TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Despite the objection of environmental groups, state environmental regulators voted Tuesday to approve new standards that will increase the amount of cancer-causing toxins allowed in Florida's rivers and streams under a plan the state says will protect more Floridians than current standards.
The Environmental Regulation Commission voted 3-2 to approve a proposal that would increase the number of regulated chemicals from 54 to 92 allowed in rivers, streams and other sources of drinking water, news media outlets reported. The final vote came after hours of discussion, protests and emotional testimony.
The Tallahassee Democrat reported that one man called members of the commission — who are appointed by Gov. Rick Scott — "baby killers" after the vote.
The Miami Herald reports that under the proposal, acceptable levels of toxins will be increased for more than two dozen known carcinogens and decreased for 13 currently regulated chemicals. State officials back the plan because it places new rules on 39 other chemicals that are not currently regulated.
"We have not updated these parameters since 1992. It is more good than harm," said Cari Roth, a Tallahassee lawyer who represents developers on the commission and serves as its chair.
The standards still must be reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but the Scott administration came under withering criticism for pushing the proposal at this time. That's because there are two vacancies on the commission, including one for a commissioner who is supposed to represent the environmental community.
"This is beyond outrageous," Linda Young, executive director of the Florida Clean Water Network, was quoted by the Democrat as saying. "This is a wholesale denial in Florida of the value of our lives. This is our governor, who is the person who's driving this, saying Floridians' lives don't matter. What matters are our industries, our corporations making more money. And they can do that by putting more pollution in our waters."
One of the commissioners who voted against the new standards questioned if the changes were being done to assist companies that want to pursue a type of oil and gas drilling known as fracking.