Monday, March 23, 2015

Beyond Coal Speaks with Lakeland Electric Leaders

Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign met with the General Manager of Lakeland Electric (LE), Joel Ivy and Senior Staff last week and also got a chance to tour the McIntosh Power Plant.  Lakeland Electric is a municipal power company serving 120,000 customers and was the first utility to sell power in the state of Florida.

Ancient Island Group members Bruce Kistler and John Ryan were joined by Beyond Coal
staff Kelly Martin and Tim Heberlein to meet Mr Ivy and Asst Gen. Manager Farzie Shelton to talk about their solar power production and the Clean Power Plan.  

Lakeland Electric told Sierra Club members that they currently have a 5 MW solar project (one of the largest in the state) and they are scheduled to expand to 24 MW by 2017. 

Sierra Club members spoke in favor of LE's investment in solar and clean renewable sources, and in favor of strong pollution controls for coal power production, like McIntosh's #3 reactor.  Mr. Ivy agreed to keep conversations with the Sierra Club going to figure out how to meet the new EPA Clean Power Plan Guidelines.

Sierra Club members then took a tour of the McIntosh plant which houses 4 power plants.  2 of them were the 364-MW Coal Plant (#3) and the 365-MW Combined Cycle Natural Gas Plant (#5).  

Sierra Club Beyond Coal and Lakeland Electric had a very constructive conversation with Mr. Ivy and staff and a very informative tour of the McIntosh plant.  Both agreed to keep the lines of communication open and will continue to have this conversation on how to meet Florida's current and future energy needs.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

ALERT! Fracking Disclosure Exemption in Committee 8 AM, Tuesday

A fracking bill that will allow well operators to hide the chemicals they use from the public will be heard in the House Government Operations Subcommittee on Tuesday morning at 8 a.m.  Please call the Committee members below to urge them to vote NO on the bill.  Phone calls are better than a mass email.  Please take a few minutes to reach out to them. 

Talking points:

  •          If this bill becomes law, Floridians will not be able to find out about the worst chemicals frackers inject through their aquifer because they’ll be kept secret.
  •       There is no federal protection available under the Clean Water Act (which deals with surface waters) or the Safe Drinking Water Act which was amended to exclude fracking from its definition of “underground injection” in the 2005 Energy Policy Act thanks to VP Cheney’s Energy Task Force (§ 300h(d)(1)(B)(ii))
  •        HB 1209 disguises its true intention by claiming to be about preventing one business from stealing “proprietary business information” (trade secrets) from another.  In reality it is designed to gut the disclosure provisions of the bill it is linked to, HB 1205 titled Regulation of Oil and Gas Resources, also by Rep. Rodrigues.
  •       The bill does an end run around the public interest by misappropriating the rationale for trade   secrets for its true purpose of avoiding public scrutiny
  •       HB 1209 is similar to the relevant parts of an ALEC model bill that can be seen here:   The ALEC bill includes the disclosure and trade secrets language in one bill, but the Florida version requires two bills because of Florida’s Constitutional requirement that public records exemptions be in a stand-alone bill.

Here’s why the oil and gas industry wants “proprietary business information” (trade secrets) confidential. Well operators can mark the most toxic chemicals as proprietary and DEP is bound to keep them secret.  If someone requests the information DEP has to tell the well operator of the request and they get ten days to go to court to get an order barring disclosure of the information. The judge has to follow what is in statute in making a determination whether it truly is “proprietary business information” or not.  The outcome is a foregone conclusion because the bill defines it in statute and the judge will always have to issue an order banning disclosure:

From the text of HB 1209 
53           (b) Proprietary business information relating to high-
54 pressure well stimulations held by the department in connection
55 with the online high-pressure well stimulation chemical
56 disclosure registry, are confidential and exempt from s.
57 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution if the
58 person submitting such information to the department:
59           1. Requests that the proprietary business information be
60 kept confidential and exempt.
61           2. Informs the department of the basis for claiming that
62 the information is proprietary business information.
63           3. Clearly marks each page of a document or specific
64 portion of a document containing information claimed to be
65 proprietary business information as "proprietary business
66 information."

As long as a well operator follows those simple instructions, no member of the public will ever find out what is being injected into their drinking water supply.  And if they don’t know about it they can’t try to do anything about it.

Please call these members' offices today.  Be polite, but make sure they know this is just plain wrong.
Thank you for Acting!

