Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sierra Club endorses Charlie Crist for Governor

(October 14, 2014) Sierra Club, the country’s largest grassroots environmental organization, enthusiastically endorsed Charlie Crist for Governor today.

“Charlie Crist is committed to build on his excellent record and to reverse the damage done to environmental protection in Florida by our current Governor Rick Scott.” said Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida Staff Director.

“The choice is clear:  Charlie Crist understands our state’s environmental challenges and will work to lead Florida on a path toward conservation, sustainability and environmental restoration,” said Sierra Club Florida Political Chair Cecilia Height.

Sierra Club noted four major environmental accomplishments during his tenure as Governor from 2007-2010:

1. Crist advised the Florida Public Service Commission to reject new coal plants in Florida which led to the cancellation of six massive coal-fired power plants that Florida utilities had proposed.
2. Crist took a strong leadership position recognizing the impact climate change will have on Florida and put the state on the path to set strong renewable energy goals, an action that was later reversed by the Florida Legislature.
3. Crist negotiated an agreement with US Sugar Corporation that provides the State with the option to buy all 187,000 acres of land owned by US Sugar in the Everglades.
4. Crist appointed Tom Pelham as the director of the Department of Community Affairs, who turned DCA into a major champion of growth management. (Scott eliminated the Department when he took office.)

Sierra Club Florida said it expected Crist would be a leader in the following areas: protecting wild Florida, stopping new fracking and drilling, combating climate change, expanding solar energy, growing mass transit and electric vehicles, cleaning up Florida’s polluted waters, restoring the Everglades, and enforcing environmental laws.  (A comparison between Crist and Scott follows.)

For press inquiries, contact, Frank Jackalone at 727-824-8813 x302


Comparing Charlie Crist to Rick Scott on the environment

Clean water
Charlie Crist supports the right of local governments to protect their local waters by adopting strong fertilizer regulations.  He is opposed to preemptive state legislation and rule-making that would weaken local environmental laws, but he would lead a comprehensive state approach to reducing nutrient pollution and harmful algae blooms.  He also supports making consumptive use permits contingent on maintaining minimum flows and levels for Florida waters.  Crist also opposes fracking for natural gas in Florida and offshore oil drilling as threats to clean water.

Rick Scott fought EPA’s proposed rules for Florida’s waters that would have stopped pollution at its source.  His administration repeatedly sacrificed Florida’s water resources to the profits of corporate polluters. He failed to address the crisis of over-pumped and polluted Florida springs until they were near death this year.  His recent funding for springs restoration did not go far enough toward solving the springs' most basic problems from over-pumping of the aquifer and pollution from fertilizer use, septic tanks, cattle farms and other sources.

Climate change and renewable energy
Charlie Crist made combating climate change a central theme of his administration. He held climate summits, created a framework for renewable energy through his appointees to the Public Service Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental protection. His administration sought a 40 percent reduction in statewide greenhouse-gas emissions by 2025, required state agencies to prioritize energy efficiency and asked state utilities to produce 20 percent of its power from renewables.

Rick Scott came into office as a climate change denier, and currently responds to media questions on whether human activity impacted climate by saying, “I’m not a scientist.” He has failed to address or plan for rising sea levels. He stacked the Florida Public Service Commission with utility-friendly Commissioners who repeatedly allowed power companies to charge customers in advance for expensive nuclear power plants that might never be built.

Growth management and natural lands protection
Charlie Crist placed Tom Pelham as director of the Department of Community Affairs whose leadership turned the agency into a major champion of growth management.  Crist supports Amendment One, the Florida Water and Lands Legacy Amendment.

Rick Scott dismantled the Department of Community Affairs and replaced it with the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) under rules that allow unfettered inappropriate growth. Scott’s DEO and FDOT proposed several new transportation corridors that would create new cities with millions of people from the Georgia border to Alligator Alley.  If Scott puts this plan in place during a second term, it would eliminate much of Florida’s rural farmland and threaten wildlife habitat for the Florida panther and other endangered species.  Scott didn’t defend the Florida Forever program for purchase of environmentally-significant lands when the Legislature slashed funding.  To raise money to buy environmental land, the Scott Administration's solution was to sell public lands already owned and protected.  Scott took no position on Amendment One.

