HB 609 – Relating to Petroleum Restoration
On Thursday, February 20, HB 609 by Representative Daniel Perez (R-Miami) was heard by the House State Affairs Committee and was reported favorable with 19 yeas and 0 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.
Petroleum is stored in thousands of underground and aboveground storage tank systems throughout Florida. Releases of petroleum into the environment may occur as a result of accidental spills, storage tank system leaks, or poor maintenance practices. These discharges pose a significant threat to groundwater quality, the source of 90 percent of Florida’s drinking water.
The owner of contaminated land or the person who caused the discharge is responsible for rehabilitating the land, unless the site owner can show that the contamination resulted from the activities of a previous owner or other responsible party. Over the years, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has implemented different programs to provide state financial assistance to certain eligible site owners and responsible parties for site rehabilitation. To fund the cleanup of contaminated petroleum sites, the Legislature created the Inland Protection Trust Fund (IPTF).
The Petroleum Restoration Program within the DEP establishes the requirements and procedures for cleaning up petroleum-contaminated land, as well as the circumstances under which the state will pay and cost-share for the cleanup.
HB 609 will now move to the House floor.
AIF supports the efforts contained in this bill to promote thorough remediation of contaminated sites to allow further job creation and economic development opportunities while protecting Florida’s natural resources.
SB 712 – Relating to Water Quality Improvements
On Thursday, February 20, SB 712 by Senator Debbie Mayfield (R-Melbourne) was heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee and was reported favorable with 20 yeas and 1 nay. AIF stood in support of this legislation.
Phosphorus and nitrogen are naturally present in water and are essential nutrients for the healthy growth of plant and animal life. The correct balance of both nutrients is necessary for a healthy ecosystem; however, excessive nitrogen and phosphorus can cause significant water quality problems. Phosphorus and nitrogen are derived from natural and human-made sources. Natural inputs include the atmosphere, soils, and the decay of plants and animals. Human-made sources include sewage disposal systems (wastewater treatment facilities and septic systems), overflows of storm and sanitary sewers (untreated sewage), agricultural production and irrigation practices, and stormwater runoff.
The bill includes recommendations from the Blue-Green Algae Task Force. The major topics in this bill include onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems (OSTDSs, commonly known as septic systems), wastewater, stormwater, agriculture, and biosolids. The bill directs the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to make rules relating to most of these topics.
In addition to DEP’s role in monitoring and inspecting OSTDSs and other runoff areas, the bill authorizes the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) to perform onsite inspections of agricultural producers enrolled in best management practices (BMP) to verify that each practice is being properly implemented. The verification review will include a review of the BMP documentation including, but not limited to, nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer application records.
Regarding rights of nature:
The bill amends the Florida Environmental Protection Act to prohibit a local government regulation, ordinance, code, rule, comprehensive plan, charter, or any other provision of law:
- From recognizing or granting any legal right to a plant, animal, body of water, or any other part of the natural environment that is not a person or political subdivision; or
- Granting a person or political subdivision any specific rights relating to the natural environment.
The bill also provides that the prohibition on granting rights to nonpersons may not limit the:
- Ability of an aggrieved or adversely affected party to appeal and challenge the consistency of a development order with a comprehensive plan, or to file an action for injunctive relief to enforce the terms of a development agreement or to challenge compliance of the agreement with the Florida Local Government Development Agreement Act; or
- Standing to maintain an action for injunctive relief as otherwise provided by the EPA for:
- Department of Legal Affairs;
- Any political subdivision of the state; or
- A resident of the state.
The bill is a huge step forward in addressing Florida’s current water quality crisis and the data collected will prove invaluable in preventing further degradation of our waterways.
SB 712 will now move to the Senate floor.
AIF supports legislation that addresses water quality and protects Florida businesses from lawsuits by defining that people cannot sue on behalf of inanimate objects, i.e. rivers, lakes, streams etc.