Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Safety Harbor Becomes Florida's Ninth City to Commit to a 100 Percent Clean Energy for All Future

With Commission vote, city joins Sunshine State movement to go all-renewable 
Over 80 supporters wore this
sticker to make their point known
to the Safety Harbor Commission.
They definitely saw us all!

Safety Harbor, FL – On Monday night, June 17, the City Commission of Safety Harbor voted unanimously to become Florida’s ninth city to adopt a resolution setting a 100 percent clean, renewable energy community-wide goal, committing the City to plan for the complete elimination of all fossil fuels in the electricity sector by 2035 for municipal operations and 2050 community-wide. The resolution creates an inclusive community planning process to guide a transition for both municipal operations as well as the entire community.

So many people, the fire marshall feared he'd have to turn
people away. So many, we couldn't get everyone in the shot! 

Safety Harbor joins the Pinellas County cities of Dunedin, Largo, and St. Petersburg in moving to clean, renewable energy, along with Sarasota, Orlando, Tallahassee, Gainesville, and most recently, South Miami. Across the US, 126 other cities have also made such commitments, from small towns like Safety Harbor to some of America’s major cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland, and Atlanta. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, plus  Washington, California, New Mexico, Nevada and Hawaii have also set 100 percent clean energy targets.

Pinellas Suncoast Group lead volunteer for Ready for 100,
Bryan Beckman, addresses the City Commission.

These commitments lay the foundation for an equitable and just transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy across the state and country. Across the US, 70 million people, or 1 in 5 residents, now live in a place committing to moving beyond fossil fuels to a healthier, more affordable, and more just system powered by 100 percent clean energy.

Earlier that same day, Bryan Beckman was a guest on the
WMNF 88.5 Sustainable Living Show with
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, chair of the House Select Committee on the
 Climate Crisis. You can listen to that great conversation here.
The show was co-hosted by a resident of Safety Harbor,
 and discussed climate action at the national and local level. 

In response to the Commission's vote, Suncoast Sierra Club Ready for 100
volunteer leader Bryan Beckman issued the following statement:

“Safety Harbor has shown great leadership to set 100 percent renewable energy goals.  Implementing energy efficiencies and renewables saves money, reduces pollution, and creates local jobs.  The community looks forward to working with city officials to build an implementation plan with a sense of urgency that is inclusive, transparent, and equitable.”
 Laura McCullough of Indivisible Safety Harbor issued the following:

“We seek a world based on love and caring, kindness and generosity, empathy and compassion, social, economic and environmental justice, peace and nonviolence, and protection of the life support system of our planet. We believe that the Earth is a living organism and that we are dependent upon its well-being for our well-being. We commit to being in right relationship with nature, and be stewards of the Earth to ensure its well-being and longevity.”

Safety Harbor City Commissioner Andy Zodrow also issued the following:

“I am proud that the City of Safety Harbor could be the 127th City in the nation and 9th in Florida to be approved for the Ready for 100 commitment to achieve 100% clean, renewable energy. I want to thank the city staff, the Commission and most importantly the residents who came out in support of the resolution and the goal of renewable energy in our community.”

Phil Compton, Senior Organizing Representative
Sierra Club's FL Healthy Air & Ready for 100 Campaigns:
Clean Energy & Clean Transportation for All 
1990 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, FL 33712
(o) 727-824-8813, ext. 303      (c) 813-841-3601 
phil.compton@sierraclub.org   https://twitter.com/PhilCompton

Monday, June 10, 2019

YMCA in St. Petersburg Saves Money, Energy by Switching to LED Lighting

As part of a countywide  effort to transition to 100 percent clean renewable energy,  Suncoast Sierra Club, along with several private donors,  has provided the  Jim & Heather Gills YMCA of Greater St Petersburg  with funding  to install LED lighting throughout the  facility. 
YMCA staff and Suncoast Sierra Club leaders 

The YMCA, located at 3200 First Ave. South, is in the process of replacing over 900 fluorescent bulbs with LED bulbs. The project is expected to be completed by the end of this summer. "We are extremely grateful for the support from the Suncoast Sierra Club in providing energy efficient lighting at our Jim & Heather Gills YMCA,” said  David Jezek President/CEO, YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg.  “In addition to the improved lighting, we expect to see significant savings in our energy bills.  These savings will allow us to make a great impact in the lives of those we serve."  

