Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Broward County Leading the State in Electric Transportation

15 Zero-Emission Buses to Run in 2019

Sierra Club volunteers meet in Broward County to support zero-emission buses. 
On Tuesday, June 12, Broward County Commissioners unanimously voted to purchase five zero-emission buses and to issue a Request for Proposal to purchase an additional ten buses in the future. Wearing “Z.E.B.” stickers in support of “zero-emission buses,” ten Sierra Club volunteers attended the County Commission meeting to support Broward County’s consideration of the new, zero-emission, electric buses. Three Sierra Club supporters in attendance spoke on behalf of the group to thank County Commissioners for considering the purchase. 

Sierra Club supporter Michelle Clawson
thanks Broward County Commissioners
When all 15 buses are deployed, Broward County is projected to have more zero-emission electric buses in operation than any other transportation agency in Florida. Given that the buses have no tailpipe and are very quiet on the road, Sierra Club supporters told Broward County Commissioners that residents will “see and appreciate” these buses but not “smell or hear” them. 

Zero-emission buses are clean, quiet and save taxpayer dollars. Each bus will also eliminate 1,690 tons of carbon dioxide, 10 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 350 pounds of diesel particulate matter over a 12 year period, ultimately reducing the air pollutants that cause or worsen diseases like asthma and cancer. Furthermore, as Sierra Club volunteer Michelle Clawson told the Broward County Commission, a single electric bus can “save between $150,000 to $200,000 dollars in fuel costs alone.” 


Broward County Transportation Department is now looking to further their leadership by charging these buses with the help of a solar energy system. Department leadership hopes to install advanced solar photovoltaic panels on the rooftop of the Copans Road maintenance facility in the City of Pompano Beach that will support the charging for their electric buses and significantly lower the amount of energy consumed at the facility. Sierra Club has offered a letter of support as Broward County seeks grant funding for additional zero-emission buses as well as the installation of solar photovoltaic panels.

Investing in zero-emissions vehicles represents an opportunity to reduce emissions, improve air quality and save taxpayer dollars. Sierra Club applauds the Broward County Transportation Department for their leadership and looks forward to seeing these buses on the road!

Now, the region will look to Miami-Dade, a county that issued an ambitious Request for Proposals more than two years ago for up to 75 zero-emission buses. If all 75 buses were purchased, it would represent the largest investment in electric buses on the East Coast. As the Miami-Dade County request has gone unfulfilled for years, residents are left to wonder; will they ever see the zero-emission buses they were promised? Or will Broward County remain the only true clean transit leader in South Florida?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Landmark Legal Victory!!! Judge Rules that Florida Legislature Must Spend Amendment One Funds on Land Acquisition as Mandated by Voters in 2014


Florida Judge Rules in Favor of Conservation Groups on Constitutional Amendment for Land Acquisition


For Immediate Release
June 15, 2018

Contacts:
Frank Jackalone for Sierra Club, frank.jackalone@sierraclub.org
Valerie Holford for Earthjustice, valerieholford@starpower.net
Manley Fuller for Florida Wildlife Federation, wildfed@gmail.com
Lisa Rinaman for St. Johns Riverkeeper, lisa@stjohnsriverkeeper.org
Becky Ayech - Environmental Confederation of SW FL, environmentalconfederation@gmail.com

Tallahassee - Florida Circuit Judge Charles Dodson ruled today in favor of environmental organizations that the land conservation constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters requires funding to be used for land acquisition, and restoration and management of those lands, not for other purposes. Organizations filed suit because the state legislature was violating the Water and Land Conservation Amendment by spending funds on unallowable expenditures. Background on the issue can be found here: https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2015/conservation-groups-file-amendment-one-lawsuit-in-florida


Below are statements from plaintiffs in the lawsuit reacting to the ruling:

Manley Fuller, Plaintiff and President of Florida Wildlife Federation:
“Judge Dodson ruled today that the amendment funds are to be used for new land acquisition management and restoration from the Everglades to the Florida Panhandle! This is what the voters of Florida intended in 2014. The sun was shining in Florida today.”

Becky Ayech, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida:
“We are very, very happy.  This is a great day for all of the people who live in Florida.”

