Thursday, June 4, 2020

PRESS RELEASE: GLADES ACTIVISTS TO COMMISSIONER FRIED: Walk the talk! Repair the injustice of yesterday and today

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 4, 2020 
Contacts: Patrick Ferguson, patrick.ferguson@sierraclub.org, 954-288-4234 
Steve Messam, smessam@me.com, 989-400-4225


**PRESS RELEASE** 


GLADES ACTIVISTS TO COMMISSIONER FRIED: 
Walk the talk! Repair the injustice of yesterday and today

BELLE GLADE—Sierra Club and the Stop The Burn Campaign leadership, a group of local activists fighting to protect their communities from the scourge of pre-harvest sugar field burning in and around the Everglades Agricultural Area, sent a letter to Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried following her response on Twitter to the Black Lives Matter protests. The letter:

------------------------------------------------------------

June 4, 2020 
Commissioner Nikki Fried Florida 
Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services 
Plaza Level 10, The Capitol 
400 S. Monroe St. Tallahassee, FL 32399-0800

RE: Sugar field burning and systemic racism in the Glades 

Dear Commissioner Fried: 

We, the Stop The Burn Campaign leadership and Sierra Club, believe systemic racism is a cancerous tumor that if not treated will ultimately prove fatal to our society. Disproportionate police brutality on communities of color, mass incarceration, discriminatory lending practices, lack of access to health care, disproportionate exposure to pollution, and many other forms of racial discrimination imposed on black and brown people reflect a system that does not value all lives equally. Our collective humanity depends on laws, principals and a culture that place a value on all human life regardless of race or income. This is why both the Stop The Burn Campaign and the Sierra Club firmly stand in solidarity with protests and movements across the nation demanding an end to systemic racism in its many forms.

Our Stop The Burn Campaign is committed to addressing the environmental injustice of preharvest sugar field burning. This toxic practice disproportionately impacts the predominantly black and brown communities in the Glades, along with other communities, with smoke and dirty ash that choke our families for up to 8 months every year, while wind-based regulations were put in place decades ago to protect the affluent whiter communities in eastern Palm Beach and Martin counties. Our goal is to replace pre-harvest sugar field burning with green harvesting, a more sustainable practice that can provide new economic opportunities to the region. You recently provided a teachable moment in a tweet addressing the recent protests sparked by George Floyd’s death:


Black leaders of the Stop The Burn Campaign have been speaking out to you since even before you were elected. They have urged you to change the discriminatory rules that have harmed generations of Glades residents and create a buffer zone around their communities as a first step to protecting them from the toxic pollution caused by pre-harvest sugar field burning. You have the authority to make these changes but you have done nothing to protect us.

You can hear us again here:
It is a shame that tragic events like the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and far too many others have to occur to draw our collective attention to the insidious injustices of systemic racism in our country. White Americans have the privilege of ignoring these many issues whereas black and brown Americans, unfortunately, have to experience such injustices as a reality day in and day out. We hope this tough time can create an opportunity for people across all races and socioeconomic backgrounds to unite and demand real accountability for all injustice perpetrated by forms of systemic racism. It is time for all to become a part of the solution.

As citizens it is our responsibility to hold politicians to task to pursue meaningful reform and not just lip service. Policies that recognize and address racial disparities have to be enacted and implemented. These policies have to go beyond just addressing police brutality and mass incarceration. The climate crisis is very much a racial crisis. Black communities are dying from toxic air pollution exposure-related deaths at higher rates than the national average. This is partly because corporate polluters, including the Florida sugar industry, are permitted to dump toxic pollution on lower-income communities of color while white communities are afforded more protection. This environmental injustice is now contributing to the higher rates of COVID-19 deaths in black and brown communities all over the United States, the Glades included. This environmental racism is allowed by regulatory policies; corporate polluters are permitted to profit at the expense of black and brown lives. We must push for clean energy and regenerative agriculture solutions that can provide green jobs that uplift rather than pollute frontline communities.

Commissioner Fried, you have the power to “make changes to repair the injustice of yesterday and today.” If you do not protect the communities of color in the Glades your words will ring hollow. You will either work to stop pre-harvest sugar field burning or continue to be part of the problem by upholding the forms of systemic racism present in Florida’s sugarcane burning regulations and practices.

This is the moment for you to act to transform the Glades into a more just place for people of color to breathe, live, and raise their families.

