Guest opinion: Reducing duplicative government regulations and protecting Florida's environment

David Hart
Special to The News-Press
David Hart

Florida’s natural resources and the business community shared a victory recently.  After four years of federal and state collaboration, rulemakings, public hearings, and memoranda of agreement, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved Florida’s request to transition the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wetland permitting program to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Under the leadership of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein, Florida developed a state-level wetlands protection program that carefully and comprehensively protects Florida’s water resources.  Through our state’s decades of experience in administering state-level Environmental Resource Permits, Florida has developed the in-depth technical expertise to process federal wetlands permits while maintaining all federal environmental protections.

The Department of Environmental Protection is staffed with geologists, engineers, biologists, and environmental scientists who are experts in Florida’s diverse and unique environmental features. These dedicated state government professionals know Florida and care about its natural resources. After all, they live here, recreate here, and raise families their here.

Having Florida state government officials review projects and administer permits will be good for Florida’s business community.   In our members’ experiences at the federal level, high staff turnover, workloads, and cumbersome processes – not to mention the occasional federal government shutdown – lead to frequent and significant delays in the processing of Army Corps permit applications.  We do not generally experience those issues at the state level. Florida Environmental Resource Permits are regularly received in advance of their federal counterparts. The two permits are often indistinguishable, aside from the length of the process and the ultimate permit issuance date.

With Thursday’s final action, those issues are at long last resolved.  Since President Carter signed into law the 1977 Clean Water Act amendments that allowed states to assume Army Corps permitting authority, only two other states have done so.  Florida and its federal partners should be commended for the extensive work and public outreach that led to Florida becoming state number three.

David Hart is the Executive Vice President of Government & Political Relations, Florida Chamber of Commerce (Tallahassee, FL).