EPA Faces Everglades Clean-up Lawsuit

Environmentalists told the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday that they intend to sue the agency for the way it responded to revisions of a state Everglades cleanup law.

The Everglades Foundation told EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt in a letter that his agency “simply failed to act” and carry out its duty to determine whether the cleanup program amendments enacted by the state last year violated the federal Clean Water Act.

Those changes pushed a previous cleanup deadline back 10 years—to 2016—and sparked a controversy that led to the removal of U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler as overseer of Florida’s compliance with a court-mandated cleanup plan. A district supervising judge forced Hoeveler to step down from the case after the Florida sugar industry filed legal motions protesting concerns Hoeveler voiced to the media about the revamped cleanup program.

The Everglades Foundation also told Leavitt that it would sue the EPA for failing to approve or disapprove the current Everglades water protection standard of 10 parts per billion for phosphorus pollution. That phosphorus limit automatically kicked in December 31 because a new state rule governing the pollutant became embroiled in a hearing before a state administrative law judge. A decision on the limit is pending.