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Florida Pushes Back Against Obama's Latest Rules on Water

May 28, 2015 - 4:45pm

The Obama administration is facing retaliation from Florida over its new “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule.

The White House and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claim the new rule will protect smaller bodies of water from pollution, including streams and tributaries, insisting these waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act.

But critics, including U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., insist the new regulations are nothing more than a power grab by the administration.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam certainly agreed with Rooney’s assessment on Wednesday afternoon. 

“Florida is a unique state, and the EPA’s one-size-fits-all, power grab to expand federal government’s authority robs Florida’s leaders of the ability to make the best decisions for our distinct water bodies,” Putnam said. “There is little clarity or relief for Florida in these regulations, and the expansion of federal jurisdiction stands to threaten the sound environmental programs we currently have in place today.”

The leadership of the Sunshine State’s business community also came out swinging at the new regulations. Former U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla., the president and CEO of the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), criticized the ruling on Wednesday, calling it a “dangerous precedent” that will harm Florida’s economy. 

“The EPA has set a dangerous precedent by moving forward with a plan that significantly expands the scope of federal oversight over water,” Feeney said. “If the rule is allowed to come to pass, it would have far-reaching, negative consequences for Florida businesses and fundamentally redefine what citizens can or cannot do on their own property. Once again, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is showing the heavy hand of Washington by offering a punitive, one-size-fits-no-one solution. Because of Florida’s flat terrain, coastline, and aquifer system, this rule will have a much greater impact on us than most other states, and the agencies' rule leaves no discretion for implementation by states, like Florida, that have unique geography.

“States like Florida have shown they can be a partner in properly managing our water bodies,” Feeney added. “As was done with the implementation of rules for numeric nutrient criteria, rules governing water can be applied appropriately. The EPA should have heeded the call of legislation being considered in Congress that would require federal regulators to more closely consult with impacted states.

“The administration’s final rule is substantially different from the draft rule,” Feeney continued. “So different, in fact, that another comment period was necessary for EPA to understand the impact of this foundational rule on those it will affect. Instead, EPA and the USACE have charged ahead, effectively finalizing a rule that no one could evaluate before today.

“Under WOTUS, the EPA is unilaterally taking the wrong approach,” Feeney said in conclusion. “WOTUS is bad for businesses, bad for property rights, and in a state with an ecosystem as diverse as Florida’s, it simply doesn’t make sense. As a coalition representing Florida’s business community, industry, agriculture, local governments, utilities, and developers, we strongly reject this plan and urge members of Florida’s congressional delegation to act against WOTUS before it is too late.”

In the meantime, there are efforts in Congress to push back against the rule and The Hillreported on Thursday that dozens of Democrats were breaking with the Obama White House on the matter.

Earlier this month, the U.S. House passed Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster's “Regulatory Integrity Protection Act” to limit the EPA’s regulation on waters on a 261-155 vote. U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Fla., broke with the Democrats to back the measure but otherwise party lines held in the Florida delegation. The bill is currently before the Senate.

Reach Kevin Derby at or follow him on Twitter: @KevinDerbySSN


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