A publication of the Florida Chamber of Commerce October 1988
In response to developer complaints about multiple agency reviews, the Florida Legislature in 1975 chose to reorganize and consolidate
the state's environmental agencies. The dredge and fill regulatory functions of the Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund were
merged with the water quality responsibilities of the Department of Pollution Control to form the Department of Environmental Regulation
(DER). Floridas five water management districts, managed by independent nine-member boards appointed by the Governor, were
transferred from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and placed under the "general supervisory authority" of the DER, thus
bringing the state's water quality and water quantity programs together for the first time. At the same time, Floridas public drinking water
permitting program was transferred from the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services to the DER.
A constitutional amendment which passed in 1976 granted all five of Florida's water management districts--including the Suwannee,
Northwest and St. Johns districts the authority to levy ad valorem taxes for water management purposes. The eventual result was the
extension of consumptive use and surface water management programs, already established within the South and Southwest Water
Management Districts, into North Florida as well.
DER responded to the direction of the 1975 legislature to "streamline" environmental permitting by delegating approximately 90 percent
of its permitting programs from Tallahassee to field offices located throughout the state and by co-locating most of its field offices with
those of the five water management districts. In recent years, DER has delegated stormwater quality permitting to four of Florida's five
water management districts, thereby combining the very similar functions of stormwater quality and surface water management. Only
the Northwest Florida district, which has a constitutional millage cap of .05 mill instead of the 1 mill afforded Florida's other water
management districts, has not received stormwater delegation from DER.
SMost agree the basic objectives of the Environmental Reauthorization Act of 1975 were carried out as the legislature intended. What
Swas not foreseen was the tremendous growth in new regulatory programs and the expansion of existing programs which has since
occurred within all of Florida's environmental agencies. The DER acquired major new responsibilities with passage of the Safe Drinking
Water Act of 1977, the Hazardous Waste Management Act of 1980, the Water Quality Assurance Act of 1983, and the Warren S.
Henderson Wetlands Act of 1984. Florida's Development of Regional Impact (DRI) program has matured under the Department of
Community Affairs into an important regulatory program. The Growth Management Act of 1985 and amendments which were made to
it in 1986 have placed major new requirements upon local government comprehensive plans.
Water management districts, due both to the influence of DER and in response to a changing political climate, have become much more
conscious of environmental concerns. A regulatory "non-structural" approach to water management has become the norm. In 1984, the
water management districts were thrust into the field of wetlands protection when the Henderson Wetlands Act assigned all wetlands
regulatory responsibility for farming and forestry to the districts. In 1986, "isolated wetlands" legislation specifically granted water manage-
ment districts the authority to regulate those wetlands which were legally isolated from the jurisdiction of the DFR
In the meantime, the DNR, under the leadership of the Governor and Cabinet, modified rules governing Floridas sovereign lands, aquatic
preserves, and mineral mining to address many of the same concerns already addressed by the DER, Department of Community Affairs,
and water management districts. Over roughly the same period of time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began and quickly expanded
major new regulatory programs designed to protect the nation's waters and wetlands from the adverse effects of dredging and filling.
All this is really only the "tip of the iceberg." Florida's numerous water quality standards have been tightened, and the DER now regulates
discharges to the states groundwaters as well as surface waters. A large number of Florida's cities and counties have adopted local
environmental ordinances, and many administer major environmental programs. The trend toward local environmental ordinances and
programs will be accelerated as Florida's landmark growth management legislation is implemented in the coming years.
In response to constituent protests over the rapidly increasing complexity of environmental laws and regulations and at the urging of
The Florida Chamber and other business groups, the legislature created the Environmental Efficiency Study Commission (EESC) in
1986 to develop recommendations to eliminate duplication of agency responsibilities and also to promote the efficient enforcement and
administration of Florida's environmental laws. In 1987, the legislature extended the life of the Commission and expanded its scope to
include environmental programs administered by local government.
