Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Contact members of the FL House Tourism, Infrastructure, & Energy Subcommittee Immediately to Oppose HB 839!

HB 839 preempts energy infrastructure to the State. It prohibits local governments from future restrictions or requirements on the construction of energy infrastructure  and voids any adopted rule, regulation, ordinance, policy, resolution, etc. affecting energy infrastructure. The bill has its first hearing tomorrow, March 3rd, at 1 PM. 

If passed, the bill would void all the work Sierra Club Florida (and others) has done in obtaining city commitments for 100% clean energy for the past 5 years and would prevent any further work going forward. It also would restrict renewable energy construction to only what the legislature mandates.

Please call or email the members of the FL House Tourism, Infrastructure, & Energy Subcommittee and ask the member to OPPOSE HB 839 as the bill will: 

  • Prevent localities from prohibiting, restricting, or requiring construction of new energy infrastructure - both renewable and fossil

  • Devastate municipal budgets and bargaining power

  • Eliminate local energy choices and leaves our energy future solely in the hands of the state legislature

  • Retroactively wipes out municipal progress toward clean energy

Eleven cities​ ​have taken leadership in support of our state’s transition to a cleaner and more resilient energy future.​ ​More than 1.1 million Floridians - 5+% of our population - live in a community committed to powering​ ​their city with 100% clean and renewable electricity. Help us maintain momentum​ by opposing HB 839.

Members of the Committee: 

​All phone numbers are 850.717.XXXX

Chair Brad Drake (R)   850.717.5005
Vice Chair Chip LaMarca (R)   5093
​Democratic Ranking Member, Emily Slosberg (D)  5091
Rep. Mike Beltran (R)  5057
Rep. Kamia Brown (D)  5045
Rep. James Buchanan (R)  5074
Rep. Linda Chaney (R)  5069
Rep. Tracie Davis (D) 5013
Rep. Randy Fine (R)  5053
Rep. Dotie Joseph (D)  5108  
Rep. Fiona McFarland (R)  5072
Rep. Rick Roth (R)  5085
Rep. Jason Shoaf (R)  5007
Rep. David Silvers (D)  5087
Rep. Kelly Skidmore (D)  5081
Rep. Dana Trabulsy (R)  5084
Rep. Jayer Williamson (R)  5003
Rep. Clay Yarborough (R)  5012

Thank you for all you do for Florida's environment!

Monday, March 1, 2021

Press Release: Tiny Florida Key Deer Wins in US District Court

For Immediate Release
March 1, 2021
Contact:  Karimah Schoenhut, 202-548-4584, karimah.schoenhut@sierraclub.org
Diana Umpierre, 954-829-7632, diana.umpierre@sierraclub.org

US Fish & Wildlife Service Ordered to Release Public Records

Belle Glade, FL – On Friday, February 26, 2021, a district court agreed with Sierra Club that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) was improperly refusing to make public an Endangered Species Act "Species Status Assessment" report regarding the endangered Florida Key deer. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the release of this "purely factual scientific report" pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act. The court also found that the agency had failed to justify its refusal to release other records related to this report, such as communications from agency scientists regarding its contents. Release of this report will help shed light on the Fish & Wildlife Service's inexplicable rush during the Trump administration to strip the species of Endangered Species Act protections despite severe population losses from Hurricane Irma and screw worm disease, and the devastating impacts of sea level rise, which will extirpate the species absent drastic action.

After secretly initiating a status review process for the Key deer in 2017, FWS completed a status assessment report in January 2018. For over a year and half, despite concerns raised by its own staff regarding sea level rise impacts, FWS wasted scarce resources on developing a proposed rule to delist the Florida Key deer – and even drafted a "post-delisting" monitoring plan for the species. By August 2019, FWS was on the brink of announcing the proposed delisting when a last-minute peer review from the United States Geological Survey made it clear that FWS could not just write-off sea level rise impacts. Since that time, FWS apparently has been working on another proposed rule that would "down-list" the species to "threatened" instead of "endangered," a move that would open the door to reducing protections for the Key deer from killing and other forms of harm.