The  Jim & Heather Gills YMCA serves the needs of the community with a full-size  gymnasium and fitness room, indoor heated pool,  fitness classes, cycling studio, after school  programs, and outreach services.  The transition to LED lighting is estimated to save the branch over $10,000 per year in electricity, a savings that will pay for the cost of the bulbs in less than 6 months, according to Bryan Beckman, chair of the Pinellas  Ready for 100 campaign.  
Beckman, who spearheaded the energy efficiency project at the YMCA, calculated that the LED lighting use would save an estimated 70 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year -  the equivalent to installing 200 solar panels.  Given the estimated life of the bulbs, he said, over $100,000 is expected to be saved. “Sierra Club is  very proud  to have helped with the new LED lighting,” Beckman said at the May 30 ribbon cutting and rededication of the gym and activity center after recent upgrades and renovations.  “Businesses, residents and cities can have a big impact on our environment by installing similar efficiencies that save money and reduce carbon pollution at the same time.”
ABOUT READY FOR 100:  The Pinellas Ready for 100 campaign aims  to help local cities, businesses and residents transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy in an effort to  make  Florida  resilient to climate change  and  stop the burning of  fossil fuels. Cities in Pinellas County that have signed on with resolutions to move to 100 percent  clean energy include St. Petersburg, Largo and Dunedin.

To learn more about the Pinellas Ready for 100 campaign or how to  transition to clean, renewable energy, contact Bryan Beckman at bryanb@suncoastsierra.org  or go to   www.sierraclub.org/florida/suncoast/100pinellas

Bryan Beckman
Suncoast Sierra Club

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Sierra Club Statement Regarding Berman Law Group Class Action Lawsuit

For Immediate Release
June 5, 2019
Contact:  Patrick Ferguson, patrick.ferguson@sierraclub.org, 954-288-4234

Sierra Club Statement Regarding Berman Law Group Class Action Lawsuit

The Sierra Club Stop Sugar Field Burning Campaign, launched in 2015, is not a party to the Berman Law Group class action lawsuit.  The fight to move Big Sugar to stop pre-harvest field burning is a huge one.  Many generations, hundreds of thousands of residents, in and around the Glades have been subjected to the smoke and ash that the industry has callously dumped upon them.  We are pleased that the work of local Stop the Burn-Go Green activists over the last four years has elevated the issue to a such a high profile; this lawsuit is one of many new angles from which impacted residents will come to pressure the sugar industry to “stop the burn.”

Pre-harvest sugar field burning is an outdated, toxic, and unjust practice that the sugar industry can and must stop.  The alternative, the green harvesting of sugarcane, is already practiced in other countries, in parts of Louisiana, and even in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) when convenient for the Florida sugar industry.  It has long been time for the industry to move to modern, sustainable green harvesting as the ultimate solution to the environmental injustice of pre-harvest sugar field burning. Green harvesting not only ends the burn, but also provides growers a new source of income.  The trash that is now going up in smoke can be turned into biochar, biofuels, electricity, tree-free paper products, and mulch, the production of which can provide new jobs so badly needed in the Glades. 

We challenge anyone who calls for further study or monitoring of air quality or health impacts.  The health and quality of life impacts from sugar field burning are already firmly established. It is unconscionable to suggest kicking the can further down the road when (1) the solution is clear, and (2) right now the more affluent citizens to the east are already protected because burn permits are not granted when the wind blows their way.  Everyone in and around the EAA deserves the same protection no matter where they live, and they deserve that protection now.