Lisa Rinaman, St. Johns Riverkeeper:
“Protection of Florida’s lands is critical to protecting Florida’s waters. Today’s ruling is a stunning victory for our state’s wild places, rivers, springs, residents and future generations.”

Alisa Coe of Earthjustice, one of the attorneys who represents plaintiffs Florida Wildlife Federation, St. Johns Riverkeeper, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, Sierra Club, and Manley Fuller:
“Today’s decision is a big victory for the millions of Florida voters who demanded that the legislature reinstate land buying programs for parks, wild lands and the Everglades.  Four million Floridians approved a constitutional amendment to devote almost a billion dollars a year to purchasing conservation lands. The legislature and agencies thumbed their noses at the voters by spending the money on other things. This ruling will help protect some of Florida's most beautiful and environmentally important areas for generations to come.
In 2014, an overwhelming three out of four Florida voters approved the Land and Water Acquisition Amendment to the state constitution—it was the most popular item on the entire statewide ballot that year. Today’s ruling means that the state must honor the voters’ will to preserve our precious natural resources through conservation.”

Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director:
“Judge Dodson’s ruling today is a landmark decision making it clear that amendments to Florida’s constitution are orders by the people; they aren’t suggestions which the Legislature can decide to ignore.  After four years of blatant misappropriation of taxpayers’ money, the Legislature has been forced by the Florida Courts to obey the voters mandate that it use a dedicated source of state funds to preserve and protect Florida’s natural lands.”

###

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

In climate denial, Miami-Dade gives Ok to build the largest mega mall in the US in low-lying lands near Everglades

A rendering of the American Dream Mall in Miami, Florida. Triple Five Group

In climate denial, Miami-Dade gives Ok to build the largest mega mall in the US in low-lying lands near Everglades

In yet another example of climate denial and lip service to climate resiliency, the Miami-Dade County Commission approved land use and zoning changes on May 17, 2018, that will allow mega mall developer Triple Five, along with The Graham Companies, to replace wetlands and farmland for the largest mega mall in the United States in Southeast Florida.  With this latest decision, we have yet another example of a county commission that fails to see that the “emperor has no clothes”.

Despite concerns raised by community leaders, environmentalists and impacted residents, the county commission voted 9 to 1 to approve the applicant’s requests. Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava was the only NO vote. In a tweet, she stated “I can't support the approval of such a massive development that promises mostly low paid jobs, horrendous traffic, and that undermines the objectives we have for core transit development”.

In what should be referred to as the “American Nightmare Mall’, developers want to build the largest mega mall in the United States close to the Everglades, bringing traffic gridlock to the edge of the county and consuming enough to power upwards of 1,400 mw/hr or enough to power nearly 40,000 homes a day. In an age of climate change and sea level rise, developing this low-lying area is an epic mistake. This project is the wrong vision for South Florida.

-- Diana Umpierre, Sierra Club Everglades Organizing Representative

Remarks from Sierra Club volunteers and staff

"Is this another example of climate denial? The cumulative message behind Everglades Snakeway and American Nightmare Mall is that Miami-Dade County government led by Mayor Carlos Gimenez does not care about resilience. It only cares about keeping the sprawl train going into low-lying wetlands, regardless of climate change. It's not climate ready, it's climate reckless.” - Jonathan Ullman, Senior Organizing Representative, Sierra Club

“Those parents who don’t know where to take kids other than Orlando, there are national parks are nearby. Bigger is not better.  This dream project I think will really turn into a nightmare in the long run.” - Dany Garcia, Sierra Club Miami Group board member

“This catastrophic proposal must be denied. We need responsible developments that are climate resilient and protect the limited natural resources we have left. We need infill urban development that revitalizes existing communities and gives us affordable housing. We need fewer cars on the roads and more jobs that pay a living wage. We do NOT need an American Nightmare to regret for years to come and for taxpayers to be on the hook for what goes wrong.” - Stephen Mahoney, Conservation Chair, Sierra Club Miami Group

“Holy cajoly, we are in trouble. With the roads, they are finite, you can’t keep building them. With the waste, unbridled growth means a lot of horse you know what. And it has got to go somewhere. A unique development? You have Fairchild Gardens. You have sports teams. You have art festivals.  I can live without a submarine ride. If you think that you’ll be glorified for this temporary ‘ooh my gosh’, those tax dollars are going to drain down when you got to start dealing with water loss and resource loss, and pollution and development of roads.” - Sue Caruso, Sierra Club Broward Group board member

“The scale of this thing is just wrong for a county that is failing to address so many issues. To say, well, this is far away from the coasts, it’s naive. And, it’s not just about traffic. When I consider the climate-related challenges we’re facing, this is the wrong way to go.” - Diana Umpierre, Organizing Representative for the Sierra Club’s Everglades Restoration Campaign, who lives just 5 miles away from proposed site and at one time helped carry out sea level rise mapping for Southeast Florida.