Everglades restoration and coastal estuaries protection
Charlie Crist has been a strong champion of protecting the Everglades and coastal estuaries. As Governor, he negotiated an agreement with US Sugar Corporation that provides the State with the option to buy all 187,000 acres of land owned by US Sugar that would allow us to move excess Lake Okeechobee water south to the Everglades.

Rick Scott sabotaged our best chance of restoring the Everglades and protecting the Indian River Lagoon and Charlotte Harbor estuaries when he publicly rejected Charlie Crist’s contract with US Sugar. He cut funding for the South Florida Water Management District forcing it to eliminate vital environmental staff and programs.  To his credit, Scott funded several important Everglades projects including bridging for Tamiami Trail, but those projects will fail to restore the Everglades without the US Sugar purchase.

Enforcement of environmental laws
Charlie Crist pledges to appoint a strong Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection who will diligently enforce environmental laws.

Rick Scott crippled enforcement of environmental rules and appointed industry officials in top regulatory positions.  Florida DEP attorneys and regulators were instructed to avoid sanctioning businesses for circumventing environmental laws, and they were reprimanded or suspended when they did not follow orders.

Mass transit and clean cars
Charlie Crist would provide incentives for fuel efficient motor vehicles and would support the development of clean public mass transit.  He would invest in electric vehicle infrastructure needed to increase adoption of clean, electric cars and trucks, and he is an advocate for adding zero emission electric buses to public fleets.

Rick Scott single-handedly killed high speed rail between Tampa and Orlando.  Federal funds for the line were approved and ready to be spent to build the line, but Scott turned down the funds.  It was a tremendous setback for efforts to bring clean, modern transit to the State.

Solar energy
Charlie Crist would remove the monopoly that big utility companies like FPL and Duke have on energy supply, and let smaller companies that specialize in solar energy compete.  He would make it easier and cheaper for Floridians to put solar on our homes and businesses – as well as encourage investment in solar and wind fields.  We agree with his conclusion that a conversion to solar energy will create new high paying jobs.

Rick Scott failed to do anything to help grow the solar industry in the sunshine state which lags far behind the rest of the country. 

Pd Pol Avd paid for and approved by the Florida Sierra Club PAC, 1990 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL 33712.  This message is not approved by any candidate.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sierra Club groups hold conference on ocean threats and opportunities in South Florida

By Drew Martin, Conservation Chair, Loxahatchee Group 

Three Sierra Club groups joined forces to hold a South Florida conference on ocean health. More than 100 people attended the all-day event sponsored by the Broward, Loxahatchee and Miami groups at the City of Hallandale Beach Community Center.

"We want to try our best to educate the public as to what's going on," said Stan Pannaman, conservation chairman of the Sierra Club group. "I'm hoping for people to become ambassadors to their local government and take action."

Six major presenters included:

-- Sarah Whelen of the American Littoral Society.  Sarah spoke on the importance of having a National Oceans Policy.  This policy was established by executive order by Barack Obama and sets up working groups around the country to resolve ocean issues and protect oceans.  Unfortunately while the President has done many positive things for our oceans, he just approved the opening of seismic blasting off our East Coast to map oil deposits for off-shore oil drilling off the South Eastern United States.  These blasts are 100 times louder than a jet engine and are expected to kill up to 11,000 sea animals.  Many sea animals rely upon their hearing to mate, search for food and communicate with their pods.

-- Scott Stripling of the Miami Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.  He discussed a beach restoration project that he worked on in Miami Beach.  He also discussed the Surfrider Foundation Campaign against plastic litter in the oceans. Plastic is so prevalent in oceans that it kills over 100,000 sea animals each year. He is part of a group restoring beach dunes in the Miami Beach area.  He emphasized the importance of planting beach vegetation to hold beach sand.  He also emphasized the damage sea walls do in causing beaches to erode.

-- Cameron Jaggard of the Pew Charitable Trust.  He is focusing his efforts on the protection of forage fish.  Forage fish are fish that are small fish fed upon by larger fish.  Recently they have been fished for sale overseas.  Loss of forage fish impacts our sports fishing and commercial fishing industry.  It also impacts our shore birds.  Forage fish are essential to the survival of many popular species such as Snook, Sail Fish, and Wahoo.  Forage fish also require healthy sea grass environments to survive.