Karimah Schoenhut, Staff Attorney, Sierra Club Environmental Law Program said: “Under the Trump administration, the Fish and Wildlife Service shamefully attempted to shield its scientific assessment from public scrutiny while rushing forward with work to strip protections for the species. We hope that the Biden administration will see this as the red flag that it is and carefully re-evaluate this entire status review process prior to proposing any change to protections for the Key deer.”

“It's ridiculous that it took three years and a lawsuit for FWS to allow Key deer advocates, volunteers that give countless hours to protect the species, to finally see this report. Key deer advocates know, as does FWS, that Key deer could face extinction from climate change if inaction continues. Instead of hiding public records they should have been spending their energy to save a species.” said Diana Umpierre, Sierra Club Everglades Restoration Campaign Organizing Representative.

Florida Key deer photo:


Florida Key deer
at the USFWS National Key Deer Refuge
at Big Pine Key (Photo by Aaron Umpierre)



For Immediate Release                                         

March 1, 2021


Deborah Foote, 850-727-4039, deborah.foote@sierraclub.org






Governor DeSantis receives a “D-”

Commissioner Fried receives a “C-“


TALLAHASSEE, FL. (March 1, 2021) – Today Sierra Club Florida released its 2020 report cards for the Governor and the Commissioner of Agriculture & Consumer Services via video press conference. The Report Cards are designed to give a snapshot of the performances of the Governor and the Commissioner on issues of significant importance to the Sierra Club.


According to Acting Chapter Director Deborah Foote, “Governor DeSantis continues to avoid the important issues of addressing climate change by ending our dependence on dirty fuels and transitioning Florida to 100% clean energy. There isn’t enough money in all of Florida to raise our roads, elevate buildings, or create higher seawalls to avoid the impact of sea level rise.”


Last year, the Governor received a “D” for his efforts, slipping this year to a D-. He received a failing grade in 16 of 25 categories; including continued support for three new toll roads in rural Florida, signing legislation that further weakens growth management, raiding the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for purposes other than land acquisition, signing legislation that makes it harder for citizens to put initiatives on the ballot, and promoting anti-mob legislation designed to intimidate people protesting government actions.


This is the first report card for Commissioner Fried and she receives a “C-“ for her efforts. She received a failing grade in 3 of 8 categories; including her failure to address the problem of pre-harvest sugar field burning that is impacting the health and property of communities in western Palm Beach County, allowing the use of antibiotics pesticides to combat citrus greening despite known environmental and health concerns, and no effort to reduce single use plastics and polystyrene in the entities FDACS licenses.


“Commissioner Fried continues to ignore the needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens by supporting agricultural practices that impact public health. Her calls for racial equity ring hollow when citrus trees are more important than farmworker health and the primarily black communities in western Palm Beach County are not afforded the same protections from sugar burning as the wealthier communities in eastern Palm Beach County,” said Organizing Representative Diana Umpierre.


Political Chair, David Harbeitner noted that the Report Card outlines what the Sierra Club believes Florida needs to move forward- “we don’t simply criticize; we lay out solutions that will lead to a better future for all of Florida’s citizens.” 


The Report Cards may be viewed at https://www.sierraclub.org/florida/legislative-lobbying .


A chapter of the national Sierra Club, Sierra Club Florida is made up of volunteer leaders and civic activists representing over 230,000 members and supporters from all over the state.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Tips for Calling Your Florida Representative or Florida Senator

 Tips for calling your Florida Representative or Florida Senator: 

  • If you live in their district, be sure to let them know.  Your representatives* always want to hear from constituents.**
  • Call anytime.  Voicemails are okay, even if you don’t speak to someone.  Just be sure to modify the call script to make more sense for a voicemail instead of a live call.
  • Be kind and respectful.  Some Senators and Representatives will already be on our side.  You may also speak with an intern or staff member who’s just doing their job.  Smile when you dial!
  • Practice what you’ll say before dialing so your point comes across clearly and confidently.
  • Be concise.  If you don’t use the suggested scripts, just make sure you reiterate the singular ask of the person you're calling at least twice.  For example, say "please vote no on House Bill 1" at least twice during your call or your voicemail message.
  • Make your calls timely.  Your fellow volunteer leaders and staff members will try our best to make sure your calls are made at the most effective moment.  Follow instructions on when and whom to call.

 Did You Know. . . 