“We have an Office of Resiliency here and the reason is because as a forward thinking community we need to be thinking long term. And there are some issues here.  Building a project like this in the wetlands does not address sea level rise. My kids and my grandkids live here. They are going to be facing that issue. The county commission has to be looking at the quality of life for the whole county.” – Noel Cleland, Vice-Chair, Sierra Club Miami Group

“It will destroy wetlands that recharge the Biscayne Aquifer. It will be next to a future Everglades restoration project, 5 miles from our water conservation and wildlife management areas, 15 miles from Everglades National Park. It will have huge energy demands from our existing power plants, which means more CO2 emissions. It will send large volumes of solid waste to our landfills. Has that been considered? It will need large amounts of water supply. It will exacerbate regional light pollution, producing a glow that will be visible deeper into the Everglades. We do NOT need an American Nightmare to regret for years to come.” - Valerie Robbin, Outreach Chair, Sierra Club Miami Group

Additional statements from concerned community leaders, environmentalists and impacted residents opposing the American Dream Miami proposal

"From the point of view of traffic and infrastructure burdens on taxpayers, it is a predictable nightmare. Before 2011, citizens had a place and a roadmap, through the Florida Department of Community Affairs, to challenge development schemes that were manifestly against the public interest. It speaks worlds that an ill-conceived regional development could be halted in the mid 1990s but not in 2017. Now developers have the upper hand. Behind it, more predictable nightmares: extending SR 836 into the last remaining farmland and open space in Miami Dade and further attempts to move the Urban Development Boundary." - Alan Farago, Vice President, Friends of the Everglades

“The American Dream Mall is yet another example of developers and elected leaders choosing profit over the protection of our communities especially given our heightened vulnerability to hurricanes. This project will bring an additional 100,000 cars a day to a site that sits at the crossroads of I-75, the FL Turnpike and 826—our most critical (and already tremendously overburdened) evacuation routes in the event of a storm. How is it not totally unconscionable to build in a way that makes us so vulnerable? And what more, where will all the drainage go? Why put this massive amount of concrete into endangered wetlands that are our region's natural solution for sea level rise and flooding?” - David McDougal, Miami resident

“Before we can even think about the traffic nightmare a project of this magnitude would create, the County Commissioners must consider the significant impacts to our water supply. While we are fighting like the dickens to ensure the survival of the Everglades and the source of drinking water for 8 million Floridians, mega-developers and projects likes these continue to put it all at risk.” - Kimberly Mitchell, Executive Director, Everglades Trust

"The American Dream Mall is bad for workers and our environment. Our economy doesn’t need thousands more low-wage, part-time jobs. We also don’t need more traffic and congestion. We need real solutions to our transit and jobs crisis. This is a rushed plan for a bad project.” - Wendi Walsh, Principal Officer, UNITE HERE Local 355

Philip Stoddard, Mayor of South Miami: “According to FIU’s Sea Level Rise Toolbox, the site of the proposed American Dream Mall sits a mere one to three feet above sea level.  With a foot of rain, or the next foot of sea level rise, the site becomes waterlogged, proverbial “swamp land in Florida”.  Going beyond the traffic nightmare, it’s time we discussed the wisdom of mining enough rock to raise this much land to a safe base elevation of 11 feet.  The area is mostly mined out.  Do we really want to use our remaining rock to build a new mall in a marsh, or should we dedicate it to elevating areas of economic importance like Doral, the airport, Brickell, and Miami Beach?”

Abel Fernandez, retired Battalion Chief for Miami Lakes:  “This project is the ‘Perfect Storm’. Existing traffic gridlock, residential development and a strained environment. You have several factors colliding and the effects will be greater than a category 5 storm.”

