Tuesday, October 10, 2017

LETTER TO GOVERNOR: Deep Injection Wells are contrary to Everglades Restoration

Contact:  Cris Costello, Sierra Club, 941-914-0421, cris.costello@sierraclub.org


Deep Injection Wells within the Lake Okeechobee Watershed are contrary to
Everglades Restoration


October 9, 2017

Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

RE:  Deep Injection Wells within the Lake Okeechobee Watershed are contrary to Everglades Restoration

We, the below-signed organizations and businesses committed to the restoration of America’s Everglades and the protection of all of Florida’s water resources write to express our concerns and opposition to the use of Deep Injection Wells (DIWs) within the Lake Okeechobee Watershed as part of Everglades Restoration.  The US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) appropriately decided not to consider Deep Injection Wells (DIWs) as part of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project (LOWP), instead suggesting a regional study that would consider their system-wide Everglades impacts.   However, in response to the Corps’ decision, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board voted on June 8, 2017, without any advance public notice or opportunity for meaningful stakeholder input, to go forward with a plan to develop DIWs to dispose of billions of gallons of fresh water and to cover the entire cost with public state tax dollars.

Our concerns include the following:

·         The use of DIWs is inconsistent with the goals of Everglades Restoration. DIWs are not a component of any project in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). DIWs do not help restore the flow of clean water through the Everglades ecosystem.
·         DIWs would divert state dollars needed to implement other Everglades restoration projects, including the acquisition of land both north and south of Lake Okeechobee to restore wetland habitats and to eventually send clean water south to the Everglades, Biscayne Bay and Florida Bay.
·         DIWs in the LOW would permanently remove billions of gallons of freshwater from the regional water budget.  Florida has faced drought conditions several times in the past few years and is likely to again and again.  Once disposed of, the water would be unavailable for ecosystem protection and Everglades restoration during dry and drought conditions. This freshwater is also needed to replenish rivers, wetlands, and the aquifer for millions of Floridians, and to lessen the impacts from rising sea levels and fight saltwater intrusion that pollutes and shuts down potable water wells.
·         According to estimates presented by SFWMD in February 2017, implementation of DIWs would cost or exceed the cost of $1 billion dollars.  Annual operation and maintenance costs will raise the actual budget for DIWs beyond SFWMD’s construction projections.  That is a significant amount of public state funding diverted to a project that will offer no beneficial uses of water to people or the environment, particularly south of the Lake.
·         According to information presented during Project Delivery Team (PDT) meetings, there is relatively little geologic information in the LOW area. In fact, according to a 2007 desktop-study prepared for SFWMD, “the presence of appropriate hydrogeologic conditions for development of injection wells is less certain in areas north and immediately east of the Lake Okeechobee. Most of the areas considered for locating injection wells have little existing data regarding hydrogeologic conditions of the Boulder Zone or its confining layers. This report also states that “the transmissivity of the Boulder Zone is highly variable. It is related to the thickness and lateral extent of the cavernous zones and the related intensity of fracturing. In areas near the Lake, the transmissivity of the Oldsmar formation cannot be confidently estimated without testing.”[1]    It is very risky to depend on DIWs in this region; the state would be gambling taxpayer dollars on a project that may fail to provide its expected benefits. 
·         There are valid concerns over vertical cross-contamination from upward migration of injected untreated water to the overlying Upper Floridan aquifer, especially given the uncertainties about the hydrogeology at this depth and location.  The upward migration of DIW water can contaminate the Upper Floridan Aquifer which is being used as a source of potable water supply in many regional water supply utilities.  Groundwater contamination clean-up in the Upper Floridan would be cost-prohibitive.
·         Injected water from DIWs has been found to move laterally into the nearshore ocean reefs causing pollution and harmful algal blooms.[2] Whether or not this might displace water that could create harmful seepage of ground water and fresh water into surrounding oceans has yet to be answered.
·         While DIWs (approximately 180) are currently being used to dispose of wastewater or wastewater byproducts in Florida, DIWs have never been implemented at the scale and density being considered by the SFWMD; nor have they been used to dispose of fresh surface water.  The long term implication of disposing of such large amounts of untreated water into the Boulder Zone is unknown.
·         The disposal of freshwater from the surface ecosystem via DIWs will not help the natural carbon sequestration (capture) processes that come from protecting and restoring wetland habitats, such as mangroves.
·         The operation of DIWs will be energy-intensive, requiring pumps that run on fossil fuels to pump millions of gallons of water per day, per well, for an unpredictable number of days to months per year. This operation would increase the release of carbon into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.