Most advocacy or policy calls take less than 2 minutes?  It's a very low time commitment but still the most effective way to communicate with your representatives!

 Who do I call? 

Sierra Club volunteer leaders and staff will often let you know whom to call, so be sure to stick with that guidance.  But if you need to find your state/Florida and federal/US representatives, you can use this link: www.myfloridahouse.gov/FindYourRepresentative

 What's All This Mean, Anyway? 

*representative = This can be confusing!  If you see "representative," with a small "r," that is a generic term for anyone who represents you at any level of government.  If you see "Representative" with a big "R," that is an official title of an elected official, such as Representative Gonzalez, and it can mean someone at the federal (US) or state (Florida) levels.  When we say representative (small r), we are often talking about both Representatives and Senators in a generic sense, but it can also encompass Mayors, County Commissioners, and other elected officials.

Another layer of potential confusion?  When we use "representative" or "Representative" in the shorthand it can look like "rep." or "Rep."  Sometimes "Rep." can also be used to indicate the Republican political party.  It's best to double-check someone's intent when using the shorthand "Rep." to avoid confusion.

**Constituent = "a member of a constituency; a component part of something."  For our purposes, a constituent is a person who lives in a district represented by an individual.  You are a constituent of multiple people at multiple levels of government, including federal, state, county, and city.

Thursday, February 18, 2021


November 2020 sugar field burn South Bay FL

For Immediate Release                                                                   

February 18, 2021

ContactsSteve Messam, smessam@me.com, 989-400-4225

Fred Brockman, fbrock@att.net 




BELLE GLADE -- On January 1, 2021, the second phase of Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried’s “improvements” to the rules that determine when and why pre-harvest sugarcane field burning can be permitted went into effect.  The failure of these “improvements” to make any difference to the residents in the Glades, and the renewed call for a phase-out of pre-harvest sugarcane field burning, were addressed in a letter sent to Commissioner Fried on February 3, 2021 by community activists in and around the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA):

February 3, 2021

Commissioner Nikki Fried 

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services 

Plaza Level 10, The Capitol 

400 S. Monroe St. 

Tallahassee, FL 32399-080 

RE: Stop The Burn 

As of January 1, 2021, the “phase 2” pre-harvest sugar field burning rule changes you announced on August 4, 2020, became effective. While the details of “phase 2” were not made easily available to the public between August and January, we requested those details via public records request on August 6, 2020, and received those details on January 7, 2021. After now having the benefit of reviewing the received documents, and experiencing firsthand the insignificance of these changes on the quality of life in our communities, we bring the following to your attention: 

  • Sugarcane field pre-harvest burn permits are denied when wind blows in excess of 10 MPH in Zone 2 North and 12 MPH in Zone 2 South towards Eastern Palm Beach County and Eastern Martin County while sugarcane field pre-harvest burn permits are approved when wind blows in excess of 12 MPH in Zone 4 and 15 MPH in Zone 5 towards the Glades, as long as backing fires are used. 

  • Backing fires are required for all burns when winds speeds are below 10 MPH in Zone 2 North and 12 MPH in Zone 2 South towards the East while backfires are only required when wind speeds exceed 12 MPH in Zone 4 and 15 MPH in Zone 5 when towards the Glades communities. 

  • Wellington had a population of 23,309 in 1992 when resident complaints led to the development of wind-based regulations to increase protection for their communities.The Glades region now has a population of roughly 55,833 residents and yet the residents there remain without equal protection making referenced “improvements” related to population growth nothing but smoke and mirrors. 

  • The Florida Certified Prescribed Burn Manager Training Course for EAA burners, whether or not changes were made with regard to who is trained when, has no impact on the number, intensity, or proximity of pre-harvest burns in and around the Glades. 

The “Phase 2” changes have brought no positive impact on our quality of life, no noticeable difference in the amount of smoke and ash falling on our homes and schools, and no relief from the damper falling ash has on our economic landscape. These changes have done nothing to address the historic stark, Black and White differences between how communities in Eastern Palm Beach County and the Glades have been treated by FDACS. 