Derek Cintron, Miami Lakes resident:  "The 'mega-mall and friends' project clearly is not a case of the needs of many outweighing the needs of a few. In this case, the wants of a couple of developers are being considered by the government more than the needs of hundreds of thousands of residents."

Juan C. Fernandez, Miami Lakes resident/ local realtor: “The traffic in Miami Lakes and the surrounding areas is unbearable right now. Imagine an additional 40 to 70 thousand additional trips in the area. Aren't brick and mortar malls something of the past anyway? We don't need this monstrosity!”



What’s being proposed and why is it bad for South Florida?

To build “American Dream Miami”, the main developer (International Atlantic, LLC, owned by Mega Mall developer Triple Five) submitted Application No. 5 in May 2016 to amend the Miami-Dade Comprehensive Development Master Plan ("CDMP") to allow for the following on 174 acres of low-lying flood-prone land that includes wetlands and agricultural areas. Their proposal will add:
- 6.2 million sq ft for a retail/entertainment complex. Click here to see details.
 - 3.5 million sq ft of retail
 - 1.5 million sq ft of entertainment
 - 1.2 million sq ft of common area and other uses
- 2,000 hotel rooms

And it will includes these attractions:
-          Water Ballet Fountains
-          Tivoli Gardens
-          Indoor/Outdoor Theme Park
-          Indoor Ski Park
-          Indoor Waterpark
-          Indoor Skating Rink
-          Aquarium
-          Submarine Ride

       It will be the largest Mega Mall of its kind in the United States, attracting over 30 million visitors per year into our already congested roads and highways.
       It will create mostly low-paying jobs, below current average wages, NOT jobs with living wages that our communities need.
       It will destroy wetlands that recharge the Biscayne Aquifer.
       It will be at the very edge of the county’s Urban Development Boundary, next to a future Everglades restoration project, ~ 5 miles from our water conservation and wildlife management areas and ~ 15 miles from Everglades National Park.
       It will have huge energy demands from our existing power plants (over 1,400 MW-hr of maximum daily electric power demand), which means more CO2 emissions.
       It will send large volumes of solid waste to our landfills (over 130,000 pounds of solid waste per day).
       It will need large amounts of water supply (~1 to 2 million gallons of potable water daily and ~ 114 thousands of gallons of non-potable water for mostly irrigation).
       It will require significant removal of native muck soils for construction-grade fill.
       It will hurt small retail business owners and existing malls and shopping centers, displacing many jobs from one location to another.
       It will exacerbate regional light pollution, with more artificial lighting affecting neighboring communities and nearby ecologically sensitive areas and producing a glow that will be visible deeper into the Everglades.
       The developer, Triple Five, has a history of asking for large local and state government subsidies that enable them to profit at taxpayers’ expense, such as Mall of America and American Dream Meadowlands. In fact, the developer has refused to put in writing that they will not seek public subsidies.
       Click here for an elevation map and maps showing the proximity of ADM site to conservation lands and future CERP Lakebelt projects for Everglades restoration.

Surface Elevation Map
Location of the American Dream Mall on low lying land circled
Source:  SFWMD (NAVD 88 Ground Surface Elevations layer) at:

Bluer means lower elevations; Redder means higher elevations
Within the Green circle is the approximate location of proposed ADM site


Further Reading:

Eye on Miami blog on why the Predictable Nightmare: America Dream Mall
http://eyeonmiami.blogspot.com/2018/05/america-dream-mall-totally-predictable.html

Sun-Sentinel environmental column by Andy Reid against the American Dream Mall:
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/fl-op-buzz-mega-mall-everglades-20180511-story.html

Sun-Sentinel column by Dan Sweeney on what readers think about American Dream Mall:

Miami Herald column by Fabiola Santiago on how American Dream Mall will make a bad commute hell on earth.

Miami Herald article on American Dream Miami:

Photos taken of the properties as they are today: undeveloped and predominantly jurisdictional wetlands.
Photo credit:  Matt Schwartz, South Florida Wildlands Association


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

For 10th Time, Floridians Join Hands Across the Sand to Say NO to Oil Rigs!


Floridians reached across the partisan divide for the 9th consecutive year Saturday to join Hands Across the Sand at their favorite local beach to say no to offshore oil drilling and yes to clean energy. While torrential rain forced the cancellation of some Hands events, the sun shone on Clearwater Beach, one of America’s most popular beaches. 