The best solution to significantly reduce and ultimately eliminate harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the northern estuaries during extreme weather events is to speed up the long term restoration of the Everglades ecosystem.  We urge you to ensure that public state tax dollars are invested in Everglades restoration projects that are fully vetted, are consistent with CERP, do not jeopardize our public drinking water supply, and do not waste the state’s precious fresh water resources.  

[1] “Feasibility Assessment of Deep Well Injection to Assist in Management of Surface Water Releases from Lake Okeechobee to Estuaries”, Water Resource Solutions for SFWMD, June 2007

[2] “Benthic Macroalgal Blooms as Indicators of Nutrient Loading from Aquifer-Injected Sewage Effluent in Environmentally Sensitive Near-Shore Waters Associated with the South Florida Keys”, Sydney T. Bacchus, et al, Journal of Geography and Geology, Vol. 6, No. 4, 2014


Anglers for Conservation
Rodney Smith, President

Apalachicola Riverkeeper
Dan Tonsmeire

Aquatics for Life
Susan Steinhauser, President

E. Allen Stewart III P.E., Manager

Bay and Reef Company of the Florida Keys
Captain Elizabeth Jolin

Chris Maroney, Director

Calusa Waterkeeper
John Cassani

Camelot Technology Integration
Gayle Ryan, Owner

Catalyst Miami
Gretchen Beesing, CEO

Center for Biological Diversity
Jaclyn Lopez, Florida Director, Senior Attorney

Center for Earth Jurisprudence
Margaret R. Stewart, Esq., MPA, LL.M., Director

Citizens for an Engaged Electorate
Barbara Byram, Co-Founder

Clean Water Action
Kathleen E. Aterno, National Managing Director

Jayne Arrington, Owner

“Ding” Darling Wildlife Society
Michael J. Baldwin, Vice-President

Earth Ethics, Inc.
Mary Gutierrez, Executive Director

Emerald Coastkeeper, Inc.
Laurie Murphy, Executive Director

Environment Florida
Jennifer Rubiello, State Director

Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida (ECOSWF)
Becky Ayech, President

Florida Clean Water Network
Linda Young

Florida Defenders of the Environment
Jim Gross PG, CPG, Executive Director

Florida Native Plant Society - Conradina Chapter
Carol Hebert, President

Florida Oceanographic Society
Mark Perry, Executive Director

Florida People’s Network
Lisa Peth & Taylor Smith, Co-Chairs

Florida Springs Council, Inc.
Dan Hilliard, President

Florida Water Conservation Trust
Terry Brant, Legislative Chairman

Florida Wildlife Federation
Manley K. Fuller, President

Food & Water Watch
Jorge Aguilar, Southern Region Director

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

Friends of the Everglades
Alan Farago, President

Friends of Warm Mineral Springs, Inc.
Juliette Jones, Director

Geranium Lane Farm, Ft. White, FL
Diane Buxton, Owner

Halifax River Audubon
Melissa Lammers, President

Clayton Louis Ferrara, Executive Director

Imagine That Events and Entertainment
Tim Rose, Owner

Indian Riverkeeper
Marty Baum

Izaak Walton League of America
Jared Mott, Conservation Director

Izaak Walton League of America - Florida Division
Michael F. Chenoweth, President

Last Stand
Mark E. Songer, President

Lobby For Animals
Thomas Ponce, President/Founder

Martin County Conservation Alliance
Tom Bausch, Director

Matanzas Riverkeeper
Neil A. Armingeon

National Wildlife Federation
David Muth, Director, Gulf of Mexico Restoration Program

Nature Coast Conservation, Inc.
DeeVon Quirolo, President

Oklawaha Valley Audubon Society
Jim Kochanowski, President

Our Santa Fe River, Inc.
Pamela I. Smith, President

Progress Florida
Mark Ferrulo, Executive Director

Progress For All
Tim Canova, Chair

Progressives Northwest Florida (PNWFL)
Dr. Carolynn Zonia, Activism Committee

Rebah Farm
Carol Ahearn, Owner

Rise Up Florida
Sharon Van Smith, Membership Director/Environmental Committee Chair