The newly implemented changes do not expand the circumstances where permits blowing toxic smoke and ash toward the Glades communities would be denied, rather they only expand the circumstances where backfires must be used. What is especially cruel about this change is that backfires used on the organic muck soils prevalent in the EAA can increase the likelihood of smoldering or “muck fires.” Muck fires can increase ground-level CO and ozone production

adding further health threats to surrounding communities. To add insult to injury, these muck fires further erode and degrade the vulnerable muck soils of the EAA. See here and here.

Therefore, our review and experience throw a harsh revelatory light on your remarks of August 4, 2020, when you stated: “This second phase of prescribed burning improvements delivers on our promise to enhance public safety, reduce smoke and ash impacts for Everglades communities, and reduce the risk of wildfires.” The fact is that they do nothing of the sort. 

Fourteen months have passed without any action on your part in response to our community’s urgent plea for a burn-free buffer zone around our homes, schools, churches and businesses. Nearly a year has passed since that plea was made even more urgent by the added threat of COVID-19 to an already vulnerable population, a point made clear to you in 2020 by the medical professionals represented by the Florida Clinicians for Climate Action (FCCA), Florida Physicians for Social Responsibility (FLPSR), and Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FLAAP). 

It is clear that protection of communities in Eastern Palm Beach and Martin Counties remains your priority while the people of the Glades are sacrificable. The environmental racism at the core of your predecessors’ response to pre-harvest burning is still at the core of yours. 

The past two years of inaction or meaningless action beg a number of important questions: 

  • If population density is a determining factor in who gets and does not get protection under the wind direction rules, how does FDACS reconcile the fact that the Glades region has for sometime had a population over twice that of 1992 Wellington? 

  • What steps have been taken to promote a switch to green harvesting by FDACS since the August 4, 2020 press release that stated: “Commissioner Fried also continues to encourage adoption of green harvesting by working with corporate partners on the manufacturing and purchasing of sugarcane biomass?” 

  • The Florida Certified Prescribed Burn Manager Training Course appears to have remained unchanged since 2014, and only references pre-harvest sugarcane burning once in passing. What if anything has changed within the Florida Certified Prescribed burn Course or training protocols or requirements that warranted mention within the “phase 2” changes? 

As constituents who are especially impacted by your administration’s policies on sugarcane burning, we expect to receive a response. We know you have interacted with groups associated with and representing the interests of the sugar industry, and so request the same attention and respect. To refuse to respond to the call for a no-burn buffer between our families and the toxic smoke and ash is unconscionable. 

We applaud the stated goals included in your "Federal Partnership Plan" announced on February 2. We urge you to (1) make the obvious connections between “regenerative

agriculture,” “biomass-based renewable fuels,” “climate change mitigation,” and “environmental justice” and the switch to green harvesting; and (2) take immediate action to meet those goals for the benefit of our community members. 

We implore you to acknowledge the environmental racism that is within your power to address and take immediate action to end it. 


Stop The Burn Leadership Team: 

Fred Brockman 

Sister Laura Cavanaugh 

June Downs 

Anne Haskell 

Brittany Ingram 

Elaine Lavallee 

Catherine Martinez 

Steve Messam 

Elena Michel 

Robert Mitchell 

Kina Phillips 

Shanique Scott 

Kathey Sullivan 

Richard Sullivan 

Colin Walkes


“You would think that during a pandemic our communities could be given basic courtesy so we wouldn’t have to call and complain to the Florida Forest Service about the sugarcane burns choking our city.  Commissioner Fried where are you?  You have the authority to stop this.  Why are we being ignored?” stated Robert Mitchell, Belle Glade resident and founder of Muck City Black Lives Matter.

Sister Laura, Belle Glade resident, said:  "There have been days this past month where the smoke has been so overwhelming that closing my windows has brought no reprieve from the stench of sugarcane burning.  If Commissioner Fried got a chance to hear from us, or spend any amount of time in the Glades during the harvesting season, I doubt she would continue to claim how ‘substantial’ her Phase 2 rule improvements really are."



Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Act Now for Environmental Justice: “Farming Operations”

  Use your voice!

Call the Florida Senators below before Monday.

