TFI: EPA’s Florida Nutrient Rule Is All Cost, No Benefit

The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) expressed its intense opposition to the EPA’s rule to establish numeric nutrient criteria for nitrogen and phosphorus for waters in the state of Florida. It is estimated that the rule, which was issued this week by EPA’s Office of Water in Washington, DC, will cost U.S. farmers between $272 million and $1.1 billion by 2040.

“This rule has an enormous cost and little benefit and we are urging EPA to reconsider this action,” says TFI President Ford West. “We advocate smart and targeted policies that address water quality without placing an undue economic burden on farmers and the industries that support them. Such policies can achieve both environmental and food security goals.”

The federally directed nutrient rule would replace nutrient criteria already under development by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with arbitrary standards that have not been subjected to a thorough scientific peer review.

The rule is precedent setting and of national significance, as it marks the first time that EPA has attempted to displace a state’s efforts to manage nutrients by establishing federal criteria. EPA has already stated that it intends to adopt a similar approach in the Gulf of Mexico drainage basin watershed.

“EPA has issued a landmark water rule without establishing a science-based threshold for water quality impairment,” West says. “In many cases, EPA fails to demonstrate that its nutrient standards will have a beneficial effect. Unlike standards for toxic chemicals, increasingly stringent water quality standards for nutrients may not lead to improved water quality. In fact, there is a point at which such standards could actually harm water quality because nutrients occur naturally at various levels in the environment and are essential to healthy ecosystems. By subjecting previously-approved TMDL standards to another review, EPA is fostering an environment where uncertainty may inhibit ecologically and economically beneficial projects.”

The EPA nutrient rule becomes effective 15 months after publication in the Federal Register. However, the expensive and time consuming site-specific alternative criteria process will take effect in 60 days.

“While TFI appreciates EPA’s efforts to remedy some of the arbitrary effects of its rule by delaying implementation, but the fact remains that, with 12 percent unemployment and job recovery uncertain, this rule is a threat to many sectors of Florida’s economy, including the fertilizer industry,” West says.

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