Santa Fe Lake Dwellers Association
Jill McGuire, President

Save the Manatee Club
Dr. Katie Tripp, Director of Science and Conservation

Seminole Audubon Society
Pam Meharg, Conservation Chair

Sierra Club
Frank Jackalone, Florida Chapter Director

Solutions to Avoid Red Tide (START)
Sandy Gilbert, Chairman

South Florida Audubon Society
Grant Campbell, Director of Wildlife Policy

South Florida Wildlands Association
Matthew Schwartz, Executive Director

Space Coast Progressive Alliance
Philip E. Stasik, President

Spectrabusters, Inc. 
Debra Johnson, Board Member 

St. Johns Riverkeeper
Lisa Rinaman

Stone Crab Alliance
Karen Dwyer, Ph.D., Co-founder 

The Center for Sustainable and Just Communities
Ken Eidel, Executive Director

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation
Edward W. Tamson Ph.D., Florida Representative

Treasure Coast Democratic Environmental Caucus
Paul Laura, Chair

Tropical Audubon Society
Erin Clancy, Director of Conservation

Urban Paradise Guild
Pete Gonzalez, Director of Policy & Chairman

Withlacoochee Aquatic Restoration (W.A.R.), Inc.
Dan Hilliard, President

WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. 
John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper

Waters Without Borders
Randall Denker Esq., Co-Founder & CEO

WE CAN U & ME, Inc.
Allen's Underground, LLC
Robert M. Allen

Willpower West, LLC
Will Walton, Founder & President

Women's March Florida
Natalia Duke, Environmental Policy Director


Monday, October 9, 2017

Sierra Club Protests Zinke at Everglades National Park

South Floridians rallied Saturday at the Ernest Coe Visitors Center at Everglades National Park to send a strong message to President Trump's Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke about the urgent need to act on climate. The Secretary, who denies climate change and has consistently supported fossil fuel development on public lands and elsewhere, visited the Everglades and viewed damage from Hurricane Irma.

Ironically, the Trump Administration's climate denial and pullout of the Paris Climate Agreement and expansion of coal, oil and fracked gas on public lands mean we are more likely to see more powerful storms. Trump and Zinke are also a threat to public lands having crafted a plan to vastly reduce the size of national monuments (protected public lands) across the country.

Diana Umpierre, Everglades Organizer for the Sierra Club, who attended the rally responded:

“The threat of climate change is real—and the damaging effects can already be clearly seen in the Everglades. Even as the Secretary surveys the damage from Irma, we know that the forecast calls for more frequent, extreme storms. We are going to lose the Everglades if Trump and Zinke expand drilling for oil and gas and revive the coal industry. Burning more fossil fuels means the end for the Everglades and South Florida."

The protest was covered by WLTV Channel 23 Univision.


 About the Sierra Club The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

After 150 attend meeting, Union County says more workshops needed on controversial Phosphate mine threatening Santa Fe River

On Monday, September 18, about a 150 people crowded into Union County High School auditorium in Lake Butler to participate in the hearing regarding amendments to the county’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations.

HPS II Enterprises has proposed a Phosphate mine on 10,000 acres in Bradford and Union counties straddling the New River, a tributary of the Santa Fe. About 130 residents came out to oppose the mine in Bradford County in August.

The Union County Board of County Commissioners imposed a 1 year moratorium over a year ago on mining in order to revisit their Comprehensive Plan and revise their Land Development Regulations regarding mining. People from all walks of life testified before the Board of Commissioners; most spoke about water and air pollution, and the change to their rural lifestyle. Alachua County Commission Chair, Ken Cornell; Sierra Club Suwannee St. Johns Chair, Whitey Markle and several others suggested tabling the proposed amendments for further deliberation.  Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, speaking as a resident of the Santa Fe River, is concerned about loss of habitat for the Oval Pigtoe Mussel that resides in the New River system and is a Federally Endangered species that warrants protection by the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service.

A staunch advocate against phosphate mining, Louella Phillips, drove from Polk County, FL to explain the real life consequences of living with phosphate mining surrounding her home in Bartow and the Alafia River. 

The Commissioners took all sides into consideration and voted to hold workshops in the upcoming months to have more discussions on improving the regulations to protect its residents and water systems.

