Potential implications of Mississippi River lawsuit
Would these nutrient limits likely be expensive to achieve?
The economic impact of numeric nutrient criteria and nutrient TMDLs on the Mississippi River Basin states would likely be enormous. By way of comparison, EPA’s recent numeric nutrient criteria rules for Florida freshwater systems are estimated to carry a Florida-wide implementation price tag of $298 million to $4.7 billion per year. Another study calculated that Florida sewer utility bills would have to increase $570 to $990 per year to fund the substantial capital projects required to achieve EPA’s nutrient water quality criteria.
What can be done by the states and the regulated community to protect their interests?
Given the potential implications, the states and regulated entities in the Mississippi River Basin should consider intervening in this litigation. The ongoing numeric nutrient criteria litigation and rulemakings in Florida, which also began with the filing of a lawsuit by environmental advocates against EPA, demonstrate the importance of early involvement in these types of lawsuits. It is simply too perilous to rely upon EPA to defend its policies and stay the course with cooperative arrangements with the states.
Intervening interests (particularly, state environmental regulators) can demonstrate the reasonableness of EPA’s decision to deny the rulemaking petition by informing the court of the states’ efforts and achievements in addressing nutrient pollution; the significant challenges associated with establishing scientifically defensible numeric nutrient criteria; and the substantial technical and economic difficulties in addressing non-point sources of nutrient pollution (e.g. agricultural, septic tanks).