-- James Byrne of the Nature Conservancy.  He spoke about reefs and reef health.  He shared examples of how Marine Protected Areas led to healthier reefs.  He also discussed the factors impacting reef health, in particular fertilizers, nutrients and pesticides from land.

Incoming Florida House of Representatives
Minority Leader Mark Pafford
-- Representative Mark Pafford who is the incoming Democratic leader of the Florida House of Representatives.  He gave a lively discussion on how to use the tracking system provided by the state legislature to track bills and discussed some negative environmental bills and who voted for them.  He also took a number of questions from the audience.

-- Dr. Harold Wanless, Geology Professor from the University of Miami and one of the ten scientists who met with Governor Rick Scott to try to convince him that Global Climate Change is real and is happening.  He shared a power point presentation on sea level rise and how it will impact Florida.  He showed how glaciers are melting much faster in Greenland than predicted.  His presentation was sobering news prior to the large demonstrations around the globe the next day to demand action on Climate Change.  Particularly, the photos that demonstrate the level of flooding on clear days as a result of high tides in South Florida.

"It was a wonderful educational event in an ideal location," Scott Sheckman, event co-organizer told the Sun-Sentinel. "Hallandale has really been behind [the event]."

Press coverage:

Helpful links:

Big wins for the Florida Panther

Sierra Club and its allies are on a roll with recent victories for the Florida Panther.

The Sierra Club, along with other environmental groups have settled a litigation case involving secondary Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) trails in the Big Cypress National Preserve. One hundred and forty-six miles of disputed secondary trails have been closed in the Preserve, bringing the ORV trail system to within the limits set forth in the 2000 ORV-management plan. Trails were closed in the Corn Dance Unit and Turner River Unit, where a Florida panther was illegally shot last year. The trails will remain closed indefinitely until environmental impacts to panthers and other endangered species can be completed.

In another win for panther habitat, a judge has ruled that Hendry County officials illegally granted approval for a FP&L natural gas plant in panther habitat, just north of the Seminole Reservation. The proposed 3,000 acre gas plant would have been located in an area containing high amounts of biodiversity and panther activity, as well as cultural artifacts. The Seminole Tribe had been in battle over this plant for the last few years. The judge ruled that the plant would have been located in an area forbidden under the county's land use regulations.

A great job on behalf of all the coalition partners and citizens of southwest Florida!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Coastal communities to Governor Scott: Reject U.S. Sugar city, buy land now

Two coastal communities ravaged by algae from Lake Okeechobee discharges held simultaneous protests last Wednesday to demand Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) reject US Sugar's proposed city in the Everglades and send water south. 

Ft. Myers Press Conference
Environmentalists, community activists, elected officials, chamber of commerce officials, Realtors and business owners called upon Governor Rick Scott and his agencies to reject the development and buy US Sugar's land at FDEP offices in Ft. Myers and Ft. Pierce.

U.S. Sugar and Hilliard Brother's "Sugar Hill" would create a massive, sprawling city between the Everglades and its water source, Lake Okeechobee.  The 67-square-mile project would bring 18,000 new residential units and 25 million square feet of commercial, industrial, office and retail buildings directly into the Everglades Agricultural Area.  Click on Sugar Hill MYTH vs. FACT sheet for details.

The speakers warned that the massive city planned south of Lake Okeechobee could sabotage efforts to protect the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries and to restore the Everglades. It would ensure continued environmental and financial devastation for coastal communities as water from the Lake continues to be released east and west during the rainy season instead of being sent south the Everglades.

Ft. Pierce Press Conference
“The proposed Sugar Hill Sector Plan would impact the State’s ability and contract right to purchase these lands to be used for moving water south from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades and stopping the destructive discharges to the coastal estuaries,” said Mark Perry, Executive Director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart.

The South Florida Water Management District has an option to buy 48,600 acres of U.S. Sugar land by October 2015. Over 13,000 acres of that land falls within the Sugar Hill city plan. Sewall's Point Commissioner Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch pointed out the importance of maintaining options for sending water south: "There are many ways of sending the water south. We need to reserve all of these lands for trading and conservation in the future -- and for the kids."