Signed, 

Stop The Burn Campaign Leadership Team
Fred Brockman
Sister Laura Cavanaugh
June Downs
Anne Haskell
Brittany Ingram
Elaine Lavallee
Catherine Martinez
Steve Messam
Elena Michel
Kina Phillips
Shanique Scott
Kathey Sullivan
Richard Sullivan

Patrick Ferguson, Sierra Club Organizing Representative

....................................................................

Link to Commissioner Fried Twitter feed: 
Link to April 27, 2020 joint letter: 







Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Stop The Burn Campaign Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

We, the Stop The Burn Campaign leadership and Sierra Club, believe systemic racism is a cancerous tumor that if not treated will ultimately prove fatal to our society. We believe injustice perpetrated on one is an injustice perpetrated on all. Injustice to one community is an injustice to all communities. Disproportionate police brutality on communities of color, mass incarceration, discriminatory lending practices, lack of access to health care, disproportionate exposure to pollution, and many other forms of racial discrimination imposed on black and brown people reflect a system that does not value all lives equally. Our society and collective humanity will continue to decay until our laws, principals and culture place a value on all human life equally, regardless of race or income. This is why both the Stop The Burn Campaign and the Sierra Club firmly stand in solidarity with protests and movements across the nation demanding an end to systemic racism in its many forms.

It is a shame that tragic events like the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and far too many others have to occur to draw our collective attention to the insidious injustices of systemic racism in our country. White Americans have the privilege of ignoring these many issues whereas black and brown Americans, unfortunately, have to experience such injustices as a reality day in and day out. We hope this tough time can create an opportunity for people across all races and socioeconomic backgrounds to unite and demand real accountability for all injustice perpetrated by forms of systemic racism. It is time for all to become a part of the solution.

We must hold our politicians to task to pursue meaningful reform and not just lip service. Policies that recognize and address racial disparities have to be enacted and implemented. These policies have to go beyond just addressing police brutality and mass incarceration. The climate crisis is very much a racial crisis. Black communities are dying from toxic air pollution exposure-related deaths at higher rates than the national average. This is partly because corporate polluters, including industrial agriculture, are permitted to dump toxic pollution on lower-income communities of color while white communities are afforded more protection from pollution and other climate change-related impacts. This environmental injustice is now contributing to the higher rates of COVID-19 deaths in black and brown communities all over the United States. This environmental racism is allowed by regulatory policies; corporate polluters are permitted to profit at the expense of black and brown lives. We must push for clean energy and regenerative agriculture solutions that can provide green jobs that uplift rather than pollute frontline communities.

We hope this becomes a watershed moment for transforming into a more just society.

Signed,

Stop The Burn Campaign Glades Community Leadership Team
Fred Brockman
Sister Laura Cavanaugh
June Downs
Anne Haskell
Brittany Ingram
Elaine Lavallee
Catherine Martinez
Steve Messam
Elena Michel
Kina Phillips
Shanique Scott
Kathey Sullivan
Richard Sullivan

Patrick Ferguson, Sierra Club Organizing Representative

Monday, May 11, 2020

50th Earth Day: Inspiring FL Voices Rising to the Challenges

Voices serving frontline communities both disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus crisis and vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis came together from across Florida on the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. Stories of struggle and hope, from activists rising to overcome these challenges and the environmental and social injustices they expose, made clear how these issues are interconnected, how the pandemic has laid bare our vulnerabilities, and what system changes are needed to secure a just and livable planet Earth for all.


Panelists:
- Farmworker Association of Florida: Jeannie Economos (Coordinator, Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project)
- Coalition of Immokalee Workers: Oscar Otzoy (translator: Natalia Naranjo)
- The Smile Trust: Valencia Gunder (Co-Director)
- Catalyst Miami: Mayra Cruz (Climate Resilience Program Manager)
- Sister Robin Haines Merrill: Upper Room Art Gallery
- Dr. Jennifer Taylor (Coordinator of FAMU's Small Farm Programs, Florida's 2019 Woman of the Year in Agriculture)

Moderator: Diana Umpierre, Sierra Club 

To watch the full livestream, click here. To watch coverage by Go! Latinos Magazine, click here.

To support the work of these frontline community leaders, navigate to this bookmark.

