Environmentalists warn that rules freeze will halt progress on water pollution
Gov. Rick Scott's decision Tuesday to freeze regulations put on hold hundreds of proposals, including a public hearing scheduled for this week over a rule to set a statewide rule for cleaning up mercury pollution in state water.
Mercury contamination in fish in Florida waters is a growing problem and the state Department of Environmental Regulation, following federal Clean Water Act rules, was in the process of trying to identify the most contaminated water bodies and come up with a plan to clean up and prevent further pollution.
That process will now be put on hold, said Eric Draper of the Audubon of Florida, after Scott's order freeze all regulations for 90 days and allow only those approved by his office to move forward.
"Gov. Scott is shutting down our environmental rules,'' Draper said. "We know that most of Florida's water bodies have contamination problems and we need rules to help clean them up. This stops the clean up in its tracks.''
Other regulations also on hold, he said, are proposals that would have streamlined the environmental permitting process for polluted water bodies by transferring the authority from the state to local governments. The proposals would have transferred the permitting process to Miami Dade County in one case and to Hillsborough County in another.
Before signing the orders, Scott justified the rule suspension in his inaugural speech.
“While there are some regulations that are essential for health and safety, and others that are essential to the protection of our priceless environment, it's past time to demand that every regulation be re-evaluated,” he said. “We will conduct a top to bottom review of all state regulations and weed out unnecessary ones that hinder job creation.”