Friday, February 15, 2019

PRESS ADVISORY: Press Conference to Stop Kanter Real Estate Oil Drilling in the Everglades


For Immediate Release
Contact:  Cris Costello, 941-914-0421, cris.costello@sierraclub.org
Diana Umpierre, 954-829-7632, diana.umpierre@sierraclub.org     

** PRESS ADVISORY **

LOCAL LEADERS, PUBLIC UNITE WITH A STRONG MESSAGE:
Stop Kanter Real Estate Exploratory Oil Drilling in the Everglades

WHAT:         
A press conference where local elected leaders, Everglades restoration and clean energy advocates, and concerned citizens will express their fierce, collective opposition to the Kanter Real Estate oil drilling proposal and call on the Governor, the legislature, and the public to support the efforts to stop Kanter’s plan.

WHEN:         
Tuesday, February 19, 2019 at 11:00 am
Please arrive for an 11 am sharp start-time; the press conference will last no longer than 30 minutes with Q&A to follow.

WHERE:
Everglades Holiday Park
There will be reserved parking for members of the media (parking map). 

WHO: 
Confirmed speakers:
·         Commissioner Beam Furr, Broward County Board of County Commissioners
·         Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, Palm Beach Board of County Commissioners
·         Mayor Wayne Messam, City of Miramar
·         Commissioner Jay Schwartz, City of Pembroke Pines
·         Matthew Schwartz, Executive Director, South Florida Wildlands Association
·         Diana Umpierre, Organizing Representative, Sierra Club

The Broward League of Cities will be represented, as will organizations dedicated to the restoration of the Everglades and a 100% clean renewable energy future for Florida.  The public is invited.

**There will be visuals**

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Join our STOP THE BURN campaign!



This campaign is about asking the sugar growers to be BETTER NEIGHBORS.  

It is time to stop the “black snow.”

ALL our children deserve a healthy environment.

Have ideas you want to share?  We want to hear from you.  

Click here to learn more about our campaign and post your questions or stories. 

Click here to join the effort and/or sign up for email alerts            

WANT MORE INFO?

EMAIL:  patrick.ferguson@sierraclub.org 

CALL:  (954)288-4234

OFFICE:  136A S. Main St., Belle Glade, FL 33430 
Please call or email before you drop by to make sure we are in the office.

MAILING ADDRESS:  PO Box 2347, Belle Glade, FL 33430 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Governor DeSantis: Stop the SFWMD Motion to Vacate Everglades Consent Decree


For Immediate Release
February 7, 2019
Contact:  Cris Costello, cris.costello@sierraclub.org, 941-914-0421

Conservation Groups Urge Governor DeSantis to Stop
SFWMD Motion to Vacate Everglades Consent Decree

Tallahassee – Today environmental organizations from around the state sent a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis to urge him to direct the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to withdraw its motion to vacate the consent decree that has been the engine that has driven clean water protections for Everglades National Park for three decades:
February 7, 2019

The Honorable Ron DeSantis
The Florida Capitol 
400 S. Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399

Dear Governor DeSantis:

On behalf of the undersigned organizations, we appreciate the strong commitments made within your first month as Governor on the importance of advancing Everglades restoration and solving Florida’s ongoing water crisis. We stand ready to work with your Administration to achieve our shared goals for restoring the Everglades and improving water quality across the state. 

In keeping with these strong commitments, we urge you to direct the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to withdraw its motion to vacate the consent decree that has been the engine driving water protections for Everglades National Park for three decades. 

Originally filed in 1988 by the United States and immediately joined by several major environmental organizations, the case sought to stop pollution of the Everglades, including the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and Everglades National Park. Drainage pumps operated by SFWMD were pumping massive quantities of fertilizer-laden runoff from agricultural fields into the Everglades. After extensive settlement negotiations, a settlement agreement was reached by the parties in 1991 and then amended in 1995. Under the Amended consent decree, regulatory measures to reduce fertilizer runoff and the construction of artificial marshes – “Stormwater Treatment Areas” – were supposed to bring a halt to fertilizer pollution of the Everglades by the end of 2006. That deadline was not met and over the past dozen years, the sugar industry has made repeated efforts in the Legislature, in court, and in lobbying the District and the Governor’s Office to lift the requirements of the consent decree. To date, those efforts have been turned back by the federal court because of opposition from              the Justice Department under Republican and Democratic administrations alike, and opposition from the Miccosukee Tribe, the environmental organizations that are parties to the case, and the wider Everglades restoration advocacy community.  