Summary of what we heard


A reflection on the 50th Earth Day would be amiss without noting that while air and water are cleaner in some respects in many parts of the country (though not all) we are now dealing with other threats, some which are more harmful than we imagined 50 years ago, including human-caused climate change. The 50th anniversary of Earth Day should be a turning point, when we stop business as usual and together rebuild an economy that protects people, wildlife and the planet, from pandemics and the climate emergency.

How do we do that? Sierra Club Florida invited a number of strong frontline leaders to share what this moment is teaching us:

Jeannie Economos with Farmworker Association of Florida pointed out how the current pandemic and the climate crisis disproportionately affects farmworkers: “One of the things that this pandemic has pointed out is how crucial and important our food supply is…that for decades and decades farmworkers, the people that harvest the food that gets to our table, have been called the invisible workers and all of the sudden now they are the essential workers... They've been the essential workers all along… They are the first line on the food chain that gets the food to our grocery stores.” She also pointed out that (1) many farmworkers in Florida are undocumented and as a result they are unqualified for assistance like coronavirus-related stimulus programs, (2) farmworkers “have some of the worst housing conditions, the worst pay, the worst working conditions,” (3) they are exposed to toxic pesticides and fertilizers, (4) and sometimes they are left without hand-washing water or drinking water in the fields.  Jeannie said “with climate change, we're finding that heat stress is an increasing problem”.  She reminded us that “the first farmworkers in the US were enslaved people from Africa and [that]… there is a direct line from the horrors of slavery… to farmworkers today.. many... live in a kind of indentured servitude or kind of a modern-day slavery... This moment is showing us what we've been trying to say for years, that there's something fundamentally, institutionally, systematically wrong.. because our entire agricultural system is based on exploitation of labor and exploitation of our planet.”

Oscar Otzoy with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), assisted by translator Natalia Naranjo, recounted how the coalition has been helping farmworkers in southwest Florida to improve their wages, benefits, and working conditions. CIW educates and empowers farmworkers to defend their own rights while working in the fields. They provide educational materials in at least three languages devoted to preventing problems that commonly afflict farmworkers. Oscar shared that they have been distributing facial masks and doing outreach via local radio and flyers so workers understand the risks and how to protect themselves during the coronavirus pandemic. Other important CIW initiatives include worker to worker education, public education to consumers and the Fair Food Program that is motivating retailers to buy from farms that respect the human rights of farmworkers. Without farmworkers, agricultural producers cannot feed the nation.

Valencia Gunder shared how The Smile Trust has been helping vulnerable populations in urban Miami, including unsheltered homeless and others experiencing food insecurity, many of whom are black and brown. She pointed out that climate change, pandemics and natural and man-made disasters multiply the threats to communities already experiencing social hardships. With the assistance of a local physician, unsheltered folks are being tested for COVID-19 and provided tents. They also have a mutual aid fund that is providing food stipends to people in need, including the undocumented. With the help of volunteers that speak different languages they are also phone banking vulnerable senior citizens to make sure they are okay and to identify unmet needs. The Smile Trust does not get any funding from the government. Valencia looks at their work as “solidarity not charity.” She pointed out how America is a first world country that creates second class citizens who have to live in third world situations.

Mayra Cruz with Catalyst Miami shared how they aimed to build the health and wealth of low and middle income individuals and families in Miami.  Catalyst Miami provides financial literacy training and leadership and advocacy training, including on issues related to climate and affordable housing. They have shifted how they deliver these services due to the coronavirus pandemic, including a hotline that provides advice with housing issues and navigating the unemployment benefits website. With the hurricane season nearing, they are also looking into how people can safely shelter in place while social distancing and have safe access to food supplies. They have organized demand letters and petitions to the Governor and Florida Power & Light (FPL) to call for a moratorium on utility shut offs. Mayra said “we already knew that a lot of these systems that are in place have been failing our most vulnerable… [and] it's really important… to connect the dots for people: climate change and coronavirus have a lot of similarities. People that are feeling the most impacts are the same ones that have been feeling the impacts of climate change already.” She also warned to not be fooled by the fact that as soon as these economies open up again the assistance people are getting will go away:  “We should be asking... local officials.. how do we come back in a way that's stronger, more resilient?”

