First District Congressman Matt Gaetz said his proposal to abolish the EPA isn’t designed to direct states how to regulate environmental issues, but to free them to do so without federal meddling.

When the Environmental Protection Agency was established in 1970 under the Reagan administration, states did not have the wherewithal to properly legislate and regulate environmental protections, Gaetz said.

That is no longer the case in Florida, the state “most nimble and able to set its own guidelines,” Gaetz said, and states not equipped for self-regulation will have two years to figure something out.

“That’s kind of the deal in a democracy, we should elect officials capable of working to be more efficient,” he said.

The bill Gaetz is seeking co-sponsors for may be a simple as any ever put before the United States Congress. A draft copy is three paragraphs long and state’s the bill’s purpose, “termination of the Environmental Protection Agency”, and its plan, “The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018.”

“My legislation does not repeal a single law,” the Fort Walton Beach Republican said. “What it does is downstream authority to the state.”

Although the bill offers nothing in the way of guidance, it seems logical to assume Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection would take over as the state's chief environmental regulator if it passes.

In many cases, the FDEP already acts to ensure that federal laws established through EPA regulations are implemented, agency spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said.

“Often EPA sets national standards that states and tribes enforce through their own regulations,” Miller said in an email. “DEP develops and enforces those state regulations.”

Examples of how this work, Miller said, can be found with the federal Clean Water Act and the Clean Air and Safe Drinking Water Act.

EPA awards grants to state environmental programs, nonprofits and educational institutions, among others, Miller said. For fiscal 2015-16, FDEP got $110.7 million.

“Approximately 75 percent of that money goes to state revolving fund loans,” Miller said. “These loans fund infrastructure projects such as sewage treatment, stormwater management facilities and drinking water treatment as well as for the implementation of nonpoint source pollution control and estuary protection programs.”

Miller added that EPA “shared information last week” that it will continue to award environmental program grants and state revolving loan funds and work to address issues related to other grant categories.

Regional EPA official Matthew Harwell could not be reached for comment.

Regionally, the West Florida Regional Planning Council has received between $800,000 and $1 million to spend this year to help the seven counties — Escambia to Bay — and 42 cities it serves to provide “clean-up funds for contaminated properties.”

“Say there’s a vacant gas station in a community, no one wants to do anything with the property, so we provide funding assistance to allow the property owner to clean up the area and redevelop it,” said Austin Mount, the council’s executive director.

The regional council also is working with local governments, including Okaloosa and Walton, to seek money to establish estuary programs.

With the EPA under fire not only from Gaetz’s office but also from the Trump administration, Mount says his organization is concerned and has adopted a wait-and-see stance.

“We’re sitting tight and seeing what comes out of this,” he said. “In my experience is it’s best to know the final answers before you start reacting.”

Mount said the council hopes the EPA isn’t abolished.

“The programs they fund our helpful to our economy,” he said. “Sometimes the EPA gets a bad rap.”

The loss of the EPA might be less of a blow at the county level than at the state or regional level. Okaloosa County Administrator John Hofstad said most federal environmental regulations sent to Florida from Washington come to the county through FDEP.

“EPA has promulgated a lot of the rule-making down to the states,” Hofstad said. “So a lot of what we have to deal with comes through DEP.”

The Clean Water Act in the 1970’s set the tone for the way the EPA works with state governments, Hofstad said, and the regulatory action initiated in Washington but flowing through Tallahassee primarily involves stormwater and water and sewer, Hofstad said.

Mike Spaits, the environmental spokesman for Eglin Air Force Base, said the base also deals mostly with state agencies when implementing EPA regulations.

Michael Beedie, the city manager for Fort Walton Beach, said his city's primary interaction with EPA is through the West Florida Regional Planning Council.

While Gaetz said the most email communication he’s received since he proposed abolishing EPA has come from California, and that Northwest Florida residents have been primarily supportive, several local residents expressed concern about his bill to the Daily News.

“The best part about the EPA is that the people working there are genuine in their goals to help the environment and the lives that depend on it being protected,” said Nonie Celeste. “I do not trust big polluting businesses to ‘police’ themselves. ... Without an agency or policies to protect us, what can we do as citizens to be sure our environment is safe.”

And while Gaetz said one of his goals as a congressman is to eliminate regulatory federal government jobs, Celeste, who is a wildlife educator, said students she works with see working with EPA as a worthwhile career path.

“Jobs with the EPA and the like are where my growing ‘biophiliacs’ want to go when they grow up. They want to protect animals and their habitats,” she said. “It’s an authentic do-gooder career choice, and there is nothing wrong with being a tree huggin’ do-gooder.”