House Government Operations Subcommittee 2015
Rep. Michael Bileca, Chair          850-717-5115 
Rep. David  Santiago, V. Chair   850-717-5027 
Rep. Jason Brodeur                       850-717-5028 
Rep. John Cortes                            850-717-5043 
Rep. Jay Fant                                   850-717-5015 
Rep. Blaise Ingoglia                       850-717-5035 
Rep. Edwin Narain                         850-717-5061 
Rep. Marlene O'Toole                  850-717-5033 
Rep. Kevin Rader                           850-717-5081 
Rep. Ken  Roberson                      850-717-5075 
Rep. Jimmie Smith                         850-717-5034 
Rep. Dwayne  Taylor                     850-717-5026 
Rep. Ritch  Workman                    850-717-5052 ,,,,,,,,,,, ,

Friday, March 20, 2015

Sierra Club charged up by Miami electric grand prix

Miami ePrix race. Photo by Mike Matthews.
Sierra Club members and supporters cheered as electric race cars hit top speeds of 140 miles per hour through the streets of downtown Miami last Saturday. But this was no typical race. Formula E cars run only on electricity and make no noise except for the faint whir of electric motors.

"I loved talking to EV owners and ePrix race fans," said Debbie Matthews Sierra Club Florida Chairwoman.  "You got the feeling that you were at the start of something really special.  Hearing owners talk about their EVs almost made you feel like they were proud to be part of a movement; they are part of  a clean energy solution."

Fans marvel at electric cars. Photo by Mike Matthews
Miami is one of only two U.S. cities to host in ePrix's inaugural season, spanning 10 cities in Europe, South America and Asia. Several hundred Sierra Club members and supporters are believed to have attended the race, which brought 20,000 fans to downtown Miami.

Before the race, fans could learn more about electric vehicles in the nearby eVillage. BMW electric cars and  Florida Power and Light solar phone charging and miniature car racing stations were just some of the cool displays. Area high schools got in on the action, by building and racing their own electric cars.

Also on display: the Venturi VBB-3, the world’s most powerful electric vehicle, a 12-meter-long rocket packing 3,000 hp that aims to break the 600-kph barrier (372 mph) this year.

Venturi VBB-3, the world's fastest electric car
Photo by Mike Matthews.
The Sierra Club’s Electric Vehicle campaign saw the Miami ePrix as a catalyst for electric vehicle adoption. Miami has much to gain by a reduction in fossil fuels. This coastal region of six million people, lying only a few feet above sea level, is ground zero for sea level rise.

Tesla, Leaf and Volt owners flocked to the race, as well as many others who hope to soon upgrade to an electric vehicle.

"It's really captured the imagination of quite a few people who are excited about what the future of electronic technology in road cars is going to be like,” ePrix spokesperson Luca Colajanni told National Geographic.

Photo by Mike Matthews.
Formula E cars can accelerate from zero to 60 in 3 seconds. Instead of swapping batteries, drivers hop into a new car halfway through the 39-lap race. Fans can vote for their favorite players on-line giving them an extra boost of power. ePrix teams are backed by some big names like Sir Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Airlines and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

French driver Nicolas Prost, oldest son of four-time Formula One World Drivers' champion Alain Prost, won the Miami race, narrowly beating American driver Scott Speed.

Long Beach, CA, will host the final race on April 4.

Click here for a short Fox Sports video recap of the race.

Thinking about buying an electric car? Check out the Sierra Club's EV Guide and more about our Go Electric campaign.

Here's a video of the entire race:

-- Jon Ullman, Sierra Club Senior Organizer, Electric Vehicle campaign

Monday, March 16, 2015

More than 100 residents protest State’s sugar land inaction

More than a hundred residents from Central, Southwest and Southeast Florida protested Governor Rick Scott and his appointed water managers outside the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) headquarters last week for failing to acquire 48,600 acres of US Sugar land to restore the Everglades and protect the coasts from pollution.

Water Managers faced a four-hour gauntlet of speakers who questioned why the SFWMD only presented a report about “constraints,” rather than “opportunities.”

“The real constraint is the lack of political will,” said Art Broughton, a Palm Beach County resident. Many in the crowd wore “Send it South” stickers and held “Buy the Land” signs.

