The Florida Senate unanimously approved legislation Tuesday requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to inform the public within 24 hours after a spill occurs.
Senators passed SB 532 on its third and final reading.
Sponsored by Manatee County Republican Bill Galvano, the bill was filed in the wake of Gov. Rick Scott‘s request for new public notification rules and legislation to ensure the public is kept informed of incidents of pollution that may cause a threat to public health and Florida’s air and water resources. The push came after a sewage spill last fall in St. Petersburg and Mosaic’s sinkhole in Mulberry that sent toxins in the drinking water supply.
The DEP filed suit, issuing an emergency rule requiring those responsible to notify the public within 24 hours. After business groups had challenged the rule, an administrative law judge rejected the rule, saying the department exceeded its rule-making authority.
SB 532 also requires DEP to develop and publish a list of substances that “pose a substantial risk to public health, safety or welfare.” If any company fails to notify the Department of an incident involving one of the published substances, it could face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per day.
“People have a right to know, and it’s at the heart of public safety,” Galvano said.
All eyes are now focused on the legislation is being carried in the House (HB 1065) by Pasadena Republican Kathleen Peters. If it passes there, it goes to Scott’s desk.