Judge says EPA ignored law, failed to protect Everglades

A federal judge struck down key parts of a controversial state Everglades cleanup law Tuesday and slapped the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to enforce the federal Clean Water Act.

Miami U.S. District Judge Alan Gold said the EPA ignored the law and its own recommendations when the agency approved the state's revised schedule for cleaning up farm-tainted water flowing into the Everglades from Lake Okeechobee — avoiding a December 2006 deadline to reduce pollutants in the Glades.

Gold made the ruling in a lawsuit filed by the Miccosukee Tribe and the conservation group Friends of the Everglades, who challenged the changes to the Everglades cleanup program approved by Florida lawmakers and then-Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003.

The judge said the Legislature ''violated its fundamental commitment and promise to protect the Everglades'' by relaxing rules limiting the amount of damaging phosphorus in the Everglades ecosystem. Meanwhile, the EPA turned a ''blind eye'' to the state's lower standards, Gold said in his 101-page ruling.

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