L-R: Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard of Largo, Clearwater Mayor
George Cretekos, Congressman Charlie Crist, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. 
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, considered by many to be America’s #1 champion of clean, thriving beach economies, joined Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos and other prominent local elected officials: County Commissioners Pat Gerard and Janet Long, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and U.S. Representative Charlie Crist. Crist, who now represents Clearwater, St. Pete and the Pinellas beaches in Congress, has been a long time participant, dating back to his time as Florida’s Republican Governor. 

Mayor Cretekos observed that two out of five jobs in Pinellas County come from beach tourism, a number found all along Florida’s shores.

Sierra Club and Environment Florida held a press conference before the Hands event, hosted by Jana Offner Wiggins of Sea Shepherd, with assistance from the Suncoast Rise Above Plastics Coalition, Suncoast Sierra Club, the Suncoast Surfrider Foundation, the Center for Biological Diversity, Organize Tampa and Tampa Bay Waterkeeper.
Environment Florida State Director Jennifer Rubiello hosts Hands
Across the Sand press conference at Clearwater Beach. 

Hands Across the Sand started in February 2010 when state legislators considered opening Florida’s territorial waters to offshore drilling, which prompted a Panhandle restaurant owner to dream up this simple, yet powerful way for people to make a statement: Say NO to offshore drilling and dirty fuels; Say YES to clean energy for all. It grew to a worldwide event during the Deepwater Horizon gulf oil disaster that spring, and has continued as a way for people to express their support for clean beaches, clean technology and healthy oceans. 

Floridians in both parties now agree that new drilling would be a foolish risk to take with our state’s #1 industry – the folks who come from all over the world to visit our pristine beaches.

The gathering and show of support by hundreds of Floridians, thousands across the state, could not have been more timely. Two news reports since Saturday's event show how the current debate on new drilling in Florida's eastern gulf could easily go either way. 

On one hand: “Emboldened by a Defense Department report that expressed worries about unfettered offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, Florida’s House delegation is preparing to throw its weight around to win a multiyear extension of a moratorium off its coasts”, ” [Roll Call, 5/21/18]. 
The late Congressman C.W. Bill Young spoke at the 
very 1st Hands Across the Sand event back in 
Feb. 2010 at St. Pete Beach. For years Young 
kept Florida's Republican congressional delegation 
in line, opposing drilling. Clearwater Mayor 
Cretekos was Rep. Young's long time district director.

While at the same time, however, "House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) are leading talks with a group of lawmakers to find a path to opening the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling. The departments of Defense and the Interior briefed a group of lawmakers from the five Gulf Coast states — including Florida — on the issue last week, according to Scalise’s office. ‘Both departments agreed that with appropriate restrictions and proper coordination by the two departments, there are some areas in the federal waters of the eastern Gulf that could support both military and energy activities,’ a Scalise spokesperson said.” [E&E News,5/22/18].  


Senator Nelson has long pointed out how the eastern gulf, free of oil rigs that could be damaged and in turn damage the gulf, is of vital importance for military preparedness as the nation's only available site for practice bombing maneuvers. The eastern gulf is the only U.S. shoreline that is protected from drilling by federal law - the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) of 2006. It appears we could either lose this protection, if drilling advocates get their way, or extend it past its current expiration date of 2022. Florida's congressional delegation, led by Senator Nelson, is fighting right now for the latter. 
Even if there's never any drilling, seismic testing threatens the lives
of an estimated 187,000 whales and dolphins in the southern Atlantic
Ocean, thousands more in the Gulf of Mexico. 

As St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said Saturday, "The threat doesn't ever seem to go away. It's like a vampire that keeps coming back." 

With a massive electrification of Florida’s cars and buses now possible with the state’s $166 million from the VW diesel scandal settlement, we’ll soon need less oil, not more. It’s time for Big Oil to finally go away and let kids play on our beaches. 

Phil Compton 
Senior Organizing Representative
Sierra Club's FL Healthy Air & 
Ready for 100 Campaigns
1990 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, FL 33712
(o) 727-824-8813, ext. 303      (c) 813-841-3601 

Sierra Club, allies and residents speak out against proposed Dania Beach fracked gas power plant


Sierra Club members showed up in force at the Old Davie Schoolhouse on Tuesday, May 15, to protest Florida Power & Light’s plans to rebuild and expand a fracked gas plant in Dania Beach.

