TALLAHASSEE — Florida sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday seeking to block new clean water regulations opposed by business and agriculture interests as well as some municipal utilities.
The federal lawsuit alleges the rules, which apply only to Florida, are unfair, arbitrary and lack scientific support. Florida is the first state where EPA has imposed such regulations, although 13 others have adopted similar rules of their own.
"They're picking on Florida," said Attorney General Bill McCollum. "I've heard nobody in EPA say 'We're going to go after Georgia next.' ... We're happy we're the focus of some attention, but this is a little bit more than we think we're justified to have — in fact, a whole lot more."
The regulations are required by EPA's settlement of an earlier federal lawsuit that five environmental groups filed in Tallahassee.
The agency was accused of failing to control pollution from such sources as fertilizer runoff from farms and lawns and effluent from sewage treatment plants.
The environmentalists say those nutrients cause algae blooms that are choking Florida waters to the detriment of tourism, property values, the environment and public health.
The new lawsuit by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services rehashes issues raised in court arguments against the EPA settlement, said David Guest, a lawyer for EarthJustice, a legal organizati0on representing the environmental groups.
"It's the same hooey," Guest said. "This is the same old stuff — refried, heated up."
McCollum announced the lawsuit at a news conference with Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson and their successors, Attorney General-elect Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner-elect Adam Putnam. All are Republicans.
The case was filed in the same Pensacola federal court where McCollum also is challenging President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.
All three federal judges sitting in Pensacola were appointed by Republican presidents. The settlement between the EPA and environmental groups was approved in Tallahassee by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, an appointee of Democratic former President Bill Clinton.
Opponents say it will cost billions to comply with the new standards, setting back Florida's economic recovery and raising utility rates. EPA officials say those estimates are wildly exaggerated. They put the cost at no more than $206 million a year.
Putnam said the regulations are unfair because rivers and streams flow into north Florida from neighboring states.