Sierra Club Stop Sugar Field Burning Campaign Information:

  1. Stop the Burn Campaign Primer:  http://bit.ly/2HoaaYj
  2. Sugarcane burn zones map and wind restriction definitions:  http://bit.ly/2yJzIba
  3. Stop the Burn Fact Sheet:  http://bit.ly/2IFPWMb
  4. Health impact study summaries:  http://bit.ly/2T38TsZ
  5. “Counterattack on Stop The Burn: Big Sugar loses its cool”:   http://www.sierraclubfloridanews.org/2019/04/counterattack-on-stop-burn-big-sugar.html
  6. “Fake Billboard for a Fake Claim”: 

Find press release here.


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Everglades advocates request Gov. DeSantis to Veto HB 7103

May 29, 2019

The Honorable Ron DeSantis
Governor, State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

RE: Veto HB 7103

Dear Governor DeSantis,

The below-signed organizations, committed to the protection and restoration of America’s Everglades, respectfully request that you veto House Bill (HB) 7103.  This bill has several provisions that could negatively impact the full restoration of the Greater Everglades ecosystem, including efforts to reduce nutrient pollution in our waterways; the worst of which were quietly amended onto the bill in the final hours of the legislative session and adopted without public input, meaningful discussion or debate in committee hearings, without any legislative staff analysis, and without any public testimony.  In as much, legislators voted without fully understanding the impact of those last minute changes.  Good governance dictates that HB 7103 must not be signed into law and deserves your veto.

America’s Everglades is a unique ecosystem that extends from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes into Lake Okeechobee, through the “River of Grass,” out to Florida Bay and the Florida Keys. This vast natural wonder has been severely impacted by over-development, habitat degradation, pollution and other man-made changes.

A critical tool that is used to ensure that Everglades restoration efforts are not further hindered, and that helps protect what is left of this ecosystem, is the local comprehensive plan. Local comprehensive plans include elements that address important issues relevant to our Everglades efforts, such as water quality, flood protection, drainage, waste management, water resource protection, aquifer recharge, water supply, conservation of open space, wetlands and other ecologically sensitive habitats, coastal management, urban development boundaries, agricultural buffers, and intergovernmental coordination.  Because they have site-specific legally-binding policies required for addressing environmental issues, and because the current law requires strict compliance with them, local comprehensive plans are presently the state’s best environmental protection tool relative to water quality, wetlands, drinking water, and flood protection. 

By law, once adopted, any local development decisions must be consistent with such comprehensive plans. This law was utilized a few years ago to overturn a county’s approval of three major lime rock mines in the Everglades Agricultural Area:  US Sugar Corp. v. 1000 Friends of Fla., 134 So. 3d 1052, 1053 (Fla. 4th DCA. 2013).  In those cases, the state’s wetland law was not going to prevent the mines.  It was the county comprehensive plan policy prohibiting mining in the EAA – to preserve it for farming and Everglades Restoration – that stopped the mines.  HB 7103 would have made those cases impossible and will render similar cases impossible in the future if it is signed into or allowed to pass into law.  

            HB 7103 will make a losing party, in consistency challenges, automatically liable for a prevailing party’s attorney fees. This will effectively end citizen enforcement of local comprehensive plans. In general, citizens who may bring challenges to defend against environmental threats, such as loss of wetlands that filter pollution and reduce flooding, do not have the same financial means as developers and/or local governments. Citizen comprehensive plan challengers typically struggle just to cover their own attorney fees; the risk of having to pay the attorney fees of local governments and/or other intervening party would make challenges much less available to concerned citizens.  Only the very wealthy would be able to attempt those challenges.

