For 40 years the Environmental Protection Agency has been the regulatory scourge of U.S. polluters of air, land and water. Created on Dec. 2, 1970, with an executive order by President Richard Nixon, the EPA's primary mandate is to enforce clean air and water laws.
These landmark laws needed a tough sheriff. The EPA by and large has been up to the challenge. Inevitably, it has had -- and still does have -- stiff opposition.
For instance, some members of Florida's congressional delegation this year opposed the agency's proposed nutrient standards for the state's rivers, lakes and streams. The lawmakers, and business and agricultural groups, say the proposed standards for acceptable phosphorus and nitrogen in water will cost billions and aren't based on sound science. The EPA agreed to delay finalizing the criteria until August 2011 and submit them to more scientific scrutiny. But on Tuesday, Attorney General Bill McCollum and his successor, Pam Bondi, filed a lawsuit challenging the EPA proposals anyway.
The South Florida Water Management District Board also sharply criticized the EPA last month for its court-ordered plan to stem pollution in the Everglades. The board decried it as infringing on state rights to set water-quality laws, having an unrealistic time line for massive construction projects and saddling South Florida taxpayers with the $1.5 billion-plus cost.
On top of that, Judge Alan Gold, who told the agency to write the plan after a successful lawsuit by the Miccosukee Indian tribe, ordered EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to come to a Miami court in October to explain the agency's slow pace of enforcing Glades cleanup. An appellate court overturned Judge Gold's order.
Clearly, when it comes to Florida water-quality issues, the EPA must work with state officials to find solutions both sides agree are practical and that will be effective.
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