Monday, April 13, 2015

FWC to Discuss Bear Management at Commission Meeting

Copyright Carlton Ward, Jr.

Come tell the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to protect black bears!

What: FWC Commission Meeting - Bear Management: Agenda

When:   Tuesday, April 14th at 1:30 pm 
              Wednesday, April 15th at 8:30 am 
    Thursday, April 16th at 8:30 am

WhereAlfred Lawson Jr. Multipurpose Center, FAMU
   1800 Wahnish Way
   Tallahassee, FL 32307

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will be discussing bear management issues at their upcoming meeting, Tuesday through Thursday, this week in Tallahassee. Black bears were protected under the state's endangered species list for 38 years, until their removal from the list in 2012But bears face the threats of habitat loss, euthanasia, road kill, and now the prospect of hunting.

Copyright FWC
The Sierra Club Florida directly opposes any form of hunting for Florida black bears. In 2002, the FWC estimated that there were between 2,500 and 3,000 bears in Florida, but without a current population estimate, there is no scientific support to show that bear populations could sustain a hunt. A population study is currently underway, but will not be complete until the autumn of 2016. The Club believes that the discussion of hunting should not be broached until this study is complete. Most importantly, bear hunting will not reduce human-bear conflicts; targeting bears in rural areas will have no impact on suburban bears that are looking for food. 

The lynchpin in solving human-bear conflicts is the management of trash and other attractants, and enforcement of preventing humans feeding bears. Recent bear attacks have occurred due to improperly secured trash receptacles and the active feeding of wild bears. Bear-proofing trashcans and enforcing laws against feeding bears will have a much greater impact on reducing human-bear conflicts than hunting. 

The Sierra Club is also concerned with the plan to remove the permit processes for hazing bears with slingshots or paintball guns. Anyone implementing these techniques should only do so after completing training and going through a permit process. 

FWC's presentations on the changes to the bear management plan can be found here

Come and speak on behalf of the bears, and if you can't make the meeting, you can email your commissioners here, or fill out the bear comment form

ALERT! Fracking Bills in House and Senate Committees Tuesday - Calls Needed!

The House State Affairs Committee will hear both fracking bills Tuesday morning.   The bills are HB 1205 and HB 1209, both by Rep. Rodrigues.  This is the last committee for them and they’ll go to the House floor next.    Please CALL the members of the committee and urge them to vote NO on these bills. 

In the Senate, General Government Appropriations will hear SB 1468 by Sen. Richter. This bill is the regulation and permitting companion to HB 1205.  If it passes the committee, both Senate bills will have only one more committee to go before they go to the floor.

Contact information and talking points are below.

House bills to be heard Tuesday morning
CS/CS/HB 1205    Regulation of Oil and Gas Resources                
CS/CS/HB 1209    Pub. Rec./High-Pressure Well Stimulation Chemical Disclosure Registry      

Senate bill to be heard Tuesday afternoon
S 1468 Regulation of Oil and Gas Resources

State Affairs 2015 (for 1205 and 1209)
Rep. Matt Caldwell, Chair        850-717-5079
Rep. Neil Combee, V. Chair     850-717-5039
Rep. Ben Albritton                      850-717-5056
Rep. Michael Bileca                    850-717-5115
Rep. John Cortes                         850-717-5043
Rep. Janet Cruz                            850-717-5062
Rep. Travis Cummings               850-717-5018
Rep. Brad Drake                           850-717-5005
Rep. Matt Gaetz                          850-717-5004
Rep. Shawn Harrison                 850-717-5063
Rep. Mike La Rosa                       850-717-5042
Rep. Amanda Murphy               850-717-5036
Rep. Ray Pilon                               850-717-5072
Rep. Jake Raburn                        850-717-5057
Rep. Irving Slosberg                   850-717-5091
Rep. Dwayne  Taylor                  850-717-5026
Rep. John  Wood                         850-717-5041
Rep. Clovis Watson                     850-717-5020