<<alt text: two square graphics, one with burning sugarcane field in the background and text stating action alert, bad bill alert, sb88 farming operations, with sierra club logo, the other graphic states make calls for environmental justice, tell these senators to vote no on sb88, and lists senators’ names and phone numbers, which are also listed below in text>>

What to say when you call:

“Hello!  My name is ______.  I’m calling to ask Senator _____ to vote NO on Senate Bill 88 during the Environment and Natural Resource Committee hearing on Monday.

Everyone deserves an even playing field when it comes to our justice system.  SB 88 would greatly reduce our ability to hold agricultural industry defendants accountable by favoring them above plaintiffs and other businesses.  This bad bill clearly picks winners and losers, and that’s just not fair to Floridians.

Please vote NO on SB 88.  Thank you!”

Call these Florida Senators before Monday:

(it’s okay to leave a voicemail, or to send an email if calling isn’t an option; do not forward this email to senators or representatives, instead, write a new email to them)

Senator Bean - (850) 487-5004 - bean.aaron@flsenate.gov

(his district includes Nassau and Duval Counties, let him know if you live in the area)

Senator Perry - (850) 487-5008 - perry.keith@flsenate.gov

(his district includes central portions of north Florida, let him know if you live in the area)

Senator Ausley - (850) 487-5003 - ausley.loranne@flsenate.gov

(her district covers portions of the Panhandle, let her know if you live in the area)

Senator Stewart - (850) 487-5013 - stewart.linda@flsenate.gov

(her district covers a portion of Orange County, let her know if you live in the area)

<<alt text:black  graphic with white text states share this action alert on your social media to reach even more people, includes instructions for saving graphics and posting on social media platforms>>

Tips for calling:

  • If you live in the Senator’s district, be sure to let them know.  They always want to hear from constituents.

  • Call anytime.  Voicemails are okay, even if you don’t speak to someone.

  • Be kind and respectful.  Some senators and representatives will already be on our side.  You may also speak with an intern or staff member who’s just doing their job.

  • Practice what you’ll say before dialing so your point comes across clearly and confidently.

  • Be concise.  If you don’t use the suggested scripts, just make sure you say “Vote NO on SB 88” at least twice.



If you want more info, dive in!  Remember, you don’t need to be an expert in order to take action.  Making the phone call is the most important part.


The Problems with SB 88:

  • SB 88 sets up an uneven playing field between potential plaintiffs and farm operation defendants.

  • Floridians deserve the right to seek redress through our justice system without legislation that pre-determines winners and losers.

  • This bill will make it difficult or impossible for residents currently subjected to 8 months of smoke and ash from sugar burning each year to successfully sue for damages.

  • If adopted, this bill may interfere with an ongoing suit.

  • SB 88 unreasonably limits “standing” (the ability to sue).

  • This bill favors farm operations above other everyday Floridians and businesses.

More background information on this issue:

  • Makes plaintiffs risk responsibility for the legal fees of farm operation defendants

    • Everyday Floridians with legitimate complaints are far less likely to seek and receive justice due to the enormous potential liability

    • This is a deliberate tactic to dissuade suits from being filed

  • Stretches the “coming to the nuisance” argument

    • “Right to Farm” laws protect farm operations from suits filed by newcomers who move to a farming area and complain about noise and smells on the grounds that they chose to “come to the nuisance”

    • SB 88 stretches that argument to extend protection to suits having nothing to do with newcomers moving in, such as negligence, personal injury, and defective product liability. No one chooses to “come to negligence.”

  • Creates a much steeper burden of proof for plaintiffs with legitimate injuries

    • Applies only to farm operations

  • Removes plaintiffs’ ability to seek health impact damages in court

    • Limits damage award to no more than the amount of reduction in value of a plaintiff’s property, even if their injury is entirely unrelated to that property

  • Eliminates the court’s ability to factor in the most recent 3 years of damages prior to the initiation of a suit

    • The court may only factor in damages/injuries incurred more than 3 years before the date a suit is initiated, meaning a farm operation defendant’s recent past actions cannot be considered in a punitive damages award 

  • Eliminates the rights of plaintiffs living more than 2,640 feet, ½ mile, from a farm operations defendant to address issues in court

    • Constituents that live 2,640 feet from a potential defendant have their rights removed (that’s the distance from the Capitol complex to Tennessee Street)

    • Water, air, noise, and light pollution can and do occur at much greater distances than ½ miles