Wearing green, close to 50 Sierra Club members joined by New Florida Majority, Dania Beach residents, the Mayor of Tamarac, the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Broward County and members of the Miami Climate Alliance made their voices heard during the public portion of the site certification hearing.

Dania Beach residents called out FPL for its plans to elevate the new plant by 10.5 feet. FPL cites “sea level rise” in its application even though the plant’s methane emissions are exacerbating climate change for surrounding communities.

Sierra Club members and residents of Dania Beach demanded to know why FPL had not considered clean, renewable energy instead of building another fracked gas plant.

Tamarac Mayor Harry Dressler spoke about the ways in which local governments and therefore taxpayers are shouldering the climate change costs of FPL's addiction to fossil fuels.

The final step in the approval process will be a vote of the Power Plant Siting Board which is made up of the Governor and Cabinet members.  The vote is expected to happen sometime in late August of 2018.

Sierra Club members and others concerned about FPL’s plans to build another fracked gas plant that will lead to more climate change impacts should call the Governor’s office at (850) 488-7146 or email him at:  rick.scott@eog.myflorida.com and demand that he vote NO on approval for the Dania Beach fracked gas plant!

-- Susannah Randolph, Senior Campaign Representative, Florida, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign

Inspiring Connections Outdoors in Action

Inspiring Connections Outdoors in Action
By Gonzalo Valdes

Earlier this month, Tampa Bay Group Sierra Club shared their love for enjoying, exploring and protecting the outdoors with the next generation of future protectors of the environment. Sierra Club’s Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO) program hosted a fun weekend of camping in Lake Wales, FL for 45 first-time campers from Tampa Bay's Academy Prep.

“Plants in action are lit.” While learning how to identify the local flora, the fourth and fifth-grade campers got a closer look at what makes Florida wetlands so special. The students marveled at the Mimosa Pudica leaves reacting to human touch. They received some pointers from our experts on tracking animals in the area. Some even got to enjoy their first taste of blackberries as ripe pickings could be found across the campgrounds. As one fifth-grader put it, "Plants in action are lit." “The ICO Camping Trip provided my students with the ability to experience something most had never experienced before - outdoor camping. The classes that the volunteers taught and the activities they led really allowed my students to stretch outside their comfort zone and build a sense of belonging and oneness with their natural home.“ -- Kathleen Riley, Teacher at Academy Prep, former Sierra Club volunteer and intern



Participants learned about wilderness safety from local ICO Captain Rocky Milburn. Sierra members shared their knowledge of the outdoors by teaching this new crop of outdoor enthusiasts how to kayak, canoe, rock-climb and rappel. Nature hikes, plenty of games and even a talent show where the students got to show off their talents were just some of the many activities enjoyed by the great kids from Academy Prep. And of course, what campout would be complete without a campfire and s’mores.

Hands-on experience camping out overnight reinforced lessons on how to stay safe in the outdoors. By the end of the trip, our once “green” campers had a new appreciation for our connection to the environment and all the fun to be experienced in nature.

The core concept of the ICO program is to show our children another aspect of the world we all share. ICO runs 20-25 trips a year which are fully staffed and organized by dedicated volunteers, including volunteer “certified leaders” who are also certified in basic First Aid and CPR. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Solutions To Pollution On Display During Florida’s Smoggy Week

Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news?


Our kids with asthma need this. 
Who pays for it? VW's $$ could. School bus manufacturer 
Bluebird of GA showed their new electric bus to FL school 
officials at Friday's event in Lakeland. Bluebird joins 
Canadian manufacturer E-Lion in making these emission-
free buses available. FL's VW settlement funds could buy 
these to help our kids with asthma breathe easier. 
OK, here’s the good news: this past week, officials from Florida’s transit agencies and school boards learned about buses without tailpipes – clean, quiet zero emission buses that cost less to own that any other type, buses that will eliminate a major source of carbon emissions and smog.

The bad news? We needed those buses yesterday – literally. As the state celebrated May as "Clean Air Month", in the past week Floridians from Jacksonville to Sarasota suffered from harmful levels of smog – O3, or ground level ozone – that has made it really tough to breathe for folks with asthma and COPD and, on some days, for all of us.