General Government Appropriations Subcommittee 2015
Sen. Alan Hays, Chair            850-487-5011
Sen. Oscar Braynon, V. Ch.   850-487-5036
Sen. Thad Altman                  850-487-5016
Sen. Charles Dean                 850-487-5005
Sen. Tom Lee                        850-487-5024
Sen. Gwen Margolis              850-487-5035
Sen. Wilton Simpson             850-487-5018,,,,,,,

HB 1209 - Fracking public records exemption bill  (in House State Affairs)

The immediate issue in HB 1209 is that it deprives citizens of the information about toxic chemicals that may affect their water supply. They have a right and a need to protect themselves and their families from threats to their health and safety.  This bill deprives them of that ability by means of a legal blindfold that makes it impossible to know about threats until it’s too late.  It misuses the law to subvert the public interest.

The bill also:
  • Sets a low bar to hide the use of toxic chemicals behind the veil of “proprietary business information” (an even broader term than trade secrets)
  • Even DEP won’t know what chemicals are used until up to 60 days after the fracking takes place.
  • A citizen who wants to find out what chemicals may be threatening his or her family will have to wait while the well operator goes to court to confirm the toxic chemicals really are proprietary business information… and the judge will have to agree that they are because the definition is written into the bill.
  • First responders and medical personnel are excluded from access to the information even when it means they won’t be able to protect themselves or help their patients.

The underlying theory of the bill is that the business of fracking is more important than citizens having access to information about it and whether DEP is doing its job of protecting them or exposing them to unnecessary risks.



HB 1205 Fracking permitting/regulation bill (in House State Affairs)

  • HB 1205 uses a very narrow definition of “high pressure well stimulation” that exempts the use of toxic chemicals at low pressures from regulation.  The acidization of the Hogan-Collier well would not have fallen under this definition and would be unregulated by this bill.
  • Section 5 of the bill preempts local governments from adopting programs to regulate fracking within their jurisdiction - depriving citizens of the right to self-governance.
  • Section 6 provides laughably low surety payments: $4,000 the first year and $1,500 thereafter, for each well.  But in no event is an applicant to pay more than $30,000 a year, no matter how any wells they have.  If anything goes wrong, it’s the taxpayer who will pick up the tab.
  • The maximum fine for violations is increased from not more than $10,000 to not more than $25,000 (but the fine could be much lower in either case. No minimum amount is set.)
  • What little disclosure is required comes 60 days after the well has been fracked and the damage may already have been done.


SB 1468 Fracking permitting/regulation bill in Senate General Government Appropriations Subcommittee

  • SB 1468 uses the same narrow definition of high pressure well stimulation that would allow many uses of toxic chemicals to go unregulated.
  • Section 2 of the bill grants a well operator confidentiality about the use of chemicals for an entire year just for the asking.
  • The surety requirement is the same as the one in HB 1205 - laughably low.  Taxpayers will feel the pain if there’s an accident.  The fines are the same too, bumped to not more than $25,000 (but with no minimum amount.)
  • Again, the disclosure is  not required until up to 60 days after the fracking takes place, and
  • Anything that is proprietary business information is exempt from any disclosure requirement.

On balance, these bills cause more problems than they solve:

They do not eliminate risk for Florida citizens - no permitting and regulation scheme can do that. (Deepwater Horizon had permits and was regulated - 11 men died and untold environmental damage was done to the Gulf and Gulf States.

As written, they don’t even cover the activities at the Hogan Collier well that the Dan Hughes Company carried out (Less water was used than the 100,000 gallon requirement in the definition in SB 1468)

They hand the industry a PR victory that allows them to say “Fracking is safe.  DEP regulates the industry and we have a permit!  Not only that; we’re transparent!  We give all the information to DEP - and citizens can go look us up on FracFocus (except for what we choose to claim as ‘proprietary business information’)

Increasing fracking in Florida will create a ‘stranded costs’ argument for staying with fossil fuels and delay transitioning to a clean energy economy. 

