for regulation simply stating numbers? Will EPA now have to cite their articles properly? Will Executive over-reach to the states now cease? Only time will tell.