Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Forces Find Compromise; HB 639 Moves Closer to Becoming Law

According to a “Friendly Alert” sent out today (02-01-12), Vicki Tschinkel of the Florida Conservation Coalition announced that a compromise had been reached on HB 639, the bill that would have removed reclaimed wastewater from the statutory definition of “waters in the state” and create a first step toward privatizing water in the State of Florida.  Here’s the alert:

HB 639 by Dana Young and the City of Tampa

If you look at previous alerts, you will remember that this is the bill which took treated domestic wastewater out of the definition of Waters in the State, a very bad precedent as  every other type of discharger would want to be taken out of the definition. It would also have made it unlikely that the State and Water Management would involve the generators of this resource in water use planning.  But we do support reuse.

A very large and persistent contingent of lobbyists for the conservation groups (including all the FCC Charter organizations), coupled by the strong support from all of you and your emails helped us get Representative Dana Young's personal attention.  So did the Editorials and news articles. As she listened to the specific concerns, she asked for another set of amendments. These were produced, and carefully vetted with all the conservation groups involved. We are grateful to Representative Young for accepting these and for getting this done.

Section 1 of the bill, which removed domestic wastewater from the definition of Waters of the State, our biggest concern, was deleted from the bill, entirely.

The bill now clearly states that those who are involved in reuse are to be part of all the water management districts planning and water supply plans. This includes the District Water Management Plan which encompasses water supply and environmental issues.

Currently the districts do not require permits for the use of reclaimed water, this codifies that into law.  We don't love that, of course, but we felt that it might enhance the use of reclaimed water as the proponents felt, and that the specific inclusion of this resource in the District plans was a pretty good way to go. The bill passed out of committee today with our amendments.

This could not have been accomplished without your strong efforts and constant willingness to take action and get involved.  We are much stronger when we all take action together and focus on the important issues!
Compromise is the way it’s supposed to work, of course, but if I’m asked, I’d suggest it could have been done without all the fuming and grousing.  It does, however, make for good political theater.

The districts should have been more understanding of the collective concerns of the utilities from the beginning and the City of Tampa through Rep. Dana Young should have been more responsible than to arrogantly threaten a fundamental underpinning of Florida Water Law.  With such a pervasive lack of knowledge and appreciation in Tallahassee today for the importance of a rational water management framework for Florida, it was dangerous move.

Nevertheless, stay tuned.  One victory in compromise does not mean a war won.  The session is far from over and, as they say, until “sine die” no man women or child, much less our natural environment, will be safe on the streets of Florida from the ill winds that blow from T-Town.


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