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.


Everglades National Park/ Photo by: Aaron Umpierre

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Dunedin Commits to 100 Percent Clean, Renewable Energy

City joins five others across Florida with the goal, adding to the growing, 
unstoppable national momentum for a 100% clean energy future for all. 

DUNEDIN, FL -- Last Thursday, December 6, 2018, the Dunedin City Commission unanimously approved a resolution establishing a goal of powering municipal operations entirely with renewable sources of energy by 2035, and community-wide by 2050. This action establishes Dunedin as the 101st city in the nation to commit to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.

Additionally, 26 local businesses and organizations signed a letter of support for Dunedin’s goal. Dunedin joins five other cities in Florida -- Largo and St. Petersburg also in Pinellas County, as well as OrlandoGainesville, and Sarasota -- in establishing a goal of being powered by 100 percent renewable sources. Four cities in Florida served by Duke Energy have now committed to 100 percent clean energy.

Dunedin is known for its world-class beaches -- Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island State Parks, walkability, and lively celebrations of its proud Scottish heritage. A coastal city, Dunedin is especially vulnerable to effects of climate change like sea level rise and destructive storms. As recent studies like the Fourth National Climate Assessment and International Panel on Climate Change report show, climate change is a major threat to communities -- and a transition away from polluting dirty fuels to renewables is imperative to avoid the worst effects of climate disruption. By committing to 100 percent renewable energy, Dunedin joins other Florida cities in taking climate action by moving toward a stronger, more resilient energy system for everyone.
(l-r) Suncoast S. Pinellas Conservation
Chair Jim House, N. Pinellas Conservation
Chair Courtney Murphy, RF100 staff
Phil Compton, local solar industry rep
Brenda Probasco, and FL Chapter
Political Chair David Harbeitner.
Photo by Marcia Biggs. 

“The City couldn’t be more excited to take this next step in making the world a better place. We signed on to the Mayors for 100% Clean Energy and now we are taking our commitment to the next level. Our Commission and our Citizen Committee on Environmental Quality believes strongly in setting the example for our residents future,” said Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski.

“Congratulations to Dunedin for joining the movement towards 100 percent clean energy. There’s strength in numbers -- and by working together to change our shared energy system, more Pinellas County residents will enjoy the benefits of healthy and affordable energy,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.
 Supporters stand with the City Commission after the unanimous vote at 10:45pm. Mayor Bujalski
gives a thumbs up as she stands directly in front of  the U.S. flag. (photo by Marcia Biggs)
“Lately we’ve heard a lot about the risks and dangers posed by climate change. Today, Dunedin's leadership is telling a new story -- one of optimism and opportunity. Communities who step up to build a clean energy future today will have a competitive economic edge tomorrow. This commitment, combined with those of St. Petersburg and Largo, means that approximately 40 percent of residents in Pinellas County -- Florida's most densely populated county -- live in a place committed to 100 percent clean energy. We're approaching a very positive tipping point,” said James Scott, Executive Committee Chair of the Sierra Club Suncoast Group.

Left to right: Lael Giebel of the City of Dunedin, N. Pinellas
volunteer Warren Stovall, and the Brand family: their daughter,
Diane, and Alan. Alan, a member of the Dunedin Committee
on Environmental Quality, led this successful effort, with
support from Diane, chair of the City's Planning Board.
(photo by Marcia Biggs)
What you can do right now to grow a clean energy future: The Ready for 100 national team has created a new tool kit to help you and your community join in the celebration of  this collective accomplishment -- and we need your help! This moment can also help support your campaign's advocacy for 100% clean energy locally. Please share this tool kit with your local volunteers and allies and help spread the good news via letters to the editor, op-eds and social media

As this kit was released in recognition of  Cincinnati's 100th commitment the night before Dunedin's, please add a note that America is rapidly moving past Cincinnati's 100th commitment into our 2nd set of 100 cities. We'd love for cities numbered 1-- to include your Florida cities or counties. Spreading the news that this is happening will get lots of folks intrigued and dreaming over the holidays, not just of a white Christmas, but of a clean energy future where we still have snow somewhere!

Phil Compton, Senior Organizing Representative

Sierra Club's FL Healthy Air & Ready for 100 Campaigns:
Clean Energy & Clean Transportation for All 
1990 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, FL 33712
(o) 727-824-8813, ext. 303      (c) 813-841-3601 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Tens of Thousands Tell U.S. Fish and Wildlife: No Mega-development in Florida Panther Habitat!