Robin Haines Merrill from Fort Lauderdale shared how she was inspired to start a street market initiative to help local farmers and folks in the food and entertainment service industry affected by the pandemic. She said: “I'm basically a recycler…when I saw on social media these huge mounds of green & yellow squash being dumped... I just decided .. I'm gonna go down and just fill up my car and give it away. So that's how it started." Robin is now using donated funds “to buy from the farmers... because they've lost their orders of cruise ships, theme parks, school boards and the restaurants that are closed.” She's been loading up her SUV, going up to a local farm about three times a week and then hosting a “street market” where she gives away the produce for free to those in need. She’s particularly focused on helping those who have lost their jobs in the hospitality and entertainment industries, including restaurant workers, housekeepers, and janitors. She has also been giving produce to “Food Not Bombs” in Fort Lauderdale, who cook it and give it out to the homeless in the area.

Dr. Jennifer Taylor is a university professor at Florida A&M University (FAMU) and an organic farmer who grows vegetables and fruits and models the type of organic systems she teaches about. She coordinates  FAMU’s Statewide Small Farm Program which among others provides hands-on training opportunities to farmers on regenerative organic farming practices and alternative market development via participatory capacity building that helps identify needs and develop solutions. They work to equip underserved farming populations, including indigenous, minority and small-scale farmers. Farmers learn about food sovereignty and organic sustainable living and how to be good stewards of their own farms, their community and the ecosystem. During the current pandemic, they provide guidance so farmers can offer healthy organically-grown produce using social distancing, gloves and masks. Farmers have been experiencing a resurgence of interest from many customers who have found empty shelves at the grocery store. "It's really important for us to reexamine our food system... building in agroecology… providing healthy environments for our farmworkers...and the local community at large…[It’s] a time of reflection.. at seeing how we can do things differently."

Panelists were asked to reflect on how some say to stay in our lane, to focus on just environmental issues, and that social justice has little to do with environmental advocacy.

Valencia responded by quoting Audre Lorde: "There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives." She reminded us how the environmental justice movement started because black communities were getting waste dumped in their neighborhoods and how environmental injustices started with slavery. She said: "I don't even understand the ideology of the separation... Environmental advocacy has to align with social justice because who are you advocating for? What are you pushing if you're not responding to people, to human beings?.. There's no environmental advocacy without it being tied to social justice. It must be, and it always should be... It ain't no lane to stay on when it's only one."

Oscar replied that he finds it very interesting when people not directly affected are talking about climate change. Farmworkers are directly living the consequences of corporate decisions, which is why it’s important for farmworkers to share how they are directly impacted by climate change.

Mayra reflected that "the people that might think that social justice and environmental justice aren't linked don't recognize their privilege...They might be blind to the fact that climate change impacts certain populations disproportionately...You have to humanize these issues.”

Ways to support these frontline groups and community leaders

Farmworker Association of Florida
Coalition of Immokalee Workers
The Smile Trust
  • To learn more, subscribe or volunteer to fight against homelessness, add your email here.
  • If you would like to sponsor an individual or a family, email: mthsmia@gmail.com
  • To phonebank senior residents, email: miamiclimatealliance@gmail.com
  • Donate to them here
Catalyst Miami
Robin Haines Merrill
  • To donate to her street market initiative, click here.
Dr. Jennifer Taylor
  • To learn more about her work helping small underserved farmers, click here.
  • To learn more about IFOAM principles of organic farming she talked about, click here.

For other ways to volunteer online to help FL vulnerable communities during the pandemic, click here.

Monday, April 27, 2020

PRESS RELEASE: 200+ Organizations Call on Ag Commissioner Fried to End Pre-harvest Sugar Field Burning


For Immediate Release
April 27, 2020
Contact:  Patrick Ferguson, patrick.ferguson@sierraclub.org, 954-288-4234
** PRESS RELEASE**
200+ ORGANIZATIONS CALL ON AG COMMISSIONER FRIED TO END PRE-HARVEST SUGAR FIELD BURNING
Florida Council of Churches, Everglades Coalition, Miami Climate Alliance, and Florida Clinicians for Climate Action join Glades’ institutions to demand change

Belle Glade, FLTwo letters were sent to Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried today to urge her to begin the phase-out of pre-harvest sugarcane field burning.  The letters, one from the 60-plus member organizations in the Everglades Coalition, the other signed by businesses, non-profits and religious institutions in and around the Glades, the Florida Council of Churches, Florida Clinicians for Climate Action, and the Miami Climate Alliance – representing well over 150 organizations, churches and businesses and over 100 doctors, nurses and public health experts, both identify the Covid-19 threat as an underscore to the urgency of the Stop the Burn Campaign’s cause.
……………………………………………………..........
April 27, 2020