            Courts have said that “citizen enforcement is the primary tool for insuring consistency of development decisions with the Comprehensive Plan”[1]  and that the law’s “purpose cannot be achieved without meaningful judicial review in lawsuits….”[2].  Comprehensive plans are written for the very purpose of governing individual development decisions. If that purpose cannot be enforced by the only persons with standing to do so, the entire Community Planning Act would be essentially repealed. If it becomes law, HB 7103 would effectively eliminate the only means left for Floridians to enforce consistency with local comprehensive plans, including those relevant to the protection and restoration of the Everglades. As stated recently by the American Planning Association FL Chapter, HB 7103 “will have a chilling effect on, and raise a true barrier to, citizen participation in the enforcement of local plans... The bill also removes the authority for the Department of Legal Affairs to intervene in such challenges to represent the interests of the state [such as Everglades restoration], so these citizen and interest group challenges are truly the only means of policing the compliance of development orders with comprehensive plans… If development order consistency cannot be enforced, the binding legal authority of comprehensive plans is rendered meaningless… the failure to follow them… can lead to environmental degradation."[3].  Comprehensive plan consistency challenges are the only tool available to local citizens to hold local governments accountable. Without them, the local comprehensive plans that have been maintained over the past 30 years would become meaningless, and Everglades advocates would lose an important tool that could help prevent development mistakes and protect our Everglades restoration investments.

            If HB 7103 becomes law, local communities will likely see more developments that do not comply with local protections for water resources and environmentally sensitive lands. This is of grave concern to the Everglades and clean water advocacy communities.

In addition, the automatic attorney’s fees sanction in HB 7103 is unnecessary; Florida law already deters baseless legal challenges and prevents spurious litigation for improper purpose, such as undue delays of lawful development proposals.  HB 7103 would also encourage the courts to hear comprehensive plan enforcement cases using a summary procedure that limits discovery. Summary procedures are not appropriate for consistency challenges which involve complicated questions of law and fact and are often expert intensive.

It is noteworthy that one of the Everglades Coalition’s legislative priorities this year was to “reinstate strong statewide and regional land use planning to guide sustainable growth that is protective of Florida’s remaining natural areas and resources…”.  While there is much work to be done to realize that goal, your veto on HB 7103 will ensure that all Floridians, including Everglades advocates, continue to be able to hold local governments accountable on commitments they made to protect our natural resources.


1000 Friends of Florida
Thomas Hawkins, Policy & Planning Director

Apalachicola Riverkeeper
Georgia Ackerman, Riverkeeper and Executive Director

Audubon Everglades
Scott Zucker, Vice President & Conservation Co-Chair

Audubon Florida
Celeste De Palma, Director of Everglades Policy

Bullsugar Alliance
Alex Gillen, Policy Director

Calusa Waterkeeper
John Cassani, Waterkeeper

Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife
Lori J. Haus-Bulcock, Board Member

Cape Coral Wildlife Trust
Pascha Donaldson, President

Center for Biological Diversity
Jaclyn Lopez, Florida Director

Conservancy of Southwest Florida
Nicole Johnson, Director of Environmental Policy

Conservation Alliance of St. Lucie County
Shari Anker, President

Defenders of Wildlife
Elizabeth Fleming, Senior Florida Representative

“Ding” Darling Wildlife Society
Mike Baldwin, President

Alisa Coe, Staff Attorney

Environment Florida
Jennifer Rubiello, State Director

Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida
Becky Ayech, President

Everglades Law Center
Lisa Interlandi, Executive Director

Florida Bay Forever
Elizabeth Jolin, Executive Director

Florida Conservation Voters
Aliki Moncrief, Executive Director

Florida Keys Environmental Fund, Inc.
Charles Causey, President

Florida Native Plant Society
Susan Carr, PhD, President

Florida Oceanographic Society
Mark Perry, Executive Director

Florida Wildlife Federation
Preston T. Robertson, President & CEO

Friends of ARM Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
Catherine Patterson, President

Friends of the Everglades
Philip Kushlan, President

Indian Riverkeeper
Marty Baum, Riverkeeper

International Dark Sky Association, FL Chapter
Diana Umpierre, Chair

Izaak Walton League of America, FL Division
Michael Chenowetht, President

Izaak Walton League of America, FL Keys Chapter
Michael Chenowetht, President

Lake Worth Waterkeeper
Reinaldo Diaz, J.D., Waterkeeper, President

League of Women Voters of Florida
Judith Hushon, State Natural Resources Chair

Marine Resources Council
Leesa Souto, PhD, Executive Director

Martin County Conservation Alliance
Tom Bausch, Board Member

Matanzas Riverkeeper
Jen Lomberk, Executive Director & Riverkeeper

Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition
Relman R Diaz, Secretary