Other issues with the fracking bills:

There is no way to be sure of identifying and adequately plugging/recasing/sealing all possible abandoned wells within a sufficient radius of the fracking well and its horizontal branches.  Subterranean natural faults must be taken into consideration as well as man-made conduits.  Still, well casings fail.  All technologies fail eventually in some number of cases.  While the probability of failure may be small, the risk is huge - contaminating the aquifer people use for drinking water would be catastrophic.   

Physicians and first responders have no way of getting information to save the lives of victims in case of an accident, or to protect themselves from exposure to toxins.

There are no federal protections from fracking’s impact on drinking water thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that exempted fracking from regulation of underground injection in the Safe Drinking Water Act (the Halliburton loophole).  Numerous other exemptions for fracking have been adopted at the federal level: the Clean Air Act; the Clean Water Act; the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act; the National Environmental Policy Act; and the Toxic Release Inventory of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. 
Fracking uses a lot of water, sometimes millions of gallons each time a well is fracked.   And when the water is returned to the surface it can’t be used for anything else because it has so many contaminants in it.  The only thing to do with it is inject it deep into the ground where (hopefully) it will stay.  In a state facing water shortages in some areas this is not a good use of the water resource.

There are legitimate concerns about fracking:

Volume of water used (up to 13 million gallons per well)

Chemical mixing – spills and transportation accidents

Injection of chemicals – migration to groundwater and mobilization of subsurface materials into aquifer

Flowback and produced water – spills, treatment, leaching, final disposition of pits – and what happens to the 30% of the injected fluids that are not returned to the surface?

Wastewater treatment and waste disposal – contamination of surface and groundwater, insufficient treatment, transportation accidents.

The National Academy of Sciences discovered that homes within 1 kilometer (2/3 mile) were six times more likely to have six times more methane in their drinking water than those farther away.  Ethane levels were 23 times higher.

At least 29 dangerously toxic chemicals are used in 652 products for fracking.  They include carcinogens, hazardous air pollutants, and substances regulated under the Safe Water Drinking Act (except for fracking because of the exemption).   









Monday, April 6, 2015

Alert! Sen. Bullard's SB 966 Disposable Plastic Bags bill up in Committee Wednesday

Sen. Bullard’s SB 0966 Disposable Plastic Bags will be heard in the Senate Environmental Protection and Conservation Committee on Wednesday, April 8 at 1:30 p.m. 

Please call committee members and urge them to vote YES for this good bill!  Be sure to thank Chairman Dean for putting the bill on the agenda.

 Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation 2015
Sen. Charles Dean, Chair          850-487-5005
Sen. Wilton Simpson, V. Chair 850-487-5018
Sen. Thad Altman                     850-487-5016
Sen. Greg Evers                        850-487-5002
Sen. Alan Hays                         850-487-5011
Sen. David Simmons                850-487-5010
Sen. Christopher Smith             850-487-5031
Sen. Darren Soto                      850-487-5014,,,,,,,,

What the bill does

SB 966 authorizes municipalities with a population under 100,000 to establish a pilot program to regulate or ban plastic bags.  The municipality would have to pass an ordinance establishing the pilot program by the end of this year that would start Jan. 1, 2016 and would expire on June 30, 2018 (2 ½ years.)  During the pilot program the municipality would have to collect data relating to the impact of the regulation or ban, submit a report to the governing body of the municipality at a public hearing by April 1, 2018, and provide a copy of the report to DEP.

The municipality can continue to regulate or ban plastic bags if it adopts a new ordinance after April 1, 2018 (after the public hearing).

