Will state Legislature kill the Pinellas fertilizer ban?

02/01/11 Kate Bradshaw
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The phrase “kill the bill” is not something one would associate with environmental advocacy. Yet today at a joint meeting between state and local lawmakers, Pinellas County Commission Chair Susan Latvala, a Republican, said she wants state lawmakers to do just that to proposed laws that would overturn the county’s lawn fertilizer ban. The ban, which is not yet in full effect, applies to summertime use of fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorous.

Excessive use of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers promotes algae growth in waterways when storm water carries it off lawns and into rivers, ponds, or the sea. Latvala said there are plenty of alternatives to those two fertilizer types.

Representative Peter Nehr, a Republican from St. Petersburg, said, on the other hand, the industry sees the ban as excessive government regulation.

Many of the ban’s opponents favor more lax legislation that would apply statewide. Pinellas Watershed Manager Kelli Levy said Florida’s environment is too diverse for a one-size-fits-all policy on fertilizer use.

Levy added that she hasn’t heard much rumbling about the new restrictions from those who sell fertilizers.

Opponents of the ban have often cited a University of Florida study suggesting outlawing use of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers would have unintended consequences. But Levy said that study was debunked after it was found to be industry-funded. She said numerous studies, including the Tampa Bay Estuary Program’s monitoring of the waters off Safety Harbor, unequivocally demonstrate the adverse effects of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers on nearby waterways.

State lawmakers will likely take up two bills proposing a mild one-size-fits-all ban in the upcoming legislative in the spring. Another major issue the consortium of state and local officials tackled in Clearwater was pill mills. Tim Burns, Director of Justice and Consumer Services, said seven people a day die in the state of Florida as a result of prescription pain pills.

Senator Mike Fasano, a Republican from New Port Richey said he’s disappointed that Governor Rick Scott did away with Florida’s Office of Drug Control.

Fasano added he’s concerned some state legislators might try to overturn the Prescription Drug Monitoring Act as well.

County Commission Chair Susan Latvala said she’d camp out at the state capitol to keep such a thing from happening. The Pinellas County delegation consists of 12 state senators and representatives who meet periodically to discuss proposed laws affecting parts of the county. Many of these will be taken up at the next legislative session, which begins March 8.

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