Naples Backcountry Fly Fishers
Edward Tamson Ph.D., Conservation Director

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation
Ryan Orgera, PhD, CEO

Save the Manatee Club
Anne Michelle Harvey, JD, MS, Staff Attorney

Sierra Club Florida
Frank Jackalone, Chapter Director

South Florida Wildlands Association
Matthew Schwartz, Executive Director

Suncoast Waterkeeper
Andy Mele, Interim Executive Director

The Institute for Regional Conservation
George D. Gann, Executive Director & Chair of the Board

Tropical Audubon Society
Jose Francisco Barros, President

WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc.
John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper

cc: Noah Valenstein, Secretary, FDEP
Drew Bartlett, Executive Director, SFWMD
SFWMD Governing Board

[1] Pinecrest Lakes, Inc. v. Shidel, 795 So. 2d 191, 202 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001).
[2] Sw. Ranches Homeowners Assoc. v. Broward Cty., 502 So. 2d 931, 936 (Fla. 4th DCA1987).
[3] American Planning Association FL Chapter letter to Governor DeSantis on HB 7103, May 13, 2019.

Three Lakes WMA in the Kissimmee Prairie (Florida Fish and Wildlife photo by Andy Wraithmell)

Friday, May 17, 2019

Four Remaining Veto Requests of Governor DeSantis

Sierra Club Florida has four remaining veto requests of Governor DeSantis.  These four requests cover threats that both directly and indirectly impact the natural environment upon which we depend, freedom of speech, and the state of our democracy:

Property Development: Amended in the waning hours of the legislative session, HB 7103 turns the growth management law upside down by requiring comprehensive plan amendments to conform to pre-existing development orders, and requiring costs be paid to the prevailing party in challenges to development orders.  This will have a chilling effect on citizen enforcement of comprehensive plans. See letter here:  

Attorney Fees and Costs – HB 829 provides that fees and costs will always be granted to the prevailing party in a challenge involving an ordinance that is ‘’expressly preempted by the State Constitution or by state law.” Even if the preemption is expressed, the scope of the preemption  may legitimately be in doubt – exactly the sort of disagreement the courts are designed to settle. The risk of being assessed the local government’s fees and costs may be chilling for regular citizens challenging an ordinance, but not necessarily for a developer or other large landholder. Legal fees are a cost of doing business. The bill attempts to coerce localities to cave to any challenge they are not absolutely sure they are going to win. This bill is actually unnecessary, as Florida Statute already provides for awarding costs to victims of unscrupulous or frivolous suits. Additionally, a newly added Section 2 of the bill adds an implicit preemption of the local regulation of biosolids that would begin on the effective date of the FL Department of Environmental Protection regulation of same. See letter here:  

Voting Rights Restoration: When other bills failed, SB 7066 was amended with the restoration of rights (Amendment 4) languageThe legislation will harm all returning citizens who have prior felony convictions but have completed all but the financial obligations of their sentences by rendering them ineligible to vote. See letter here: 

Constitutional Amendments: HB 5 was amended late in the session to include the citizens' initiative petition gatherers language which will make it harder for citizen initiatives to get on the ballot. The bill makes it illegal to pay petition gatherers based on the number of petitions they collect, requires submission of information about petition gatherers, including their permanent and temporary addresses, and would require the gatherers to sign sworn statements that they will follow state laws and rules. The bill would also require petitions to be turned into county supervisors of elections no more than 30 days after being signed by voters, and includes penalties of up to $50 for each late submission. Fines could grow to $1,000 for any petition “willfully” not submitted on time. See letter here: http://www.sierraclubfloridanews.org/2019/05/sierra-club-florida-asks-governor.html


