Proposed Florida Environmental Regulation May Place Your Business at the Center of the Next Media Crisis

By: Christopher Emmanuel

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David Childs, environmental law expert, testifies on behalf of the Florida Chamber and Florida’s business community against the proposed Florida Department of Environmental Protection rule.

 

Before a recently proposed emergency rule, environmental compliance in Florida was straightforward: most of the time, the reporting company notified the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) of any significant pollution event, who in turn provided technical guidance and notified the public when necessary.  Definitions were understood, good businesses followed clear rules, and Florida’s environment was protected and the public informed through sound science.  That system is in jeopardy.

On September 26, 2016, Governor Scott issued an Emergency Rule that established new requirements for the public notification of pollution.   Under the emergency rule, the company that has a pollution incident must not only notify the Florida DEP, but also notify local elected officials, property owners and even broadcast media as well as provide technical guidance to the general public.

As soon as the rule was public, the Florida Chamber of Commerce led a coalition effort to raise concerns on potential regulatory uncertainty, vague reporting thresholds, and the burdensome media reporting requirement with Florida DEP leadership.  Despite improvements to reporting threshold requirements in the proposed rule, DEP now seeks to codify a modified version of this rule, which will force many businesses to directly contact the media within 24 hours of a potential incident and before all the facts are in.

The Florida Chamber believes that the core function of the Florida DEP is to use its expertise and judgment to provide appropriate notice and recommendations to the public. This rule appears to shift that burden and cost to small businesses.  This morning, environmental law expert David Childs testified on behalf of the Florida Chamber of Commerce at the final rule workshop, giving voice to the concerns of Florida’s business community.  Public comment on the proposed rule will close at 5pm this Wednesday.  We need your input to understand how this rule will affect your business, and push DEP to reconsider this burdensome regulation.

If your company will be affected or could be affected, please email Christopher Emmanuel at cemmanuel@flchamber.com.