The citizens are well organized and stand their ground with facts.  Allowing mining in wetlands adjacent to the New River which flows directly into the upper Santa Fe River will be harmful to the downstream system.  Tabling the amendments will provide even more time to finalize the Land Development Regulations through a public workshop process.

Duke Energy to spend billions on solar, EV charging, grid modernization and smart meters

On August 29, Duke Energy Florida filed a settlement that includes a four year investment of almost $6 billion into 700 megawatts of solar power and a 50 megawatt battery storage program along with smart meters and grid modernization.  The investment also includes $8 million for an electric vehicle pilot program, language for which was provided by Sierra Club staff and accepted by Duke Energy.  Sierra Club chapter staff met with Duke this week to discuss the design of the electric vehicle pilot program and will be continuing discussions in order to design the best possible program.

On August 14, the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign (BCC) legal team filed a protest to Florida Power and Light's proposed Dania Beach fracked gas plant in order to stop a massive expansion of fracked gas in Broward County. 

Additionally, the BCC legal team filed testimony before the Public Service Commission (PSC) about Investor Owned Utilities (IOU's) practice of "financial hedging" related to the price of fracked gas.

From our press release:  "Financial hedging is just another way that burning gas for electricity is a bad deal for Florida’s energy customers. Over the past 10 years, as Florida’s utilities rushed to build one gas plant after the other, financial hedging by Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Florida, and Tampa Electric Company resulted in an extra $6.9 billion in fuel costs. 

That’s $6.9 billion out of the pockets of everyday Floridians, all to make gas look more stable than it actually is. In return, utility customers received only the insurance of knowing that their energy bills would be predictably higher than the market value."

This fall, the PSC will be holding a hearing on this issue.  Be on the lookout for a call to action on this topic!

On August 29, Sierra Club filed comments in response to the utilities Ten Year Site Plans that made the following points:  1. More gas-burning generation is not justified; 2. Continued reliance on old coal-burning generation is not justified; and 3. Renewables, storage, and demand-side resources are a bargain. Finally, the utilities must submit missing alternatives and analyses in future 10-
Year Site Plans in a transparent and timely manner. 

If you are interested in volunteering with the Beyond Coal Campaign in Florida, please email Susannah Randolph at susannah.randolph@sierraclub.org.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Sierra Club Contends Federal Court’s Sabal Trail Ruling Bars FERC Short Cut on Pipeline Approvals

Sierra Club Contends Federal Court’s Sabal Trail Ruling Bars FERC Short Cut on Pipeline Approvals

Court Decision Means Fracked Gas Can’t be Fast-Tracked
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Jonathon Berman, jonathon.berman@sierraclub.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Yesterday, the Sierra Club filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) a challenge to Florida Southeast Connection’s (FSC) request for fast-track authorization to extend  the fracked gas Sabal Trail Pipeline, in what is called the Okeechobee lateral project. The project would supply a massive new gas-burning power plant that FSC’s affiliate, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), wants to put into service in 2019. The Sierra Club contends that the D.C. Circuit’s decision in the momentus Sabal Trail case effectively bars the use of FERC’s fast-tracking procedures. The procedures only apply to extensions of pipelines with valid certificates. But the court invalidated the certificates for Sabal Trail and FSC’s connected pipelines, instructing FERC to evaluate the climate effects of burning the gas via pipelines when determining if they were necessary and appropriate projects. The Sierra Club therefore argues that FERC should consider together the greenhouse gas emissions and climate effects of FPL’s new gas plant, the Okeechobee lateral,Sabal Trail ,and other connected pipelines.
In response, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign Kelly Martin released the following statement:
"The courts have ruled that FERC’s days as a rubber stamp for the fracked gas pipeline industry are over and that means finally putting an end to the fast-track approval process. Now, the agency must fulfill it’s duty and evaluate these dirty and dangerous pipelines for what they are: a threat to our clean air and our communities. FERC’s responsibility is to protect people, not polluters, and ending fast-track approvals for fracked gas pipelines puts them one step closer to actually fulfilling their mission.”
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.