On Thursday, November 8, 2018 – two days after you were elected to office – the SFWMD Governing Board appointed by Governor Rick Scott, which you have recently asked to resign, voted to petition Judge Moreno to vacate the consent decree. They did so with a clear understanding of the significant public opposition such an action would bring and without offering you the time to be briefed on the issue. 

Vacating the consent decree represents a tremendous threat to Everglades National Park, the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, and Florida Bay.

Since taking office, you have been decisive in your commitment to bringing a “fresh start” to the SFWMD. We believe that a Governing Board with different leadership and priorities would agree that vacating the consent decree is a disservice to Florida’s public. As such, we urge you to work with your new appointees to withdraw the motion to vacate the consent decree. 

Sincerely,

Alex Gillen
Policy Director
Bullsugar Alliance

John Cassani
Calusa Waterkeeper

Jaclyn Lopez
Florida Director
Center for Biological Diversity

Margaret R. Stewart
Director
Center for Earth Jurisprudence

Michael Baldwin
President
“Ding” Darling Wildlife Society

Aliki Moncrief
Executive Director
Florida Conservation Voters

Jim Gross
Executive Director
Florida Defenders of the Environment

Michael Chenoweth
President 
Florida Division of the Izaak Walton League of America

Preston T. Robertson
President & CEO
Florida Wildlife Federation        

Elinor Williams
President
Friends of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge 

Alan Farago
Conservation Chair
Friends of the Everglades 

Robert Knight
Director
Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute

Reinaldo Diaz J.D.
President
Lake Worth Waterkeeper

Tom Bausch
Board of Directors
Martin County Conservation Alliance

Mark Ferrulo
Executive Director
Progress Florida

Diana Umpierre
Organizing Representative
Sierra Club


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Thursday, February 7, 2019

Good jobs and green harvesting: A match made in heaven

Where are all of these jobs the sugar industry claims are the reason for maintaining the status quo in the Everglades Agricultural Area? The truth is that they are so few and far between that there is plenty of room for green jobs, the kind of jobs that can sustain families, the local economy, and the environment.  The end of pre-harvest sugar field burning and true Everglades restoration, along with a movement to bring justice and equity to the residents of the Glades, can combine to bring new economic opportunities to the communities that ring Lake Okeechobee. So how do we get from here to there? At the 2019 Everglades Coalition Conference, a panel explored how the fight for social, economic, and environmental justice go hand in hand and how green jobs should and can be a part of the near future of the Everglades Agricultural Area.

Kina Phillips, a lifelong South Bay resident and a local activist, started the conversation by presenting the standing room only audience with an overview of the current economic realities facing of the Glades communities and the environmental injustice caused by pre-harvest sugar field burning.  Her description of the lack of economic opportunities and high unemployment rates in the Glades emphasized the need for a change from the current state of things in Western Palm Beach County.  She highlighted how this change needs be driven by the community itself and that the future of her Glades neighbors should not and cannot be driven solely by the interests of the sugar industry.  For Kina, the time for allowing the sugar industry to portray themselves as the voice of Glades residents is over.  It is time for the working people in the Glades to explore the job development opportunities that an end to pre-harvest sugar field burning would bring; that means more sugar industry jobs to manage the trash (leaves and tops) and jobs that have been kept out of the community because the annual blanket of smoke runs business interests and business people out of the Glades. She inspired all present with her determination to speak out against current injustices within the Glades in favor of a more equitable, sustainable, and healthy future for her beloved community. 


Larry Williams, Jr. of the Sierra Club Labor Program talked about just transition, a concept that relates to how we change from an unjust, unsustainable economy to an equitable, green one. Larry shared that a just transition will look different in different places, and that it is important for the community members themselves to shape the type of transition that best suits their interests and needs. He illustrated current examples of just transitions that are being ensured through collaborative efforts between community organizations, local governments, and local businesses around the country where old, hazardous dirty coal jobs have been replaced with training programs and clean-energy jobs that can support a family.  The models are there for the people of the Glades to use and modify to create a just transition from pre-harvest burning to green harvesting.  Sierra Club’s just transition work seeks to promote equitable access to clean-energy related and green jobs for all, especially vulnerable communities and individuals.