Smog - An Unseen Health Threat

Unlike particulate pollution that we get from forest fires and really dirty diesel trucks, you can't see, taste or smell smog. Like a sunburn you don’t feel until you get home from the beach, smog burns the inside of your lungs. People with pulmonary issues suffer at lower levels than the rest of us. Kids with asthma have to interrupt their games on a playground to whip out inhalers as smog reaches just 60 parts per billion - 17% lower than EPA's current standard of 70 ppb.

Floridians this week in places like Jacksonville (115), Sarasota (133), Lakeland (115), and Tampa (166) all got the inside
of their lungs fried by ozone, making folks wonder why they were having trouble breathing. Sound like anyone you know?
Where does smog come from? FPL, Duke and the other utilities burning coal and “natural” (we call it fracked) gas, to be sure. But more than those guys, it’s you and me, driving our cars. Unless you drive an EV, that is.
Florida sunshine converts NOx and VOC into ozone. Sunny
spring days in weeks without rain results in harmful
levels that has won Hillsborough County an "F", year
after smoggy year, from the American Lung Association

AAA sees a strong future for electric vehicles, citing a new survey that shows that 1 in 5 Americans want one. Fifty million Americans, or 20%, will likely go electric with their next vehicle purchase, up from 15 percent last year.

Thanks to Florida's $166 million from Volkswagen, the solution to this pollution could be here soon, in large numbers statewide that make it possible for everyone to go electric and replace many of our dirty diesel buses. We could also have many more EV charging stations, thanks to VW and Sierra Club’s settlement agreement with Duke Energy that results in the utility spending $9 million on EV charging stations for places like multi-unit homes and interstate exits – places we need to be able to charge if more of us are going to drive cars without tailpipes. We especially need rapid charging stations at every exit on our highways for the new generations of EVs that go ~ 250 miles on a charge, so we'll all be able to take them across the state or on longer trips outside of Florida.

With VW potentially contributing $25 million for EV charging stations in Florida, not to mention installing their own network nationwide, we could very soon reach the tipping point to the switch to EVs that so many now desire.

Automated vehicles use "lidor"
sensors on bumpers that see by
emitting photons, creating a virtual
reality vision for on an board computer.
Another reason EVs are on their way: automated vehicles (AVs) are in the last stages of development, as we saw at a demonstration in Tampa on Wednesday. These cars can all be electric and will make roads safer. Furthermore, they’ll eliminate the need for many of the asphalt surface parking lots that make Florida hotter as they also prevent natural stormwater percolation into the aquifer. And when they do park when out of service to recharge, AVs will take up 50% less room, as they can park close together without needing to allow passengers to exit.

Even UPS is starting to make the switch. On the transit front, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, PSTA, will take delivery of its 1st two zero emission electric buses this month, and they just ordered 2 more to serve low income neighborhoods in S. St. Pete, to help improve air quality there. The Broward County Commission is expected to order its first 15 electric buses at its 9 am meeting Tuesday morning, May 22 


Proterra is expected to soon add more
electric buses to the 4 that have
served Tallahassee for years, along 
with a new order from Broward Co. 
All the electric buses now being made in America were on display at the American Public Transit Association's convention in Tampa, where they were parked across the street from where the Tampa Bay Lightning are now contending in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (we thought that was fitting). Go Bolts! Go Electric! 

A Big Thanks To YOU: Our THANKS to all who took 
the FDEP survey on how best to use our $166 million
from the VW diesel scandal settlement to reduce smog
emissions from transportation.

Special thanks to Sierra volunteers in every Group in our Florida Chapter, all over the state, who asked thousands to have their say, from Earth Day to yesterday. We expect FDEP to release the results later this month, and for EVs to come out far ahead. 
We’ll share the results soon.
PSTA will soon have 2 BYD
electric buses serving St. Pete's
Downtown Looper. Next year, 2 more! 

Thanks again for helping Florida take a major step forward to clean up our smoggy skies, as we fight the climate change that threatens our future. Other states are, the rest of the world is 
why not us? 


Phil Compton, Senior Organizing Representative
Sierra Club's FL Healthy Air & Ready for 100 Campaigns
1990 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, FL 33712
(o) 727-824-8813, ext. 303      (c) 813-841-3601