Senators complain about fertilizer bill, but pass it
State lawmakers are fighting federal officials on water quality standards, claiming Florida is best-suited to manage its waters. And yet, those same lawmakers are backing legislation that cities and counties say would take away their right to regulate fertzilier use to protect their local waterways.
At issue: A bill sponsored by Sen. Greg Evers and and Rep. Clay Ingram that would allow local fertilizer use ordinances to go no further than an ordinance recommended by the state. If approved, the bill would veto laws already approved by cities and counties, including a summertime sales ban of nitrogen-based fertilizer passed by Pinellas County commissioners and the St. Petersburg City Council. Supporters of the ban say inappropriate use of such fertilizers during the rainy season contributes to water pollution.
The bill to prohibit local fertilizer regulations has already passed one House committee. On Monday, it passed its first Senate committee, even though panel members scolded Evers after numerous speakers said they opposed the bill.
"This is a local control issue," said Steven James, with the Florida Association of Counties. "Let those closest to the issue decide what needs to be done."
James, as well as representative for Florida cities and the Florida Stormwater Association, said fertilizer regulations are one method local governments have to prevent pollution, which is cheaper than cleaning it up.
Kurt Sptizer, of the Florida Stormwater Association, pointed out the hypocrisy of fighting the EPA on water quality standards while tying the hands of local governments seeking to protect their water. Others said the state ordinance was meant to outline minimum standards, not impose a one-size-fits-all rule for cities and counties with different water issues.
"This will transform a weak model ordinance designed as a floor and make it a ceiling," said David Cullen, of the Sierra Club. "It almost guarantees there will be more impairment of water bodies in the state of Florida."
Evers, though, said the ordinance is necessary to help businesses suffering because of the patchwork of fertilizer regulations throughout the state.
Senators on the agriculture committee expressed surprise there was opposition to it, telling Evers they thought he had worked out his differences with cities and counties. Panel member Rene Garcia said Monday's meeting was the first time he heard anyone opposed the bill. Committee Chairman Gary Siplin told Evers he hoped the senator would work with the opponents on a compromise.
And then the bill passed by a unanimous vote.