For Immediate Release                                            
May 17, 2019                                     
Frank Jackalone, 727-824-8813, EXT. 302, 727-804-1317 (c), frank.jackalone@sierraclub.org
Tim Martin, 727-251-9979 timothymartin@suncoastsierra.org
Deborah Foote, 850-727-4039 (office), 251-533-1798 (c), deborah.foote@sierraclub.org


Will destroy much of Florida’s remaining natural and rural areas

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (May 17, 2019) –
Governor Ron DeSantis today signed into law SB 7068, also known as the Toll Roads to Nowhere Bill.  In response, Sierra Club Florida issued the following statements:

Statement of Tim Martin, Sierra Club Florida Conservation Chair
Sierra Club Florida is deeply disappointed that Governor DeSantis has chosen to destroy much of Florida’s remaining natural and rural areas to build unnecessary and costly toll roads that won’t meet Florida’s true transportation needs. By ignoring the recommendations of the I- 75 Relief Task Force, the Governor’s decision to build the “roads to nowhere” will do nothing to address congestion in urban areas, and funding to support these new toll roads will be prioritized over other necessary transportation projects.”

“By building these toll roads, Florida stands to lose critical habitat for Florida panthers and black bears; protected lands and wildlife corridors risk being fragmented; and the roads and resultant development are likely to increase pollution - impacting Florida’s rivers and springs and increasing red tide and blue green algae outbreaks. Funding to plan for these toll roads will be diverted from general revenue, removing hundreds of millions of dollars from other critical areas such as education, healthcare, and the environment.”

“This decision will haunt the Governor. Every time he claims to be pro-environment going forward we will be forced to remind people of how, when faced with the biggest environmental decision in decades, he chose to side with wealthy landowners and industry interests. Teddy Roosevelt is probably rolling in his grave right now that a comparison was ever made between him and Governor DeSantis.”  

Statement of Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director:
“Governor DeSantis failed the people of Florida and our natural environment today. He signed a bill that would spend billions of taxpayer dollars to build 320 miles of toll roads traversing Florida’s pristine nature coast and rural heartland.  These roads are a gift to developers who want to convert hundreds of thousands of acres of forests, wetlands, and ranches into new cities, towns and subdivisions.”

“Ron DeSantis proved that he’s no Teddy Roosevelt.  During the Session, he stood by idly while the Legislature slashed funding for the Florida Forever Program and provided no funding for the Rural Lands Protection Program - disregarding the mandate of Florida’s voters set by Amendment One in 2014 to acquire and protect important conservation lands.  DeSantis also remained silent when Senate President Bill Galvano bullied the Legislature to accept his poorly thought out Toll Roads to Nowhere plan without even getting input from the Governor’s own staff at the Department of Transportation and the Department of Environmental Protection.  Instead of heeding the strong concerns of environmental and community leaders, Governor DeSantis caved into pressure from Galvano and wealthy business interests that stand to profit from the three toll roads and the massive development that will accompany them.”

“It is a false narrative that building toll roads means economic development in rural areas. One only needs to look at I-10 between Tallahassee and Pensacola to see that it doesn’t happen. What will come is sprawl, local businesses replaced with gas stations, fast food restaurants and chain stores surrounding toll road interchanges, and the deterioration of robust downtowns due to being bypassed by the toll roads.”

“Sierra Club Florida will take every action in our power to prevent the construction of the three toll roads. We will join together and assist residents of communities whose homes, businesses and rural way of life will be threatened by these destructive roads. We will unite with taxpayers who don’t want to assume the costs of unneeded toll roads, and we will work with urban residents whose infrastructure and transit needs are being ignored by the State. We will go to court, demand a rehearing by the Legislature, and hold elected officials accountable for voting for this ruinous plan.”

State Senate President Galvano pats Governor DeSantis on the back at the signing ceremony for Toll Roads Bill.  Source: Florida Politics