S Following an additional year of workshops and discussions, the EESC drafted comprehensive legislation which was introduced for
discussion purposes by the 1988 Legislature Both the House and Senate Natural Resources Committees are conducting interim studies
on the recommendations of the EESC, and similar legislation on the subject will be considered by the 1989 legislature.
The EESC legislative package which was introduced in 1988 called for the following:
Immediate transfer of "non-point" water quality regulatory programs, including stormwater and dredge and fill permitting, from
DER to Florida' water management districts;
Eventual transfer of all water quality permitting, Including point-source and groundwater discharge permitting, and excluding
only solid and hazardous waste management, from DER to the districts;
An amendment to the Florida Constitution which would raise the millage cap of the Northwest Florida Water Management
District to that of the other four districts.
Reform of Florida's Development of Regional Impact process so that the Department of Community Affairs and Regional
Planning Councils cannot "second-guess" the decisions of other state regulatory agencies; and
Transfer of the administration of state sovereign lands and aquatic preserves rules from the Governor and Cabinet to the
water management districts.
The recommendations of the EESC will likely become a legislative "hot-potato" as agencies and various interest groups sort out the
impact of proposed changes. Thus far, the business community has not reached a consensus position on the environmental streamlining
ISSUE Whether The Florida Chamber should support legislation proposed by the EESC to streamline the environmental permitting
O POINT The reorganization and consolidation of Florida' environmental agencies is long overdue. In recent years, regulatory agen-
cies have expanded their scope of review to the extent that every agency now examines almost every environmental concern. At best,
there exist tremendous duplication and inefficiency. At worst, agencies tend to contradict and second-guess other agencies, often putting
the permit applicant in an impossible situation. Something has to be done -and now!
The preliminary recommendations of the EESC are essentially correct. Water management districts are better equipped to deal with
regulatory decisions at the regional level. The DRI review process should neither include environmental issues specifically addressed
by regulatory agencies, nor should DNR and the Governor and Cabinet be able to reach independent conclusions on environmental
issues more thoroughly considered by DER and the districts.
Good permitting decisions are complex enough without duplicative agency review. The state should consolidate environmental responsi-
bility within DER and the water management districts and should staff those agencies with technically competent professionals equipped
to make the difficult regulatory judgments necessary to protect Florida's environment. Furthermore, local government regulatory programs
fL" should be established only where such programs are consistent with state and regional environmental permitting programs.
The legislature should implement the recommendations of the EESC. If we don't move to consolidate environmental permitting functions
now, we never will.
too much duplication and inefficiency under current system
water management districts best equipped to handle regional issues
current system penalizes permit seekers who try to play by the rules too much delay
overlapping jurisdictions result in contradictory outcomes
0 COUNTERPOINT Reorgaiizing state environmental agencies is the last thing we should do. Shuffling bureaucrats around never
solves problems. Of course there are duplicative permit review and other inefficiencies in regulatory programs. However, these problems
can best be solved administratively. The Governor should give agency heads and environmental boards clear direction to eliminate
unnecessary permit review and to generally make the permitting and enforcement process more efficient.
As a matter of fact, duplicative review is often justified. Protecting Floridas fragile environment is a difficult task, and no single agency
has all the answers. Overlapping agency review often brings new issues into question and leads to better permitting decisions.
Besides, what' so great about water management districts? Districts are run by appointed lay boards rather than agency heads who
are appointed by the Governor and who are directly accountable for all agency decisions. Where does the "buck stop" with a nine member
governing board? Even if districts are doing a decent job with existing programs, what will happen when boards are forced to assume
all of these major new responsibilities?
Let' keep agency responsibilities where they are today and concentrate on doing a better job of management. That's the only way things
are ever really going to improve.
changing system will merely result in shuffling bureaucrats, not substantive change
problems can be handled administratively
duplicative review and overlapping jurisdictions are justified and ensure the environment is protected
water management districts are nothing more than collegial boards with no responsibility to residents within their jurisdiction
Chamber Position The Florida Chamber of Commerce supported environmental reorganization in 1987 and 1988.