After Larry spoke it was time for Andrew Martino from Global Organics Ltd. to blow our minds with the details of how the switch to green harvesting in Brazil has increased profits and improved the health of workers and neighbors of Grupo Balbo’s Green Cane Project.  Grupo Balbo is one of the largest organic agricultural projects on earth with over 54,000 acres of certified organic sugarcane; their sugar is sold under the "Native" brand name.  Andrew shared how Grupo Balbo pioneered green harvesting in Brazil thirty-five years ago. Since its inception they have phased out pre-harvest sugarcane burning and have created a 100% carbon-neutral farming operation that replaces chemical fertilizers and pesticides with natural alternatives. In addition to sugar, they utilize the whole plant to produce organic ethanol, biodegradable plastics, alcohol, animal feed, and enough electricity during the harvesting season to power a city of hundreds of thousands of people. Andrew covered how in addition to remaining profitable they provide generous support to their employees including profit sharing programs, social and educational programs, and subsidized medical care for all 5,000 employees and their families, a community of over 12,000 people. 

If Brazil can do it why can’t Florida?

Due to the federal government shutdown, Dr. Isabel Lima, a research chemist with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Sugar and Energy Project, was unable to attend the conference.  But Dr. Lima provided slides for Patrick Ferguson, Organizing Representative on the Stop Sugarcane Field Burning Campaign, on sugarcane-based biochars currently being produced from green harvested sugarcane by American BiocarbonAmerican Biocarbon, in partnership with the Cora Texas sugar mill in Louisiana, utilizes sugarcane trash and bagasse to make biocarbon pellets, a sustainable biomass fuel source.  Dr. Lima’s research also illustrates that biochar can be used as an effective organic fertilizer as well as a sorbent for water filtration systems.

If Louisiana can do it why can’t Florida?

Patrick then took the audience to Australia for another example of the green harvest-green job potential:  Rocky Point MulchingRocky Point Mulching profitably markets sugarcane trash from green harvested sugarcane as commercial mulch.

 If Australia can do it why can’t Florida?

Florida can do it!  It is possible to imagine and create a just transition for the Glades.  We can ensure a true win-win-win situation if we refuse to accept anything less. There can be good green jobs and business opportunities for residents, a more equitable and sustainable local economy for all, and more profits for the sugar industry if we end the outdated practice of pre-harvest sugar-field burning and build a new green harvest-based economy.  



What’s next?  How do we use this just transition discussion as a jumping off spot for much more to come?  Contact Patrick Ferguson to join the conversation (patrick.ferguson@sierraclub.org).


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Sierra Club Response to DeSantis' $625 Million Everglades/Water Budget

For Immediate Release:  January 29, 2019
Contact Frank Jackalone 727-804-1317; frank.jackalone@sierraclub.org


Sierra Club Responds to Governor DeSantis’ $625 Million Budget Proposal 
for Everglades Restoration & Water Quality Protection


Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director Frank Jackalone released the following statement today:

"Sierra Club Florida is pleased that Governor DeSantis has made Everglades restoration and protection of Florida's waters a major budget priority.  But the devil is in the details -- most of which he hasn't provided yet.   Based on a quick review of the six major priorities Governor Desantis released today in Naples, we have some praise, some criticism, and lots of questions: 

1)   "$360 Million for Everglades Restoration"   
  • What is the source of funding for this large allocation for Everglades Restoration?  
  • What are the 20 Everglades projects that would be funded?  
  • From the text, it appears that Governor DeSantis wants to speed up construction of  the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir based on the current design which is highly flawed;  it is too high at 23 feet and doesn't have the land needed to clean the reservoir's water before it is released to the Everglades.  He should ask water managers to pause to redesign it, which would allow for the use of Amendment 1 funds to acquire and manage land needed to build a shallower, less expensive reservoir.  
  • We are concerned from the comments on reducing discharges and updating the Lake Okeechobee Release Schedule (LORS) that the Governor may be looking towards a higher water level which would be harmful to the Lake's ecology.
  • We are happy that Governor DeSantis wants to speed up construction of Tamiami Trail bridging.   
2)   "$150 Million for Targeted Water Quality Improvements"
  • We like the $150 million from General Revenue for targeted water quality improvements.  However, the current system of Basin Management Action Plans, TMDLs, and MFLs is not working the way it could and should.  
  • We need more stringent, more protective BMAPs, TMDLs, and MFLs.  
  • Where is the regulation we were promised to stop pollution at its source?
3)   "$50 Million to Restore Florida’s World-Renowned Springs" 
  • Springs have already been getting a measly $50 million since the 2016 Legacy Act. 
  • $360 million vs. $50 million is an unfair split.    
  • Springshed protection is drinking water protection to and deserves a higher level of attention.   
  • Sierra Club calls for equal spending of land acquisition funds between South Florida, including the Everglades, and North Florida, including our Springs.  
4)   "$25 Million to Improve Water Quality and Combat Harmful Algal Blooms"
  • Governor DeSantis would be wise to avoid Red Tide Rick Scott's folly of funding studies, control and mitigation AFTER the algae blooms wreak havoc.  
  • We support increased harmful algae monitoring, but hope that his mitigation funding for innovative technologies isn’t the same as Scott’s plan to spread Chinese clay on the Gulf.  