Commissioner Nikki Fried
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Plaza Level 10, The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0800

RE:  Stop the Burn Now

Dear Commissioner Fried:

We, the below-signed organizations and businesses, urge you to take action now to stop the toxic practice of pre-harvest sugar field burning.  You already know the facts:

        Over 400,000 acres of sugarcane is grown in the EAA, where the pre-harvest field burning season lasts 6-8 months (October-March/April/May).
        Pre-harvest sugar field burning is estimated to release over 3,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants a year including carcinogenic pollutants like Formaldehyde, Benzene, and Acenaphthylene.
        Pre-harvest sugarcane burning also releases greenhouse gas emissions, contributes to the pollution of nearby waterways through atmospheric deposition, and increases rates of soil subsidence that threaten the long term viability of agriculture within the EAA.
        Medical research has linked exposure to pre-harvest sugar field burning pollution to a wide variety of health issues including respiratory disease, cancer, kidney disease, and poor infant health outcomes; those most at risk are children and the elderly.
        Current wind-based sugarcane burning regulations deny burn permits if winds are projected to blow the toxic smoke and ash plumes toward the more affluent Eastern Palm Beach County and Eastern Martin County communities near the coast while burn permits are currently approved with minimal/ineffective protections provided when the wind blows toward the predominately African-American and Latinx residents of Western Palm Beach County, Western Martin County, Hendry County, and Glades County.
        The EPA’s Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool show the Glades communities rank on average in the 80–100 percentile risk range for both cancer and respiratory health impacts as compared to the other EPA region, state, and national census block groups.
        The Florida sugar industry already “green harvests” small amounts of sugarcane each year when it is convenient for them. 
        The Florida industry is behind the times:  Sugarcane growers in Louisiana, Brazil, Australia, Zimbabwe and elsewhere in the world are already switching from pre-harvest burning to modern, sustainable, green harvesting and benefiting from the utilization of sugarcane trash (leaves and tops) as an added resource and/or source of income.
        A switch to green harvesting will not only improve public health and protect the environment but will also provide new economic opportunities for communities in and around the EAA and the industry itself; this has been exemplified in every nation around the world where the switch has been made.

We are appalled at the discriminatory nature of the current burn permitting regulations and know that you, as Commissioner of Agriculture, have the both the authority and the responsibility to protect Floridians from this type of outdated agricultural practice that so endangers the health and economic well-being of so many in and around the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).

In a press conference on October 1, 2019 you said “keeping Florida’s residents, communities, and environment safe is my number one priority.”  But as of today Florida residents living in and around the Glades remain unprotected.   In addition to the smoke and ash they endure, these residents are put at further risk by Covid-19.  As you and your department consider and implement measures to protect Floridians from Covid-19, you must not forget your stated priority. 

Per the Florida Forest Service’s active burn tracking tool, ash plumes often travel well over 20 miles.  The Covid-19 threat is the perfect impetus for you to finally institute the first phase of the end to pre-harvest sugar field burning right now, a 27-30 mile buffer around homes, schools, streets, and churches.
 
A 27-30 mile buffer around Moore Haven, Clewiston, South Bay, Belle Glade, Pahokee, Indiantown and other impacted communities will be a first step toward providing those Florida citizens the protection to which they have a right but have been denied for generations.

We understand that the eventual complete ban of pre-harvest burning must be effectuated in a series of phases; the Covid-19 threat requires that phase one begins now.

The news is frightening:

        “The corona virus is deadly enough. But some experts suspect bad air makes it worse.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2020/03/15/smoking-air-pollution-coronavirus/
        “Air pollution likely to increase corona virus death rate, warn experts” https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/17/air-pollution-likely-to-increase-coronavirus-death-rate-warn-experts
        “Air pollution increases corona virus vulnerability, experts say” https://www.foxnews.com/science/air-pollution-increases-coronavirus-vulnerability-experts-claim

To truly prioritize the health and safety of Glades residents, you must take the steps to institute a 27-30-mile buffer zone now; because Glades lives matter. 

