It should come as no surprise that applying for environmental permits costs businesses money they would not have otherwise spent. Yet the state Department of Environmental Protection has been polling businesses and local governments asking vague questions about the cost of applying for permits. The DEP is supposed to oversee the protection of the state's natural resources, not look for excuses like a rigged poll to reduce regulation.
As the Tampa Bay Times' Craig Pittman recently reported, the surveys were sent to businesses and local governments. Questions include, "What kinds of costs do you incur applying for your industrial wastewater permit?" and, "Would you be required to incur the costs … if not for the permit application and compliance requirements?" The agency says it wants to better understand the economic impact its regulations have on permit- and license-holders. The surveys are also about planning for the future, as the agency has to calculate the cost of proposed rule changes, officials said.
There is reason to be skeptical. The DEP's queries seem aimed at building a case to cut regulations for big business, manufacturers, power plants and municipalities. And there is no effort to balance cost complaints with the financial positives of protecting the wetlands and water supply. Before the DEP uses these skewed results as an excuse to make it easier to pave over Florida and drain its water supply, perhaps it should ask voters what they think about the importance of protecting what's left of the state's natural resources.