On Tuesday, a Gov. Rick Scott-appointed board approved on a 3-2 vote a plan to lower quality standards of the state water supply and allow more toxic chemicals in streams and rivers.
The draft approved by the Environmental Regulation Commission was issued by state lawmakers. Under the new rules, standards on 82 chemicals are updated, of which a few dozen are cancer-causing.
The commission’s chair Cari Roth explained that the last time the standards were altered was in 1992. Roth pledged that the number of toxic chemicals going into the water supply won’t be raised.
But conservationists think otherwise. They blasted the proposition dubbed “Monte Carlo” for allowing companies to dump dangerous amounts of toxins in state waters before they reach the limits set by the new rules.
Furthermore, the new standards are weaker than those at federal level. For instance, the new legislation will boost the state limit for benzene in water beyond the federal limit by two times. Benzene, which has been often linked to cancer, can be found in wastewater resulted from fracking operations.
This is why, environmentalists believe that regulators seek to make the controversial drilling method legal in Florida.
“Monte Carlo gambling with our children’s safety is unacceptable,”
said a spokesperson for the Indian Riverkeeper.
However, other toxic chemicals will see their levels raised under the new proposal, about two dozen of them. Fortunately, levels will be lowered for a dozen substances that are currently regulated.
The new rules now only need EPA’s approval to come into effect. They must however comply with the Clean Water Act for that purpose first. Some Florida lawmakers submitted a letter to EPA asking for a public debate period to ensure that the population, natural habitats, and economy are protected.
The Clean Water Network which opposed the new rules said it has urged the federal agency to reject the new rules, and if it doesn’t lawsuits are coming.
Proponents of the new rules at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection argued that the new set of rules have been in the making for more than 10 years. So, the current model can be easily defended in case of a lawsuit.
When DEP was asked why it couldn’t just maintain current levels for cancer-causing agents, it argued that state and federal rules don’t allow the agency not to base the new standards on a “a scientific process” backed by facts and logic.
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