Clean Water Super Advocates Maggy Hurchalla 
& Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch
Mark Anderson, Ft. Myers business and property owner, and representative of the Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce, said:  “Endless studies have confirmed the importance of restoring the connection from Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades to create a southward flow of water between the two. The studies are conclusive: it is now action that is needed to acquire the land needed for restoration and not development.”

Speaking on behalf of the Martin County Conservation Alliance, Maggy Hurchalla, five-term Martin County Commissioner and member of the Everglades Hall of Fame, said, “If [Sugar Hill] is approved, then we are saying as a state that this is what we want to happen. We are committing local, state, and national resources to making it happen. We can't commit to restoring the Everglades and destroying the Everglades at the same time. We need the state to tell the world that Florida's choice will be restoring the Everglades."

"The Florida Department of Environmental Protection should formally advise the Department of Economic Opportunity to reject the Sector Plan because of its adverse effect on the Florida Everglades and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, and the flood control, water supply and economic functions they provide to nearly 8 million Floridians,” said Julia Hathaway, organizer for the Sierra Club in West Palm Beach.
Communities leaders in Ft. Myers 
Dave Kirwan, Board Member of Reef Relief and a Cape Coral resident stated:  “The Sugar Hill Sector Plan is a very bad idea for water quality and the environment of South Florida. Everglades restoration and improving the water quality of Florida Bay is critical to protecting and preserving Florida’s Barrier Reef; the only living coral reef in North America and the third largest in the World.”

A statement by Paton White, President of the Audubon Society of the Everglades said:  “Clearly, the fast-tracking of such an ambitious and unprecedented development plan needs to slow down. We call on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District to strongly oppose this short-sighted and inadequately researched plan when they make their comments this week to the Department of Economic Opportunity.”

Rivers Coalition Defense
Fund President Charles Grande
Photo by Cyndi Lenz
The River Warriors were out in force in Ft. Pierce and the Solidarity Fish “swam” to both coasts to join the effort.  Organizations involved in Ft. Myers and Ft. Pierce included:  Sierra Club, Indian River Keeper, Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce, Rivers Coalition, Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, Reef Relief, Treasure Coast Progressive Alliance, Martin County Chapter of the Native Plant Society, River Kidz, Responsible Growth Management Coalition, Inc., and Audubon Society of the Everglades. 

Do the Right Thing Governor Scott! 
The Governor’s agencies have the power to stop Sugar Hill and so Rick Scott needs to hear from all of us!  If you haven’t sent the Governor a message – send him one now.  If you have, then please forward this to a friend!

Special thanks go out to Marty Baum, Indian Riverkeeper, for encouraging everyone to come out and for bringing Janine Mason's "Solidarity Fish" artwork. As Marty summed it up: "The only thing that's going to solve our problem -- the enormous volume of water that is being pushed upon us -- is to send it south."

Indian Riverkeeper Marty Baum and Sewell's Point Commissioner Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch
Press coverage included WGCU NPR, NBC-2 TV, Ft. Myers News-Press, and TCPalm

For more photos from Ft. Myers (by the News-Press) click here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Miami marches for climate action

On Sunday, Miamians took to the streets in solidarity with the NYC People’s Climate March. More than 100 people gathered downtown at the Freedom Tower and marched one mile through Museum Park to Biscayne Bay.

The crowd, wearing T-shirts saying Climate Action Now, held hand-made signs and banners and chanted in English and Spanish. The event was organized by the Sierra Club Miami Group, Urban Paradise Guild, 350 South Florida and others. The march's message was that saving Miami from the impacts of climate change demands national and global action to curb carbon.

Pinecrest Mayor and Miami-Dade League of Cities President Cindy Lerner addressed the crowd saying people must alert their elected officials. “If you live in a city whose mayor is not standing beside me, you need to have a conversation with that mayor,” said Lerner.

Jonathan Ullman of the Sierra Club noted that the Freedom Tower, which once housed the Miami News and later became a symbol of freedom as the entry point for those fleeing the Cuban dictatorship, “again serves as a symbol of freedom - from fossil fuels.”

President Obama singled out Miami in his speech to the United Nations Climate Conference Tuesday. “Along our eastern coast, the city of Miami now floods at high tide," he said.

