Water, Water Everywhere . . .

For businesses in Florida, encountering and managing water is an ever present challenge.  There are thousands of lakes in Florida, and the South Florida Water Management District alone operates over 2100 miles of rivers and canals.  Most businesses encounter water in some capacity, either through construction and maintenance, or operating industrial systems.  And several governmental entities regulate and oversee Florida’s water resources.  Conducting business in this regulatory environment presents unique and frequent challenges.

As attorneys representing businesses throughout Florida, we encounter a wide variety of water based permitting and compliance challenges.  One area of recent activity involves the regulation and licensing of dewatering systems for construction projects and the discharge of dewatering effluent.  Dewatering systems for construction activities are licensed and regulated by a variety of governmental agencies at the state, local and sometimes federal levels.  Often dewatering licenses include site specific conditions before the dewatering effluent can be released into the environment.  In particular, most dewatering plans include advance treatment systems and stringent water quality standards.  We represented owners, developers and contractors that are subject to regulation based upon the technical standards and procedures set forth in the licenses and permits.  We work with our clients to outline the regulatory standard and licensing requirements, and to develop a system for monitoring and compliance.

After the completion of construction, new projects are also required to operating and maintain stormwater management systems in accordance with the applicable license and permits.  But since the maintenance of stormwater management systems is often an afterthought, sometimes  the maintenance is put off until a system fails or there is a pending transaction.  Regulatory agencies are now issuing permits with conditions that require regular maintenance and, in Broward County, the surface water management licenses are limited to a term of five years. 

As environmental attorneys, we often encounter issues with surface water management systems when there is a pending transaction, or when issues arise during due diligence.  In some cases, a regulator agency will not transfer a license, nor issue a new system license, until there is a certification that the system is properly maintained and functional.  It can be frustrating for owners and businesses when a transaction is held up due to licensing and compliance.  We work with our clients to mitigate those challenges and to plan for smooth transactions.

Since the management of water is a challenge for many businesses in Florida, we recommend careful planning and comprehensive strategies for maintaining compliance.  The attorneys at Gray Robinson can provide guidance and counsel your businesses on the best strategies for managing water resources and achieving compliance throughout Florida.

Welcome to the Blog!

Welcome to the inaugural post for the environmental and sustainability law blog. The goal for this blog is to utilize a multi-disciplinary legal approach to provide updates and commentary on matters related to environmental law and emerging trends in sustainability law. Our law firm is a Florida based, full-service law firm, and we recently formed a new environmental and sustainability law practice group to provide specialized services in these two distinct yet connected areas of law. See https://www.law360.com/florida/articles/1140601/grayrobinson-adds-sustainability-focus-to-enviro-practice.

This blog will feature a Florida focused approach to environmental and sustainability law. I am a former Assistant General Counsel with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and I have practiced environmental law in South Florida for 25 years. Florida is an amazing and beautiful state with a diverse range of delicate environmental resources, and it is also home to several thriving economic centers. Florida is home to the Everglades, one of the natural wonders of the world, yet Florida is also a rapidly growing state with the 17th largest economy in the world. The environmental and sustainability challenges that we face in Florida are complex, challenging and critical to the economic vitality of the region.

In many respects, Southeast Florida is a national leader in evaluating and planning for the effects of climate change and sea-level rise. In January 2010 the leaders of Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties entered into the Southeast Florida Climate Change Compact in order to coordinate climate mitigation and adaptation activities in Southeast Florida. See http://southeastfloridaclimatecompact.org/.  Recently, the State of Florida, under the leadership of newly elected Governor Ron DeSantis, announced new initiatives to recognize the environmental risks associated with climate change and to plan for the future impacts throughout Florida. The governor formed a new Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection within DEP, and he also created a new position of Chief Science Officer within DEP to prioritize scientific data, research, monitoring and analysis to ensure alignment with the current and emerging environmental concerns most pressing to Floridians.

Not to be outdone, the Florida legislature is also venturing into the uncharted waters of state-wide sustainability planning. Last week, the Senate Environmental and National Resources Committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 78, which would require that state funded infrastructure projects near the coast to include a sea-level impact study.  See https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/00078. The bill would require planning for new public buildings, roads or bridges to also evaluate the project’s ability to withstand heavier flooding and changing hydrology associated with climate charge. And by setting state-wide standards for resilient infrastructure, the bill seeks to provide confidence to the financial and insurance markets that coastal infrastructure will be prepared for the next thirty years of changing conditions.

We hope that you enjoy and follow this new environmental and sustainability law blog. We expect to provide legal updates and commentary on relevant legal issues at least once per month. Some posts will provide updates on regulatory matters or caselaw specific to environmental law in Florida. Other posts will be policy oriented and explore the emerging trends in sustainability. We encourage you to sign up for the regular postings, and we also plan to introduce opportunities for comment and discussion. Thank you for your interest in environmental and sustainability law, and stay tuned for the next blog posting in the near future.