Monday, September 18, 2017

5 FL Transit Agencies Win $$ for ELECTRIC BUSES!

Tallahassee, where electric buses like this one have run for several years, will add more to its fleet. 
EXCITING News for Florida! Florida transit agencies just WON a $5 million in Federal grants ($1 million per agency) to buy zero-emission electric buses! Congratulations to GainesvilleTallahasseeBroward CountyJacksonville and Pinellas County! Friday Sept. 15, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) Low or No Emission (Low-No) Vehicle program, which funds the development of transit buses and infrastructure that use advanced fuel technologies, announced its 51 national winners for its annual Low-No grants, and 5 of them are here in Florida

Why is this such good news? We all just lived through a frightening event from a storm that climate change turned into a monster. Sierra Club's Ready for 100% campaign is working to get our cities to commit to a date certain Clean Energy for All status to end our state and nation's carbon emissions. To achieve this, we must do 3 things

  1. switch to 100% renewable energy
  2. save just as much energy by making our homes and buildings energy efficient, and 
  3. switch to electric vehicles: cars, trucks and buses, and make our streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians 

Public transit is key to achieving our goal of equitable access to transportation that provides a way to get around that's clean, quiet, safe and efficient. Our national Clean Transportation for All Campaign is working with Ready for 100 toward a vision in which all Americans have access to clean transportation choices to get to work, to school, to play, to the store, and to grandma’s. This includes bikes, feet and transit. For vehicles, we’re working toward a future in which every vehicle has a plug and is powered by the wind and sun

This goal is more challenging for Florida than any other state, as we have the nation's most dangerous streets for cyclists and pedestrians, and the most poorly funded transit agencies. This means that virtually everyone must own a car, whether they can afford to or not. 

With their low maintenance and fuel costs, zero emission electric buses will save transit agencies money that can be used to add more buses to their fleet so buses can run early, late and often - something Florida transit fails to do now. All our transit agencies now want to add electric buses to their fleets, but they find the higher capital cost daunting. 

Winning these funds to buy new electric buses will help these cities all over Florida experience the benefits of electric buses over diesel, diesel hybrid and compressed natural gas - all of which today emit 4-5 times more carbon than electric buses do, even considering today's largely fossil fuel sources of electricity. As we move to renewable energy, electric buses' overall carbon emissions will steadily decline towards zero, while all other types of buses stay just as dirty forever. 

Buses run for 12-15 years, which is why it's critical that as many new buses purchased today, buses that will serve our communities into the 2030's, run on increasingly clean electricity

Florida's Winners: 

JACKSONVILLE isn't waiting for that day to come: The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) will replace diesel buses with battery electric buses and chargers for an expansion route, which will serve a Park-n-Ride and a new logistics and distribution center that employs over 1,500 Jacksonville residents. Because charging stations will utilize Jacksonville Electric Authority’s Solar Smart Power program, Jacksonville's electric buses will truly have zero emissions as soon as they start running. 

GAINESVILLE RTS will purchase Gillig 40' battery electric buses and depot chargers to replace diesel buses. These buses will be Gainesville RTS's first zero emission buses, one of the first deployments of the Gillig battery electric bus. 

In PINELLAS, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will execute a second phase of its electric bus program to install charging infrastructure (on-route & charging bank for depot chargers) and buy electric buses. The charging infrastructure is an integral part of PSTA's long-term battery electric bus program. 

BROWARD County Transit (BCT) will replace diesel buses that have met their useful life with all-electric 45' over-the-road buses. Purchase of these buses will include associated depot charging infrastructure to support bus deployment. The buses will be operated on BCT's express bus routes servicing the Southeast Florida cities of Fort Lauderdale and Miami. 

And in TALLAHASSEE, the City's public transit service provider, StarMetro, will replace aging diesel buses with 35-foot Proterra Catalyst fast-charge battery electric buses. The project will add to the 4 battery electric buses that StarMetro's been running for several years - Florida's 1st electric buses. 

Miami-Dade Transit won Low-No funds for electric buses last year, and USF Tampa is using its Student Green Energy Fund to cover the difference in the price of 2 new electric vs. a new diesel buses for its Bull Runner campus fleet. As more Floridians get to ride in these clean, quiet buses, buses that we'll see, but won't hear or smell as we do today, more will demand that we buy more to do as Los Angeles now plans to by 2030: make our public transit fleets 100% electric! 

Phil Compton, Senior Organizing Representative
Sierra Club's FL Healthy Air & Ready for 100 Campaigns
1990 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, FL 33712
(o) 727-824-8813, ext. 303      (c) 813-841-3601