Channel 10:

-- Jon Ullman, Sierra Club Senior Organizer, Miami

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sierra Club leads opposition to U.S. Sugar's plan to build city in Everglades

Last week, Sierra Club was joined by more than two dozen coalition partners and members in speaking out against Sugar Hill at the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board meeting in West Palm Beach.

Representatives from the environmental community and the public took the floor to oppose the Sugar Hill Sector Plan, which includes land use plan changes proposed by U.S. Sugar Corp. and Hilliard Brothers spanning 67 square miles in Hendry County just west of the Palm Beach County line.

It would allow up to 18,000 homes and 25 million square feet of commercial and other uses between the Everglades and its water source, Lake Okeechobee.

Sugar Hill would be the "death knell" of the Everglades, said Jonathan Ullman, of the Sierra Club.  “If we want to restore the Everglades water flow … we need to say no to this plan."


Take Action
Take action! Tell Gov. Rick Scott and other officials to stop Big Sugar's development plan.


The heart of Everglades restoration effort is buying farmland that can be used for water storage and treatment areas so that more Lake Okeechobee water flows south to the Everglades.

“I think the last thing Hendry County needs is a development of homes and businesses filled with nail salons and Subway shops,” said Kim Aumen, wearing a sticker that read “Send Water South.”

As part of a 2010 land deal with U.S. Sugar, the district was given an option to purchase some of the land in the Sugar Hill plans. Sugar Hill would have an irreversible impact on the Everglades and coastal communities, either directly by allowing the approval of development that would preclude the creation of flowway south of the lake, or indirectly by increasing the speculative market value of the lands needed for restoration.

“It would do a … disservice to taxpayers to let this move forward," said Lisa Interlandi of the Everglades Law Center."

Governing Board Members sought clarification from District staff on the timing of the review process and the agency’s role. The Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has thirty days to review the plan. The SFWMD, along with other state agencies, is required to submit comments on the plan by Oct. 2.

Julia Hathaway of the Sierra Club called on the District to formally inform DEO that the plan is not in Florida's best interest. Said Hathaway, “DEO should reject the Sector Plan because of its adverse effect on the Florida Everglades and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, and the flood control, water supply and economic functions they provide to nearly 8 million Floridians and millions of tourist and visitors.”

Our action was covered by the Sun-SentinelPalm Beach PostMiami Herald and Tampa Bay Times. Other media coverage on the Sugar Hill controversy included a Palm Beach Post editorial; a Tampa Bay Times editorial, an editorial cartoon by Jim Moran of the Miami Herald; and an article by the online newspaper Broward Bulldog (reposted by the Miami Herald) which digs into a possible connection between the King Ranch trips and US Sugar's strategy for securing State approval of the Sugar Hill Sector Plan.

Take ActionTake action! Tell Gov. Rick Scott and other officials to stop Big Sugar's development plan.

Clean Energy Coalition Rally Against Bad Duke Business Practice

Last Saturday in St. Petersburg, the Sunshine State Clean Energy Coalition came together with the Stop Duke Ripoff Coalition and other community leaders, including State Representative Dwight Dudley, to speak out against Duke Energy's policies that hurt rate payers.  Duke, the largest energy company in the United States, has been in the news recently for their new billing system that forces many of its customers into a much higher rate for using the same amount of energy.  

This new billing practice wasn't the only thing with which rally attendees were frustrated.  The unpopular Advanced Nuclear Cost Recovery fee, Duke's refusal to returning all the money it took for a nuclear power plant that was never built, and their current request to the Public Service Commission (PSC) to reduce their Energy Efficiency Standards by 95%.  The PSC oversees and regulates investor-owned power companies in Florida and are in the works to make a decision on the Energy Efficiency standards as early as next month.

Sierra Club has been strongly opposed to the creation of new dirty power plants in place of increasing energy efficiency.  A efficiency standards reduction could lead to higher rates for consumers, and open the door to more unnecessary power plants being built.  This is great news to investor-owned utilities, who make money on building new dirty power plants, but end up costing rate payers more, and contributes to climate disruption.

A recent University of Florida study on the effectiveness of the FEECA process (Florida Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act) and found "the benefits exceed the costs," "customers are not burdened," and it is "supported by stakeholders."

Contact the Public Service Commission now and tell them to maintain high Energy Efficiency Standards, which would create jobs, protect the environment, and save ratepayers money.  You can reach them HERE.