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Water: Regulatory Information

Federal Nutrient Water Quality Standards for the State of Florida's Lakes and Flowing Waters Outside of the South Florida Region (Inland Rule)

Santa Fe River 2012

John Moran: Kayaker's paddles scoop up algae on Santa Fe River, 2012

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EPA Withdraws Inland Rule

A January 7, 2014 ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida allows EPA to withdraw and discontinue work overlapping federally promulgated criteria so Florida can implement their state-adopted, EPA-approved criteria to address nutrient pollution in Florida’s waters. On April 2, 2014, EPA published its proposal to withdraw the Inland Rule and discontinue its work on three 2012 proposed rules. The comment period for the proposal closed on June 2, 2014. EPA responded to all public comments, and finalized the withdrawal of the Inland Rule on September 17, 2014, upon signature by the Administrator.  As confirmed in a letter from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, EPA's withdrawal of Federal criteria allows the state of Florida's numeric nutrient criteria to become effective as the only rules covering Florida water bodies.

Rulemaking Background

EPA published the final "Water Quality Standards for the State of Florida’s Lakes and Flowing Waters" rule in the Federal Register on December 6, 2010. The final standards set numeric limits, or criteria, on the amount of nutrient pollution allowed in Florida's lakes, rivers, streams and springs. This final action sought to improve water quality, protect public health, aquatic life and the long term recreational uses of Florida's waters which are a critical part of the state's economy.

Remanded Portions of the Inland Rule

Not long after the publication of the final rule for inland waters, EPA received several legal challenges to its rule. These were resolved in a court ruling on February 18, 2012. While upholding EPA's January 2009 determination and much of its final December 2010 rule, the court invalidated EPA's numeric nutrient criteria for Florida's streams and EPA's downstream protection value (DPV) for lakes that are meeting the lake numeric criteria established in EPA's final December 2010 rule ("unimpaired lakes").

The court ordered EPA to re-propose criteria for these waters. In accordance with the court’s order, and because Florida’s rules did not cover a subset of flowing waters, EPA proposed a rule for these uncovered waters on November 30, 2012.

The comment period for this rule ended on February 1, 2013.

If you have questions about the proposed rule, contact Mario Sengco (Sengco.mario@epa.gov) at 202-566-2676.

EPA held two public information sessions about the proposed rule in Tampa, Florida on January 17 and 18. The Agency also held three webinars on January 22, 23, and 24.  

Extensions of Effective Date and Delays of the Rule

EPA proposed to stay (postpone the applicability of) certain sections of the Inland Rule to allow time to gain clarity on the implementation of Florida’s rule.

On July 6, 2012, EPA promulgated a third extension of the effective date of this rule by 6 months to January 6, 2013. (The extension did not affect or change the February 4, 2011 date for the site-specific alternative criteria provision.) The extension provided EPA time to complete its review of Florida's adopted state water quality standards.

On May 17, 2012, EPA proposed an extension of the effective date by three months to October 6, 2012. The comment period ended on June 18, 2012.

On March 5, 2012, EPA promulgated an extension of the effective date of this rule by four months to July 6, 2012. (The extension did not affect or change the February 4, 2011 date for the site-specific alternative criteria provision.) This extension afforded the state additional time to finalize their own rule establishing numeric nutrient criteria for the state and submit it for EPA review.

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Promulgation of the Final Inland Rule

In accordance with the Consent Decree EPA promulgated numeric nutrient criteria for lakes and flowing waters in Florida in November 2010.

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Florida Site Specific Alternative Criteria (SSAC) Submissions

On February 4, 2011, the provision of EPA's Final Rule allowing SSAC become effective. SSAC may apply to specific surface waters in lieu of the criteria established in the 2010 Final Rule for Florida's Inland Waters.  On March 8, 2011, EPA Region 4 hosted a webinar which provided additional detail regarding the expectations of SSAC submissions.  The materials from this webinar can be found in the following section. 

More information on SSAC submissions that have been received to date.

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Federal Nutrient Water Quality Standards for the State of Florida's Lakes and Flowing Waters; Supplemental Notice of Data Availability and Request for Comment

On August 3, 2010, EPA published a supplemental notice of data availability and a request for comment related to EPA's January 26, 2010 notice of proposed rulemaking, "Water Quality Standards for the State of Florida's Lakes and Flowing Waters" (75 FR 4173). The supplemental notice reflected a review of comments and new information received by EPA as part of the public comment process after the January 2010 proposed rule. EPA requested further comment on possible revisions and new information related to specific approaches and issues identified in the January 26, 2010 proposal. EPA published this supplemental notice to ensure that the public has full access to the information the Agency considered as it prepared the final rule for signature.

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