As of November 30, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had received over 30,000 comments submitted by people from across the nation demanding that the agency reject the Eastern Collier County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan) Application and all associated permits that will harm Florida panthers and destroy their habitat. The Plan calls for the destruction of thousands of acres of panther habitat to build sprawling residential developments.

In addition to comments submitted by the general public, and joint comments submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club, on November 30, forty-one (41) organizations and businesses representing additional tens of thousands of Floridians sent a letter to Fish and Wildlife Service opposing the plan. These comments were submitted during a woefully inadequate, 45-day comment period.

Conservation groups requested an extension of the comment period and a public meeting from the Fish and Wildlife Service, but it denied both requests. The one and only public meeting, with a standing-room-only crowd, was held in 2016.

The majestic, vulnerable Florida panther was one of the first species listed as endangered in 1967, and today it remains one of the most endangered species in the United States. As few as 120 panthers remain, which is far short of the population necessary for the species’ recovery under the Endangered Species Act. Rampant development and climate change threaten to destroy what little habitat remains for this magnificent creature’s recovery.

Nevertheless, the Fish and Wildlife Service is considering this destructive Plan that would be devastating to panther recovery. If approved, this misguided Plan would let real estate developers convert panther habitat in Eastern Collier County, Florida into sprawling housing developments.  Within the proposed 45,000-acre mega-development plan, approximately 20,000 acres of panther “primary zone” habitat would be destroyed. This habitat supports the only breeding Florida panther population in the world. Meanwhile, the developer-applicants claim that the “plan” will protect 107,000 acres in Eastern Collier County; yet, that 107,000 acres would be subject to agricultural intensification and oil and gas development, and in portions of this area, low density development.

“This plan would destroy thousands of acres of panther habitat, even as scientists say they can’t afford to lose any more,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Service has to take a stand and fight for the panther; otherwise, it is signing its death warrant.”

“Don’t be fooled by the name Habitat Conservation Plan – this is a destruction plan and is contrary to the future of the Florida panther,” said Cris Costello, Sierra Club Organizing Manager.

"This ill-conceived plan would pave the way for more than 90,000 new housing units, 174,000 new residents and 180,000 more vehicles on the road in primary panther habitat when vehicle collisions are the number one cause of panther deaths," said Eric Huber, Managing Attorney for the Sierra Club. "In our opinion this project violates the Endangered Species Act and we urge the Fish and Wildlife Service to turn it down.”

“The HCP would sever and fragment wildlife corridors that the Florida panther relies upon to move across the landscape. Without these corridors the panther will become more isolated and will never be able to fully recover,” said Amber Crooks, Conservancy of Southwest Florida Environmental Policy Manager.

Approval of the proposed Eastern Collier County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan and the associated 50-year take permits would enable intense mining, and residential and commercial development on 45,000 acres of habitat that is vital to the panther and other imperiled species including the scrub jay, caracara, wood stork, red cockaded woodpecker, snail kite, eastern indigo snake, and Florida bonneted bat.

The permits would facilitate construction of tens of thousands of homes, resulting in greatly increased traffic, roads, and other infrastructure that would further fragment dwindling panther habitat, obstruct corridors necessary to movement and recovery, and increase the already grave number of panther deaths from vehicle collisions.  The proposed development will also result in impacts to water resources, water supply, and sensitive public lands adjacent to the plan area.

While the comment period is over, the fight to protect the panther is not.  We will not sit by and let anyone strip South Florida of the land that is absolutely necessary for the continued existence of the panther.  Extinction is not an option!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Even when it's over, it ain't over...

Dear Florida Environmentalists:

I went to bed Tuesday night in a funk after election results showed that Andrew Gillum, Bill Nelson, and Nikki Fried each would lose their contests by about 1 percentage point despite leading in most major polls. I had hoped that wins by Gillum for Governor and Fried for Commissioner of Agriculture could reverse the damage done to Florida’s environment by eight years of negligence by Rick Scott and Adam Putnam, and that Nelson's re-election to the Senate would solidify the anti-Trump wave expected to overtake Congress. Hope disappeared for the night, replaced by memories of past Florida election nightmares. 

My guess is that many of you felt the same way.

Two years ago, my election night depression lingered on for days. I should have been celebrating the voters' rejection of a constitutional amendment promoted by Florida's monopoly power companies that would have made it difficult for homeowners to put solar panels on their roofs.  Instead, I woke up gripped by fear on where our country was heading after electing Donald Trump.

