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.

Streamlined Permitting Bill Passes Senate Committee

A bill that will drastically reduce confusion and time delays in the wetland permitting process, while also maintaining the exact same existing environmental protections, passed the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee with the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s support.

For Floridians, this means a reduction in uncertainty and the significant wait times for permit decisions, while maintaining necessary environmental resource protections.

SB 1402, proposed by Senator David Simmons, 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 available.

Florida wins when we stand by long-term science-based solutions to Florida’s environmental issues. This legislation follows similar successful state efforts to assume federal permitting responsibilities for wastewater discharges and air emissions.

Environmental Permitting Summer School

To learn more about the governance, permitting and regulations pertaining to water, enroll today in Environmental Permitting Summer School on July 17-20 in Marco Island.

Florida Chamber of Commerce Unveils 5th Educational Video On Science-Based Water Research Solutions

To Secure Florida’s Water Future, Follow the Science

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (November 8, 2017) – The Florida Chamber of Commerce today unveiled its fifth in a series of water education videos which further demonstrates why following science-based research is important to securing Florida’s water future. The latest educational research video provides additional proof that septic tank problems are detrimentally impacting Florida’s water systems.

The educational video highlights research produced by Florida Atlantic University–Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Research Professor Dr. Brian Lapointe, and sheds light on the algae blooms on the St. Lucie Estuary that followed unusually heavy rainfall in the winter and spring of 2016.

“In the research I have conducted on behalf of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce, the science points directly to human pollution as the number one cause of what’s imperiling our state’s local water sources,” said Dr. Lapointe. “The leading cause of this pollution are aging septic tanks, which are leaking into the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie Estuary.”

The educational research video addresses the role of Lake Okeechobee and local basin discharges, and the science-based solutions that policy makers are considering to mitigate this problem in the future. Specifically, the educational research video points to local basin discharges and septic tank pollution as detrimentally impacting the quality of water in the St. Lucie Estuary.

“When it comes to securing Florida’s future, there are few issues more important than water. With six million more people expected to call Florida home by 2030, science-based solutions are the only way to ensure Florida’s water future is sustainable, and provides the quality of life Floridians and our visitors deserve,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

 

The educational research video, Securing Florida’s Water Future: St. Lucie Estuary features the following water and environmental leaders:

  • Deborah Drum, Ecosystem Restoration and Management, Engineering Department, Martin County
  • Ernie Barnett, Florida Land Council
  • Drew Bartlett, Deputy Secretary of Water, Department of Environmental Protection
  • Scott Martin, Professional Angler
  • Doug Smith, Martin County Commissioner

On the research video, Drew Bartlett, Deputy Secretary of Water for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection says:

“The reason we know that septic systems are an issue for the St. Lucie Estuary is because we’ve monitored tracers, so we’ve looked for sucralose, this artificial sweetener, and we measured it and we know there’s a human source. And we’ve done the North Fork and the South Fork of the St. Lucie Estuary and we’ve seen sucralose throughout there, so we know that human waste water, septic tanks being very probable, is a source for all of these excess pollutants.”

Representative Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) has introduced HB 339 that calls for septic to sewage conversions, and Senator Debbie Mayfield (R-Melbourne) is also advancing policy to support this effort in the Florida Senate.

“The Indian River Lagoon is the most bio-diverse estuary in our country and is one of our most treasured natural resources.  It has been ravaged by harmful algae blooms, run-off and water pollution. Legacy Florida 2.0 will provide a dedicated and reliable funding source to address this problem. Septic to sewer conversion is a key component and will help preserve the IRL’s beauty for future generations,” said Representative Harrell.

 

“The Indian River Lagoon is one of the most valued economic and environmental assets in Florida. It provides over $7 billion dollars in revenue and inhabits approximately 4,000 different species. I am proud to work alongside Representative Harrell in passing this good bill to help save our lagoon,” said Senator Mayfield.

 

“Science based data is the key to meeting the challenges Florida faces, and the Florida Chamber is pleased to support the policy behind these proposals,” Wilson said.

 

The complete series of videos on securing Florida’s water future are available at www.FloridaChamber.com/WaterVideos.

 

# # #

 

Established in 1916 as Florida’s first statewide business advocacy organization, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Florida Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

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

d-childs_11-7-2016_dep-testimony_2

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.