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The Fertilizer Institute v. EPA

United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Case No. 3:10cv507

Case Summary: AFBF and the Florida Farm Bureau joined with The Fertilizer Institute and other agricultural organizations as plaintiffs challenging EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria for Florida waters. In 2009, EPA agreed in a settlement with the Florida Wildlife Federation to issue numeric criteria for nitrogen, phosphorus, and chlorophyll A for most Florida lakes and flowing streams. EPA issued numeric standards in November 2010. The federal district court found unlawful two key parts of EPA’s rule setting numeric standards for nutrients in Florida waters. The court upheld other parts of the rule that were challenged by farming and other industry groups. The court also rejected all of the challenges to the rule that had been raised by conservation organizations. One of the central issues in the lawsuit was the streams criteria, essentially EPA’s effort to translate into numbers what was previously a narrative standard for nutrients set by the state agency (no alteration of nutrient concentrations that would “cause an imbalance in natural populations of aquatic flora or fauna”). AFBF argued that EPA violated the law by setting the streams criteria at levels that allow for no nutrients above pristine background levels – essentially assuming that any increase in nutrient concentrations is harmful. The court agreed that EPA must aim for the target set by the State of Florida, which seeks only to prevent harmful increases in nutrients. The second successful claim involved EPA’s “downstream protection values” (DPVs), which impose additional limits on nutrients in streams in order to protect downstream lakes. The court upheld the DPVs aimed at protecting downstream lakes that do not meet their water quality standards. But the court found unlawful the DPVs that were aimed at protecting downstream lakes that already meet their standards. The court agreed that, as with the streams criteria, EPA had unlawfully set these DPVs to prevent any change in nutrient levels in downstream lakes, rather than only preventing harmful increases in nutrients.
Importance to
To ensure that numeric nutrient criteria are based on sound science.
AFBF Role: PetitionerA party who presents a petition to a court or other official body.  
Select Filings: 2012.02.18 Florida District Court Opinion.PDF2011.10.31 Florida and Industry Joint Reply Brief in Support of Summary Judgment.pdf2011.09.15 EPA Cross Motion for Summary Judgment.pdf2011.06.05 Florida and Industry Joint Motion for Summary Judgment.pdf2011.02.17 The Fertilizer Institute's Amended Complaint.pdf