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Pollution-spill notice bill races to approval by Senate Appropriations Committee

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The Senate Appropriations Committee wastes little time or comment approving a proposal to make sure the public is notified within 48 hours of a toxic spill.

The panel took bare minutes to vote the bill out unanimously. It was the final committee stop on the way to the Senate floor.

CS/SB 532, the Public Notice of Pollution Act, requires notice to the Department of Environmental Protection of any spill within 24 hours. The department then would have 24 hours to tell the public.

Violations could bring civil penalties of $10,000 per day.

Sen. Bill Galvano of Bradenton filed the bill after an administrative law judge in September threw out a toxic-notice rule imposed by Gov. Rick Scott — who acted after it took three weeks for neighbors of a phosphate plant in Lake Wales to learn that it had spilled millions of gallons of radioactive wastewater into the aquifer.

The bill requires the DEP to establish an email system so facilities owners could notify it electronically of accidents. Providing notice would not constitute an admission of liability. Members of the public would sign up for email notifications through a system the DEP would establish.

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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