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Business Groups Challenge Pollution Notification Rule

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Five major business groups have challenged a plan by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to impose new requirements for notifying the public when pollution incidents occur.

Administrative Law Judge Bram D.E. Canter scheduled a Dec. 20 hearing in the case, filed last week by Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Trucking Association and the National Federation of Independent Business, according to documents posted on the state Division of Administrative Hearings website.

The issue largely is rooted in questions about whether the public was adequately notified after major pollution incidents involving a sinkhole at a phosphate plant in Polk County and sewage discharges into Tampa Bay. The Department of Environmental Protection issued a proposed rule that, in part, includes requirements for businesses to notify the news media about pollution incidents.

In the challenge, the business groups argue that the proposed rule oversteps the department's legal authority and that it will create excessive regulatory costs. "(The) proposed rule requires regulated entities to directly notify the media about certain 'reportable releases' into the environment, among other provisions," the challenge said. "While the proposed rule has a laudable goal, its unprecedented shift of public notification responsibilities from the government to Florida businesses puts a heavy burden on businesses, especially small businesses, and exceeds FDEP's statutory authority, among other legal shortcomings."