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EPA Grants Florida Pollution Waivers For Irma Repairs

| by Selena Darlim
A power plant in Ruskin, Florida.A power plant in Ruskin, Florida.

The Environmental Protection Agency gave Florida electricity companies the green light to violate environmental pollution laws until Sept. 26.

On Sept. 10, the EPA issued a blanket waiver to all electricity carriers in the state to violate certain environmental policies in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which left 6.52 million utility customers without power, Florida's Division of Emergency Management said on Sept. 11.  

The number of people without power is more than 65 percent of all the electricity customers in the state, according to The Associated Press.

The EPA granted the policy lifts, referred to as No Action Assurance, at the request of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the New York Post notes.

An EPA press release confirmed that the agency is "allowing [Florida power plants] to operate without meeting all pollution controls in order to maintain the supply of electricity to customers and critical facilities across the state as a result of Hurricane Irma," Quartz reports.

The pollution allowance applies to both clean air and water regulations.

Under the No Action Assurance, power plants will not be penalized for running at a high output level, operating for longer hours or ignoring built-in pollution controls. Coal plants will be allowed to release wastewater into waterways with higher amounts of toxic heavy metals than is normally permitted.

The EPA’s permissions might result in certain companies resorting to dirtier fuels, the New York Post notes.

Companies are still mandated to report levels of pollutants in excess of their permits to the EPA "as soon as practicable," according to Quartz.

The EPA hinted it will likely adjust the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits for Florida, saying a "statewide order" on water pollution law would be issued to "help ports and other facilities get back into operation as quickly as possible."

The lifted environmental protection rules will allow power companies to act more efficiently in getting Florida back to the status quo. On Sept. 12, the New York Post reported that 5.6 million homes and businesses in Florida were without electricity. That number accounts for 54 percent of the state, a decline from what the FDEM said one day prior.

Though the regulations will help to restore citizens' power access, it is likely the pollution will linger.

The Houston area is experiencing elevated air pollution levels after Texas petrochemical facilities were granted pollution waivers before Hurricane Harvey, AP reports.

Florida will return back to normal pollution emission standards after the Sept. 26 deadline.

Sources: Quartz, AP via ABC, New York Post / Featured Image: Pixabay / Embedded Images: Antennas/Wikimedia Commons, Ebyabe/Wikimedia Commons

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