Environmental Groups Appeal Federal Court Order Allowing the State of Florida to Adopt Nutrient Standards For Its Waters
In a long-running controversy over nutrient standards for Florida waterways, five environmental groups filed a notice of appeal yesterday in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit challenging the order of U.S. district court Judge Hinkle. Specifically, the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, and St. Johns Riverkeeper are appealing the district court’s January 7, 2014, order, which allowed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to modify a 2013 consent decree so that the State of Florida can set the nutrient criteria for all its waters. Without the modification, the consent decree requires EPA to adopt numeric nutrient standards for Florida’s waters unless the State does so first. Florida has established new nutrient limits but the standards are not numeric for all waterways.
Whether the appeal will preclude Florida from proceeding with its rules is in dispute. A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection was quoted as indicating that the rulemaking process would be delayed, whereas the counsel for the appellants expressed a contrary position, according to local reports. There is no dispute, however, that the legal battle over nutrient water standards in Florida is far from over.