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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida News

Florida Congressman Seeks Limits on Clean Water Regs

ORLANDO, FL - Sixth District Congressman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) held House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearings this week in Orlando on the economic impact of tough new federal environmental regulations intended to protect Florida's water resources. The commercial and industrial community calls them "restrictions" that would cut financial growth and cost jobs.

Cathy Harrelson, Florida coordinator of the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN), characterizes Stearns' hearing as a bit one-sided. She says one committee member, Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), would even like to prohibit public interest groups from suing states over water pollution standards.

"He also suggested we reduce Clean Water Act regulation - in fact, that we reduce the safe drinking water portion of the Clean Water Act regulations - which I also found astonishing."

Opponents of tougher clean water enforcement policies got a setback last week, when the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Ga., ruled that the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules to regulate clean water standards in Florida can go forward.

Harrelson, who attended the hearing uninvited, says Stearns was once a principal proponent of protecting Florida's water resources. Now, however, she says Stearns is dunking the public interest by making claims such as, "'This is very difficult for industries in Florida and for businesses in Florida, and it is going to result in some sort of increased bill for Floridians, and loss of jobs.'"

The new EPA rules came after GRN and other environmental activists exposed state regulators for ignoring nutrient and industrial wastes seeping into rivers and streams, smothering fish and covering some waterways with green slime. 

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