I feel differently today despite frustration over the current election outcome. I no longer live in fear of the hate, greed, discrimination, and divisiveness Trump has unleashed on Florida, America and the world.  That's because there are millions of people who are resisting Trump’s platform and creeping fascism with a solidarity that makes me and everyone I know more determined and courageous. The resistance is strong in Florida and is turning into a movement that will not only protect our air, water, and natural environment again, but also transform the Sunshine State into a place that is just, inclusive, and equitable.

My mood has improved each day this week following election night. One reason is obvious; results for the three races at the top of the ticket have tightened considerably, giving  hope that one or more of our environmental champions could win. Tens of thousands of uncounted ballots are being tabulated in South Florida, and those votes are heavily favoring Nikki Fried, Bill Nelson, and Andrew Gillum. Fried has jumped out to a 3,000 vote lead over Caldwell. Nelson is now just 0.18 percentage points behind Scott and closing fast as more ballots are counted. Gillum is less than a half point behind DeSantis and gaining ground.

There will be recounts in all three elections accompanied by nasty attempts to shut them down. Rick Scott made that clear last night. "No ragtime (sic) group of liberal activists or lawyers from DC will be allowed to steal this election from the voters in this great state," Scott said.  Those words don't sound appropriate for a man who is going to join two other Cabinet members to certify Florida's final election results.  He just put me in a fighting mood and, frankly it feels good. My response to Red Tide Rick is that I and other "ragtime" Florida activists, are not going to let you steal the election by using the power of the State to stop  counting the vote in Florida.  We've seen that trick before and we're not going to let you do it again.   

Looking past the main show at the top of the ballot, there were a lot of very good results in other state and local elections. Here are a few victories that Florida environmentalists should celebrate:

  • First-time candidates Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala won congressional seats in Miami-Dade County joining the blue wave that swept Democrats to a majority of the US House of Representatives. Sierra Club endorsed candidates for Congress who won re-election and joined the new pro-environment majority include Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy, Darren Soto, Val Demmings, Charlie Crist, Kathy Castor, Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Frederica Wilson. 
  • Amendment 4 passed – restoring rights of felons, except for those convicted of murder or sexual crimes. 1.4 million former felons who have been cruelly disenfranchised despite serving their time will now get a chance to register to vote and regain their rights as citizens. 
  • Amendment 9 passed - prohibiting oil and gas drilling in Florida’s state waters as a permanent protection in Florida’s constitution. 
  • Amendment 1 was defeated with our help, ensuring that our counties and cities will continue to have the fiscal resources to provide community services and preserve environmentally sensitive areas. 
  • Two strong environmentalist supporters, Mariella Smith and Kimberly Overman, were elected to the Hillsborough County Commission, switching it to a 4-3 pro-environment majority. Hillsborough County also passed an “All for Transportation” sales tax that will fund a robust transit system for Tampa and its suburbs. 
  • Broward County voters also approved a transit surtax to “reduce traffic congestion, improve roads and bridges, enhance traffic light timing, develop safe sidewalks and bike paths, expand mass transit, fully fund special needs/on-demand services, fully fund community shuttles, connect greenways, enhance school safety zones and fund a variety of city transportation projects.” 
  • Gainesville voters rejected by an overwhelming margin an attempt to take control of the Gainesville Regional Utility away from the public. That preserves the City’s ability to move forward with its commitment to 100% clean, renewable energy that it adopted just three weeks ago. 
  • In Sarasota, voters changed the way they elected the Board of County Commission to single districts which should help elect environmentally inclined candidates to the Commission in the future. 
  • Several Sierra Club endorsed candidates won election, including Ben Diamond, Jennifer Webb, Fentrice Diskell, and Margaret Good in the Florida House, and Annette Taddeo in the Senate.  They will be outstanding environmental champions in the Florida Legislature. Additionally, Jim Bonfiglio, our endorsed candidate for State House District 89, emerged from the election in a too-close-to-call race that will head to a recount. 
  • Webb became the first married lesbian elected to higher office in Florida's history. We had endorsed her in 2016 too. She lost on her first try but never left the picture, essentially running for two more years to achieve an important victory. There were many good candidates we supported who lost their first time out in 2018, and we encourage them to follow Webb’s example by trying again in 2020. 

