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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio plans to fight EPA water regulations for Florida



Sen. Marco Rubio is planning to try to insert a measure in the forthcoming budget resolution that would bar the EPA from implementing water pollution rules that business groups in Florida oppose.

The move, certain to draw criticism from environmentalists, mirrors an effort by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta. The rules are the product of contentious legal battle in Florida in which the EPA agreed to set new limits on how much nutrient pollution is allowed into waterways. Critics say the regulations will be too costly. Even Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has worked to get the EPA to hold off.

When Rooney attached his amendment to the House budget deal (which was pared back to a two-week stop-gap for now) Rubio expressed support and indicated he would try the same. Now people close to him confirm he is looking at doing so.

“At a time when our state is facing double-digit unemployment and our families are struggling with the effects of a prolonged recession, the last thing we need is another Washington mandate that will cost billions, destroy jobs and increase daily costs," said Rubio, who raised the issue as a candidate last year.

According to David Guest of Earthjustice, the law firm that successfully pursued the lawsuit against the EPA, congressional action cannot undo the new pollution rules.

Since the rules are already in place "that means people have to comply with it," he said. To argue otherwise "is like saying the Clean Water Act doesn't apply south of the Georgia line."

Instead, he said, by cutting the funding for the program Congress would be preventing the EPA from handing out exceptions to the rules. The agency is currently processing those requests for exceptions, known as "site-specifice alternative criteria," he said.

Since those exceptions would benefit the industries now pushing Congress to cut off EPA's funding, Guest said, "I don't understand the strategy."

Guest blamed widespread misinformation about the rules. "They think if everybody screams the earth is flat, then the earth is flat," he said.

-- Alex Leary and Craig Pittman, Times staff writers

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 6:38pm]


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