Florida Administrative Law Judge Bram Canter ruled Thursday in Tallahassee, Fla., that the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) acted within its legal authority when it established Florida-specific regulations for water quality. The ruling was commended by The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) and a strong coalition of stakeholders representing diverse interests ranging from agriculture, employers and local government to utilities and unions. The ruling clears the way for DEP to send the state’s numeric nutrient criteria (NNC) rule to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for quick approval. Upon EPA approval, the state rules could replace the costly approach proposed by the EPA.

EPA’s efforts to impose numeric nutrient criteria in the state of Florida have been repeatedly challenged by TFI and myriad agriculture and other business organizations on the basis that the criteria are not science based and will have a disastrous impact on Florida’s economy. Backing up this point, an independent economic review by the National Research Council earlier this year showed that EPA significantly underestimated the costs of its unprecedented Florida- only rules.

“Protecting Florida’s water resources is in the interest of all who live, visit and do business in the state,” said TFI President Ford West. “Florida DEP’s water quality standards are protective of the environment and we urge EPA to stand aside now and allow implementation of a Florida- specific approach to address Florida’s water quality needs.

“Fertilizer is a critical component of Florida’s economy and world food production. This decision places us just one step closer to ensuring that the state’s water quality standards are science based while avoiding unnecessary costs to Florida’s citizens. Establishment of a science-based system for protecting the environment and producing food is critical not only to agriculture but to feeding a growing world.”