My optimism grows further when I take a look at a map of  where Florida’s statewide candidates prevailed and contemplate how we can learn from it to create a green wave that encompasses the entire State in the years to come.  Gillum, Fried and Nelson won a majority of the votes in most of the state’s urban areas including Miami-Dade County, Broward County, Palm Beach County, Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, Gainesville, and Tallahassee. DeSantis and Scott won the Florida panhandle, southwest Florida from Sarasota to Naples, and the rural counties. That’s a roadmap telling us which cities and counties are likely to pass stronger environmental rules, and it also reveals the places where we need to educate people about the threats to our air, water, land, wildlife and climate facing Florida’s communities. Looking at that map, we’re at a great starting place to create a green wave that sweeps over blue and red areas of the state alike.

What inspired me the most this election? It’s looking back at the way Andrew Gillum galvanized voters. He built a remarkable coalition that included more people of color, more voters under 30, more women, and more environmental supporters than I’ve ever seen joined together on a common cause in Florida. That stellar organizing accomplishment brought him closer to winning the Governor’s race than any Democrat since Lawton Chiles defeated Jeb Bush in 1994. Andrew Gillum is a gifted leader who rose above the racism stirred up by Trump and DeSantis and he defeated it, no matter the final outcome when all the votes are counted. We need to continue working with him to build a better Florida.

Frank Jackalone
Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

"I don't want to be an alarmist"

Election Day is TODAY and there is a lot at stake.

This is our chance to weigh in on the issues that matter most to us; to take a stand for our planet, our livelihoods, and our democracy.  

Don’t sit this one out. Our climate, water, land, air, and wildlife need a governor like Andrew Gillum. Join us in casting a ballot before 7 PM!

Paid political advertisement paid for by Sierra Club Florida PAC, 1990 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL 33712 independently of any candidate. No candidate has approved this advertisement. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Ready to vote for Gillum for Governor tomorrow?

Election Day is tomorrow and there is a lot at stake.

This is our chance to weigh in on the issues that matter most to us; to take a stand for our planet, our livelihoods, and our democracy.  

Don’t sit this one out. Our climate, water, land, air, and wildlife need a governor like Andrew Gillum. Join us in casting a ballot Tuesday!

Take this opportunity to put an environmentalist in the governor’s office.  What a concept!  

We cannot afford to lose this one. Gillum’s opponent, Ron DeSantis, is a Donald Trump wannabe, and the last thing we need is Trump double in Tallahassee!

Get ready to make your voice heard with these helpful tips:

Make sure you know where to go by clicking here to go to the Voter Information Lookup page from the Florida Division of Elections.

Polls are open on Election Day from 7 AM to 7 PM.

Click here to see the forms of photo ID to cast a ballot on Election Day. If you forget your ID on Election Day, you can still cast a provisional ballot that will be counted once your identity and registration are confirmed.

The leaders we elect make decisions that affect our everyday lives and our future - environment, jobs, health, energy costs, and much more.  

Join your friends and neighbors and make it count before 7 pm Tuesday, November 6!
Paid political advertisement paid for by Sierra Club Florida PAC, 1990 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL 33712 independently of any candidate. No candidate has approved this advertisement. 

Trump IS on the ballot! / Trump ESTÁ en la votación!

The Republican running for Governor, Ron DeSantis, stands with Donald Trump. 

The same Donald Trump who:

  • Says the dead in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Irma are made up.
  • Denies that climate change is real.
  • Allows the worst polluters to continue to ruin our state waters.
  • And disrespects and endangers us all with his racist rhetoric.
Andrew Gillum is different.
Andrew Gillum will stand up to Trump. 

Vote for Andrew Gillum today.

In Spanish / En Español (click here to listen):

El candidato republicano por gobernador apoya Donald Trump.

El mismo Trump quien:

  • Dice que los miles de muertos en Puerto Rico por el huracán María fueran inventados,
  • No cree en el cambio climático,
  • Deja que los peores contaminadores siguen a destruir nuestra agua,
  • Y nos pone en peligro con su retórica racista.
Andrew Gillum es diferente. 
Andrew Gillum le va hacer frente a Trump.

Vote por Andrew Gillum para gobernador hoy.

Paid political advertisement paid for by Sierra Club Florida PAC, 1990 Central Ave, St Petersburg, FL 33712 independently of any candidate. No candidate has approved this advertisement.

Anuncio político pagado por el Sierra Club Florida PAC, 1990 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, Florida 33712 independiente de cualquier candidato.  No candidato ha aprobado este anuncio.