We expect bold leadership from you Commissioner.  We expect you to protect the health, safety, and welfare of Florida’s most vulnerable communities first.  Institute the first phase of a ban on pre-harvest sugar field burning and you will be true to your promise and be the catalyst for a brand new, improved economic future for the Glades.  Stand back and let the burning continue and you will be remembered as yet another politician who pays lip service only to your most vulnerable constituents.

Sincerely,

All Faiths Unitarian Congregation, Fort Myers FL                                                   
Reverend C.J. McGregor, Minister 

Aquatics for Life 
Susan Steinhauser, President 

Ascension 33, Inc.
Shanique Scott, President

Balance For Earth, Inc.
Dylan Hansen, President 

Climate Reality Project, Boca Raton Chapter
Holly Lichtenfeld, Co-Chair 

Common Ground Project Florida
Tess Martin, State Director 

Farmworkers Association of Florida
Antonio Tovar, Interim General Coordinator

Fitz Productions LLC
Tom Fitz, Owner

Florida Council of Churches
The Rev. Dr. Russell L. Meyer, Executive Director 

Florida Clinicians for Climate Action
Dr. Cheryl Holder and Dr. Ankush Bansal, Co-Chairs 

Florida Poor People’s Campaign 
Dan Jones, Member, State Coordinating Committee

Glades Community Organization, Inc.
Gloria VanBrocklin, Office Manager

GreenFaith FL 
Rev. Dr. Neddy Astudillo, Florida Organizer 

Her Queendom Ministry, Inc.
Kina Phillips, President 

Indianwood Home Owners Association
Larry Guariniello, President 

Lee County Chapter Climate Reality
Ariel Hoover, MA, Chair 

Emily Gorman, Steering Committee Chair 

Peace Justice Sustainability Florida 
David Gibson, Organizing Coordinator

People for Protecting Peace River, Inc.
Brooks Armstrong, President 

Sisters of The Blessed Sacrament, Belle Glade, FL
Sister Laura Cavanaugh and Sister Anne Meehan

The Connection Partners, Inc.
Sharon Joy Kleitsch, Founding Partner


####


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Double down on requests for Governor DeSantis to VETO SB 410!

Late last week, Sierra Club Florida lobbyist, Dave Cullen, received a call from a staff member of the Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget to discuss SB 410 Growth Management. The staff member noted that the Governor has not yet received the bill and it is unknown when he will, however the Governor wants to hear from both sides.

To date, Sierra Club Florida has requested the Governor veto this bill by delivering our letter, sponsoring and delivering a multiple organization sign on letter, and issuing an advocacy alert to members and supporters. We thank all of you who have heeded this call to action. But now is not the time to let up- we need to make sure he hears from us! 

Please call Governor DeSantis at 850-488-7146 and urge him to veto SB 410. If you can’t get through, please send him an email and, if you can safely, a hard copy by regular mail. He could be sent the bill at any time and could sign it when he gets it.

Email the Governor at governorron.desantis@eog.myflorida.com and be sure to include in the subject line: “Please veto SB 410”

To mail your letter:
Office of Governor Ron DeSantis
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Our original alert can be found here

For those wishing a more detailed analysis, please see below.  Thank you for all you do for Florida's environment!

Deborah

 Why SB 410 should be vetoed:
  • In section 1 of the bill, SB 410 expands the number of city comprehensive plans that must defer to preexisting development orders by changing the threshold from adoption of the plan January 1, 2019 to plans effective by that date. Since effective dates necessarily come after adoption to allow the state land planning agency to issue notice or for a challenge to the plan to be resolved, this language now includes plans that were adopted in 2018 instead of only those adopted in 2019 or later. The bill retrospectively deprives all these municipalities and their residents of the ability to self-govern in favor of speculative development. Developers are already protected by the Bert Harris Act and can sue if a comprehensive plan “inordinately burdens” their property rights. 
  • Section 1 of the bill also will gut county-wide land use protections inside city limits in sixty of the state's sixty-seven counties unless and until the municipalities adopt their own matching regulations. Land use affects all residents and choices by cities having downstream effects on unincorporated areas must not be imposed on residents outside of city boundaries. For example, Alachua County's Low Impact Development regulations would no longer apply in the county's cities and towns unless each adopted their own regulations.
  • In Section 7 of the bill, SB 410 provides that if a local government fails to meet a 14-day deadline on utility permit applications, the permit is automatically granted. This penalty is excessive and unjust. If an activity requires a permit, it should never be granted just because of a paperwork delay. Fourteen days may not be a realistic timeframe to determine whether a complex permit application for a major project is complete: one or more site visits may be required and assertions must be double-checked. Also, there are other ways to incentivize timely processing of applications without imposing a bad project on an entire community because it takes more than ten working days to process an application. Solutions might include reducing the permit fee by a certain amount for each week past a (reasonable) deadline or granting the applicant more time for subsequent relevant filings. 
  • There is an opportunity cost to allowing the development of land. Ecosystem services Floridians depend on for clean air and water and for the mainstays of our tourism heavy economy are lost to the state when land is poorly used. Growth management is needed to balance the desire of business to maximize profit with the value of natural resources to the community as a whole and with the rights of other residents. The past ten years have seen most growth management law overturned.  Vetoing this bill will help preserve the little that is left.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

