Lawmakers Vote to Reduce Regulations While Protecting Environment

Florida Chamber of Commerce-backed legislation that reduces confusion and time delays in the wetland permitting process, while also maintaining the exact same existing environmental protections, passed the Florida Legislature today.

The bill (HB 7043) allows the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to step into the shoes of the Army Corps of Engineers to issue Federal 404 wetlands permits under the existing federal regulations using the best science possible. This new process will reduce uncertainty and maintain Florida’s high environmental standards.

The Florida Chamber thanks bill sponsors Representative Holly Raschein and Senator David Simmons for working to make Florida more competitive. HB 7043 now travels to Governor Rick Scott for his action.

Legislative Session Coming to a Close
The 2018 Legislative Session is scheduled to end this Friday. The Florida Chamber of Commerce is your number one resource for what passed, what didn’t, and what needs more work. Be on the lookout for the Florida Chamber’s end of session news brief.

Small Businesses Saved from Over Regulation

Last year the Florida Chamber fought back against an emergency rule that would have unnecessarily shifted the burden of pollution notifications to the public, the media and elected officials from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to Florida companies that may not be equipped to handle such requests.

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.

Yesterday, SB 532, filed by Senator Bill Galvano, which would once again ensure the regulated community is not forced to become the regulator when it comes to reporting spills to the public, passed its first committee stop.

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 and we commend the Florida Legislature for making it clear that small businesses should not do the job of the Florida DEP.

The Florida Chamber will continue to closely monitor this issues and provide updates. To learn more, please visit the Florida Chamber’s Water Issue Page.

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

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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.

Septic Tank Pollution Threatening Indian River Lagoon

It’s not the most pleasant subject, but human waste from inappropriately located septic tanks is being blamed for polluting many of Florida’s waterways, including the Indian River Lagoon – the most biologically diverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern Hemisphere.

Scientists at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute have found that nitrogen-laden sewage from septic tanks draining into the lagoon is responsible for algae blooms that kill seagrass and marine life.

Recent news stories in Florida Today and the TC Palm’s Treasure Coast Progress & Innovation magazine have raised the issue of problems caused by the estimated 300,000 septic tanks along the lagoon.

Here Are Some of the Key Takeaways:

  • An analysis by Florida Today found septic tanks contribute an estimated 2 million pounds of nitrogen in the lagoon per year.
  • Nitrogen promotes the growth of algae, which suffocates seagrass needed to sustain lagoon life.
    Thousands of the septic tanks near the lagoon are located at homes built before 1983, the cutoff when state law increased septic tank setbacks from the water and the distance between drain fields and the water table.
  • Many of the septic tanks are old and malfunctioning. State health officials estimate up to 10 percent of Florida’s 2.6 million septic tanks are failing.
  • Harbor Branch marine biologist Dr. Brian Lapointe describes sewage nitrogen as “the smoking gun’’ threatening the lagoon.

Risks from septic tanks aren’t unique to the Indian River Lagoon.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce supports a Proposed Committee Bill by the House State Affairs Committee, as well as SB 552 by Senator Charles Dean (R-Inverness), which require water quality restoration programs to address septic tanks contributing to springs pollution and will benefit all state water ways by focusing resources on cost-effective water quality improvement projects.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Northwest Florida Water Management District recently set aside $11.6 million in state money to fund several projects to remove septic tanks from waterways in the Panhandle.

North of Orlando, the DEP has launched a study of about the impact of septic tanks on the Wekiva River. The state has declared the river and nearby springs polluted with nitrogen and phosphorous.

ICYMI: Below are links to recent articles highlighting septic tank pollution.

 

Brownfield Efforts Facilitate Economic Growth

This legislative session, the Florida Chamber helped pass a bill that simplified the designation of a brownfield through clear and efficient government processes.

“This legislation will serve as a catalyst for significant economic development and voluntary cleanup of contaminated properties in Florida by addressing two key issues that served as impediments to the voluntary cleanup and redevelopment of Brownfield sites in Florida,” said Florida Brownfields Association President Michael Sznapstajler.

Brownfields, areas of contaminated land that require redevelopment and clean-up, can be a significant element in community revitalization, especially within community redevelopment areas, empowerment zones or other areas.

During the most recent legislative session, the Florida Chamber helped to successfully defeat trial lawyer-friendly language that would have encouraged attorneys to file frivolous lawsuits at the expense of Florida’s taxpayers against brownfield redevelopments.

Thanks in part to our continued efforts; brownfield initiatives have strengthened local economies throughout our state. In fact, a recent report released by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection shows that the Florida Brownfield Redevelopment Program has led to new capital investments of $194 million in 2013.

 

Other report findings indicate:

  • Since inception of the program, 75 contaminated sites have been cleaned up,
  • So far, more than 65,000 confirmed and projected direct and indirect jobs have been created, and
  • To date, $2.5 billion in capital investment has been made in designated brownfield areas.

“Florida’s Brownfield Redevelopment Program continues to facilitate the successful redevelopment of underutilized areas throughout the state,” said Jorge Caspary, director of DEP’s Division of Waste Management. “This program not only makes it possible to mitigate contaminated sites, but also has created more than 10,000 jobs and stimulates the economy in the process.”

 

Stay Connected:

Visit our election center at www.FloridaChamber.com/2014Election and see the candidates we have endorsed, download a copy of How They Voted and learn what we are doing to help Florida businesses.