5)   "$40 Million for Alternative Water Supply Development"
  • More details are needed on the Governor's alternative water supply line item.  
  • It is good to see the $40 million proposed for alternative water supply would come from general revenue funds. 
  • Where is the conservation of water supply?  Until consumptive use is more strictly monitored, regulated, and reduced Florida will remain in water supply jeopardy.

6)   "Transfer of 19 Positions from FWC to DEP"
  • Sierra Club Florida needs to study Governor DeSantis' proposal to transfer environmental crimes enforcement to DEP and has no comment at this time.

Finally, we need to ask:   Will there be any funds left over for the Florida Forever and Rural Family Lands programs?   We hope to learn the answer to those questions when the Governor releases his full environmental budget on Friday.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Sierra Club Highlights: 2019 Everglades Coalition Conference

Sierra Club highlights at the
2019 Everglades Coalition Conference

Sierra Club staff, volunteers, and invited guests made important contributions to the 2019 Everglades Coalition Conference. The theme this year was “Everglades Rescue: Send the Water South.

Sierra Club FL Chapter Director Frank Jackalone addresses the crowd / Photo: Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch
On Friday morning, Sierra Club FL Chapter Director Frank Jackalone gave opening remarks that introduced Sierra Club staff and volunteers in attendance and gave an overview of both our vision for restoring the Everglades and our response to Governor DeSantis’ executive order on water policy reforms that was announced the previous day (check out our press release here).  He also introduced our invited keynote speaker, Dr. Jaeson Clayborn.

Dr. Clayborn, an enthusiastic biologist who recently earned his PhD from Florida International University, described his work to restore habitat for the federally endangered Schaus’ swallowtail butterfly within Biscayne National Park and his research on threats from the red imported fire ant. He also gave us a preview of a fun interactive game he’s developing to motivate young people to care for endangered butterflies and recognize the threats to their existence in South Florida . He did a terrific job teaching us all how to tell the difference between butterflies, moths, and skippers! To learn more about his work, including his STEM outreach, visit his website.

Dr. Jaeson Clayborn providing his keynote remarks / Photo: Alyssa Cadwalader
Sierra Club FL Chapter’s state lobbyist Dave Cullen moderated the lively plenary “Managing Growth Before It’s Too Late” which was organized by our Everglades Restoration Organizing Representative, Diana Umpierre.  The plenary brought to light the urgency of strengthening the state’s oversight role as well as local and regional land use coordination and citizen participation. Panelists shared their perspectives on why this is important and the ways to improve state planning law to make it a meaningful state priority program that facilitates restoration and ensures that continued development is sustainable. The panelists included: FL Senator José Javier Rodríguez, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, Collier County Commissioner Penny Taylor and Thomas Hawkins, Policy & Planning Director with 1000 Friends of Florida.

Dave Cullen presented & moderated plenary on growth management / Photo: Stephen Mahoney
Diana Umpierre also served as a panelist on the breakout session titled “Buy the Land: How will Florida Spend the Constitutional Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) Money?” The panel discussed the 2018 decision by Judge Dodson that ruled that monies from the 2014 Constitutional Amendment 1 may only be spent on acquisition and restoration of conservation lands. The session was moderated by attorney Alisa Coe (Earthjustice) and other panelists included: David Guest (environmental attorney), Jim Gross (FL Defenders of the Environment) and Shannon Estenoz (Everglades Foundation).  Diana shared examples of where LATF funds should be used to advance Everglades restoration and protect critical natural lands and wildlife corridors within the Greater Everglades ecosystem. Examples discussed included land in the EAA (long established as essential), north of Lake Okeechobee, within the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, and in the Florida Forever Priority List.

Diana Umpierre shares where LATF should be used to buy land to restore & protect the Greater Everglades /
Photo: Stephen Mahoney
Patrick Ferguson, Organizing Representative for the Stop Sugar Field Burning Campaign, moderated a breakout session titled “Green Jobs and Restoration in the EAA: A Match Made in Heaven.” Panelists discussed the opportunities for family-sustaining green jobs that can support the Glades’ local economy and the environment, by replacing pre-harvest sugar field burning with green harvesting within and around the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). The panelists included South Bay activist Kina Phillips, Larry Williams, Jr., Labor & Coal Coordinator, Sierra Club Labor Program, Andrew Martino, Category Manager - Sugar & Sweeteners for Global Organics Ltd. Dr. Isabel Lima, a research chemist with the USDA Sugar and Energy Project, was unable to attend the conference due to the partial government shutdown but her presentation was shared with the audience. The topic of a just transition from the status quo to a greener and more equitable post-restoration economy was for the first time ever explored at the conference and the discussion will be the jumping off spot for much more to come.