SIERRA CLUB RELEASES LEGISLATOR SCORECARD FOR 2020


**PRESS RELEASE**

SIERRA CLUB RELEASES LEGISLATOR SCORECARD

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (April 15, 2020) – Sierra Club Florida has released its Florida Legislator Scorecard for 2020. Designed to give a snapshot of legislators’ votes on the environmental bills for which Sierra Club Florida dedicated considerable time and resources, it also includes “thumbs up and thumbs down” award winners noting those legislators who either championed or actively worked against the environment.

Republicans almost unanimously voted against Sierra Club’s environmental priorities by:

·        preempting local regulation of over-the-counter drugs and cosmetics to the state; specifically aimed at ending Key West’s ban on the sale of sunscreens containing octinoxate or oxybenzone as they are harmful to coral reefs. (SB 172)

·        continuing the assault on growth management by requiring that each local comprehensive plan include a new private property rights element which adds no additional property rights protection for individuals and could cost as much as $100,000 depending on the size of the community. It subjects more municipalities to development orders superseding comprehensive plans and further limits the authority of county governments to manage growth within their borders and could clear the way for high-density development in designated rural areas. (SB 410)

·        making it harder for citizens to put initiatives to amend the State Constitution on the ballot. Includes (1) increasing the required number of signatures before the Supreme Court looks at the language of the petition, (2) requiring that signatures would have to come from 1/2, instead of 1/4, of the state’s congressional districts, (3) invalidating an elector’s signature if a petition gatherer’s paperwork is not in order, (4) reducing the “shelf life” of signed petitions to a single year, (5) charging the petition sponsor for all printing and signature verifying costs, and (6) allowing any citizen to challenge a petition gatherer’s credentials. (SB 1794)

·        requiring DOT to create a master plan for EV charging stations along state highways. But the bill also makes it easier for utilities to use conservation easements on agricultural property for linear facilities, including oil and gas pipelines. (SB 7018)

“Thumbs Up” awards were given to Democratic Representative Anna Eskamani, who voted with the Sierra Club 100% of the time, and 14 of her Democratic colleagues, who supported 85% of Sierra Club’s positions.

“Florida House Democrats were the champions for Florida’s environment this session,” said Sierra Club Florida’s Chapter Director, Frank Jackalone. “But only Rep. Eskamani withstood the political pressure and opposed the weak “Clean Waterways Act.” (SB 712)

“Thumbs Down” awards were given to Rep. James Grant for his continued assault on citizen initiatives and growth management and Rep. Spencer Roach and Sen. Rob Bradley for arguing that Key West’s ban on sale of sunscreens harmful to the coral reef was an assault on skin cancer prevention.

Deborah Foote, Director of Government Affairs for Sierra Club commented, “The Florida legislature continues to thwart the will of its citizens by taking away local control and handing it over to developers and other moneyed interests. The upcoming election is the only way to reverse this abysmal trend. We need to elect pro-environment legislators if we want clean water, open spaces, and a healthier way of life.”

Sierra Club Florida hopes the Scorecard will raise awareness on how legislators vote on the environment. “Despite full knowledge of our degraded waters and rampant development, the legislature capitulated to industry and did very little to make things better,” said Jackalone.

The full Scorecard may be viewed by clicking here.

A chapter of the national Sierra Club, Sierra Club Florida is made up of volunteer leaders and civic activists representing over 240,000 members and supporters from all over the state.

###