Talking points
  • Plastic bags create unsightly litter that can block stormwater drains.  Both of these problems cause unnecessary expense for local governments and taxpayers
  • They end up in water bodies where they foul the environment for wildlife.  Bags or pieces of bags are mistaken for food, especially when they are brightly colored and moving in water.   When they are ingested by animals they can choke them or cause blockages that can be fatal.
  • Plastic bags contribute to the plastic gyres in the world’s oceans and pose threats to ocean life.
  • They are made from non-renewable sources such as petroleum, natural gas, and coal, and their manufacture creates greenhouse gases
  • They do not biodegrade because polyethylene is not recognized by microbes as food.  However, they do break down in sunlight into smaller and smaller synthetic granules that will remain in the environment (and interfere with the food web) for a long, long time.
  • Bringing your own bag is simple and inexpensive.  It’s the responsible thing to do!

ALERT! Fracking bills in House and Senate committees on Tuesday, April 7

SB 1582          Public Records/High-pressure Well Stimulation Chemical Disclosure Registry

by Sen. Richter will be heard in the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee Tuesday, April 7 at 1:30 p.m.

Toxic chemicals used in fracking include carcinogens, Hazardous Air Pollutants, and Safe Drinking Water Act Regulated Chemicals. [i]  There is insufficient information about their potential impacts to allow citizens to be kept in the dark [ii] through the inappropriate use of ‘proprietary business information’ statutes.
Please call committee members and urge them to vote no on this bad bill.  Talking points are below:

Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee 2015

Sen. Jeremy Ring, Chair
Consists of part of Broward county
Sen. Alan Hays, V. Chair
Consists of parts of Lake, Marion, Orange, Sumter counties
Sen. Dwight Bullard
Consists of Hendry, Monroe counties and parts of Collier, Miami-Dade counties
Sen. Jack Latvala
Consists of part of Pinellas county
Sen. John Legg
Consists of parts of Hillsborough, Pasco counties

 Talking Points:
  • SB 1582 would allow chemicals used in fracking to be hidden from the public behind “proprietary business information” (trade secrets) provisions and  render public disclosure provisions in SB 1468 meaningless.
  • SB 1582 will deprive citizens of critical information relating to their health and safety and hand the oil and gas industry a public relations triumph allowing them to say they provide disclosure when they can still keep secret whatever they choose.
  • By inserting a specific definition of “proprietary business interest” into statute, the bill forces the outcome of any future court decision on public disclosure of fracking chemicals to be in the favor of the industry.
  • The public interest basis for trade secret protection is to prevent unethical business practices, not to frustrate citizens trying to protect their health, safety, and property.

Depriving citizens of critical information relating to their health and safety is contrary to the public interest. 
And also on Tuesday afternoon on the House side of the Capitol…

HB 1205 - Regulation of Oil and Gas Resources by Rep. Rodrigues, will be heard in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee between  4:30 and 6:30  p.m.

This bill provides for weak permitting and  regulation  and wouldn’t even  have applied to the fracking in Collier County in 2014.   But even if it were a strong regulation bill, Floridians and visitors would still be put at risk needlessly. 

Deepwater Horizon had permits and was under regulation yet eleven people died and untold environmental damage was done to the Gulf.  Contaminating the aquifer Floridians depend on would be equally catastrophic.  

Accidents happen and no technology is perfect.  It’s time for Florida to turn to a clean energy economy that doesn’t pollute, creates jobs, and provides energy at a stable cost that doesn’t fluctuate with commodity prices.

Please call these members of the committee and urge them to vote NO on HB 1205.

   House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee

Rep. Ben Albritton, Chair
Rep. Ray Pilon, V. Chair
Rep. Doug Broxson
Rep. Neil Combee
Rep. Travis Cummings
Rep. Julio Gonzalez
Rep. Kristin Jacobs
Rep. Debbie  Mayfield
Rep. Bobby Powell
Rep. Jake Raburn
Rep. José Rodríguez
Rep. Jay Trumbull
Rep. Clovis Watson

[i] Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing, US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Minority Report, April 2011
[ii]New York State Department of Health; A Public Health Review of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing for Shale Gas Development; December 2014