Panelists for the "Green Jobs and Restoration in the EAA" breakout session
(from left to right: Andrew Martino, Kina Phillips, Patrick Ferguson, Larry Williams, Jr) / Photo: Kil'Mari Phillips
Sierra Club also brought voices together from North and South Florida on a session titled “Everglades and Florida’s Springs: Common Ground, Common Cause”. The session was moderated by Sierra Club's Our Wild America Florida Organizing Manager Cris Costello. Panelists discussed how nutrient pollution and decades of mismanaged water resources, absence of protective regulation, and defunding of water protection agencies have negatively impacted not just the Everglades, but also Florida’s freshwater springs, lakes, rivers and coastal communities in Central and North Florida. Panelists spoke regarding the need to join forces to protect these precious water resources and identified common ground and collaborative actions they would like to take to address shared interests. Panelists included: Ronstance Pittman (Jackson County NAACP), Dr. Robert L. Knight (Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute), Lisa Rinaman (St. Johns Riverkeeper) and Rae Ann Wessel (Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation).

Panelists for the "Everglades & Florida's Springs" breakout session
(from left to right: Ronstance Pittman, Lisa Rinaman / Photo: Gayle Ryan)
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"Green Jobs and Restoration in the EAA" breakout session / Photo: Diana Umpierre

Dr. Jaeson Clayborn demonstrates a skipper antennae / Photo:  Diana Umpierre

Sierra Club staff/volunteers with FL Senator José Javier Rodríguez
Photo: Stephen Mahoney

Sierra staff (Frank Jackalone and Diana Umpierre) with US Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell
Photo: Diana Umpierre 

"Building Glades Power" Lego art on Sierra Club table / Photo: Jessica Lewis

Some of the Sierra staff/volunteers attending conference
(from left to right: Larry Williams, Jr., Jessica Lewis, Diana Umpierre, Ingrid Ayala)
Photo: Jessica Lewis)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Sierra Club Responds to Governor DeSantis’ Water Policy Reforms

For Immediate Release:  January 10, 2019
Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club, 727-804-1317

Sierra Club Responds to Governor DeSantis’ Water Policy Reforms

Sierra Club Florida is pleased that Governor DeSantis is tackling Florida's water crisis as an immediate, top priority in his administration.  We like his emphasis on reducing nutrient pollution, but have a few questions and concerns about the details of his announcement:

We support:
  • Focus on nutrient pollution.
  • Creation of a science office at DEP.
  • Expediting Everglades restoration projects.
  • Septic conversion program.
  • Commitment to enforce environmental regulations.
  • Additional stormwater treatment for the C-43 reservoir.
  • Commitment to protect Apalachicola River and to stop State of Georgia's harmful water withdrawals affecting Florida.

Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director said “In his first week in office, Governor DeSantis has done more to address Florida’s water quality crisis than Governor Rick Scott did in eight years.

Major concerns:
  • We oppose immediate work on the poorly designed Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir. It first needs to be redesigned to include a shallower, wider reservoir with a major land purchase to provide for the necessary treatment of water from the reservoir before it is released south to the Everglades.
  • There is no mention of the need to work with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) to address agricultural pollution.
  • There is no mention of the need to combat climate change which is making Florida's waters warmer and intensifying harmful algae blooms.
  • Like Governor Scott, Governor DeSantis opposes offshore drilling off Florida's coasts without also opposing new drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico which is the oil industry's real target, or the expansion of inland oil drilling within the Greater Everglades.
  • Governor DeSantis needs to oppose acid matrix limestone fracturing which is how the oil and gas industries do fracking in Florida. We are disappointed that he singles out "hydraulic fracturing" which isn't the form of fracking that is done in Florida.  Last year's bipartisan bills banning fracking recognized this distinction.
  • Nutrient pollution feeds/fuels both blue green algae and Red Tide.  Nutrient reduction strategies and regulation should also be focused on preventing Red Tide that threatens coastal communities.  Just studying Red Tide is not enough.
  • The failure to make a commitment to the reinstatement of strong statewide and regional land use planning.  Governor Rick Scott dismantled the Department of Community Affairs, which had overseen large-scale developments impacting Florida’s natural resources for over three decades; Governor DeSantis can and must compensate for the last eight years.

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Everglades National Park/ Photo by: Aaron Umpierre