According to a University of Florida study, the land purchase must be considered to stop marine life die-offs in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie River basins and along the Indian River Lagoon.
The SFWMD has a contractual option to purchase the land by an October deadline, but water managers have failed to the take the needed actions so that appraisals can begin and Amendment One funds can be used.

During the protest a Sugar Daddy dressed in costume bought off individuals posing as water managers with fake money while protesters held signs and solidarity fish.

“We have been showing up at the South Florida Water Management District each month, growing in numbers, asking these decision-makers for public discussion about the State’s contracted option to acquire land from U.S. Sugar, and we have been ignored” said Cara Capp, National Chair of the Everglades Coalition.

"The Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District have an exceptional opportunity to support the state purchase of U.S. Sugar land necessary to store, treat and convey water south from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades, said Ray Judah, president of the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition. "Moving forward proactively to obtain the available land to secure the last piece of the puzzle to restore the Everglades and prevent further harm to our coastal estuaries would be the most cost effective and efficient solution for the public taxpayers."

“The purchase can solve the problems of getting sufficient water for the Everglades and greatly reducing the damaging pulses of polluted fresh water to the northern estuaries,” said Laura Reynolds, executive director of Tropical Audubon Society. “While delivering much needed clean water to the southern estuaries, for these reasons, we strongly back the purchase of the U.S. Sugar lands.”

“If we don't buy the land to send the water south, our estuary dies and the Everglades dies and Miami loses its water supply, said former Martin County commissioner and activist Maggy Hurchalla.

“The Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District is putting the demands of U.S. Sugar ahead of its mandate to provide clean water,” said Drew Martin of Sierra Club Florida. “The State of Florida should work for clean water, not for Big Sugar.”

"In the future, history will judge today. History will judge whether the people had the will to force the hand of their government, and whether the government had any sense of righteousness and responsibility to the people,” said Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, commissioner for the Town of Sewall's Point.

Click here for press clips.


Two House Fracking bills will be heard in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Tuesday, March 17 at 12:30.  Please call the members of the committee Monday and urge them to vote NO!


If you’re coming to the Capitol for the joint ReThink Energy/Sierra Club Florida Energy Days, be sure to come to the meeting to speak against these bills.  It will be held in the meeting room on the first floor of the House Office Building.  (see the blog post immediately below this one.)

HB 1205 would require a permit and some regulation for “high pressure well stimulation” and HB 1209 would allow the chemicals used in fracking to be hidden behind “trade secrets” provisions.  Overall, the bills are very little improved from last year and should not become law.

Regulation and permitting requirements DO NOT:
·         ensure Florida’s aquifers will not be contaminated by toxic fracking chemicals, hydrocarbons, or flowback containing radioactive materials
·         keep burning gas from spilling CO2 into the atmosphere 
Only leaving the dirty fuels in the ground can do that. 

There is no need to use this extreme method of extracting gas in Florida.  Solar energy and energy efficiency can provide the power we need, and provide jobs in the bargain without putting our state at risk.  Permitting will only benefit the fossil fuel industry that wants to shackle Florida’s businesses and residents to an outmoded way of life.  Fracking should be banned in Florida and the transition to a clean energy economy should begin.

HB 1205 and HB 1209 are inextricably linked and must be evaluated in that context.
HB 1205 calls for disclosure of the volume of water and the chemicals injected into the ground to frack wells, but provides that the information is kept secret for a year if requested by the well operator [lines 365-367]  Also, HB 1209 allows companies to withhold whichever chemicals they choose from disclosure by claiming they are “trade secrets” and only a court can decide otherwise. (Public records exemptions have to be in stand-alone bills and pass by a 2/3 majority in both the House and Senate; that’s why there are two bills.)  Therefore, the disclosure HB 1205 requires is not comprehensive and residents will be deprived of information they need to protect their own interests.
  • Frackers are not required to report the chemicals they use until 60 days after they start fracking (which the industry considers to be when they’ve completed the drilling, including at least the preliminary horizontal drilling).  People need to know what is going to be put into the ground before it’s injected if they’re to have any chance of acting to protect themselves.
  • Local governments are preempted from adopting more protective ordinances.
  • Frackers are not required to report chemicals that are injected into the ground accidentally.  This provision is a loophole without logic.  If a company puts a material into the ground, they should have to report it whether it was on purpose or not.  If the material was injected and the company didn’t know about it, they should have the burden of proving they didn’t know, and could not reasonably be expected to know, about the injection.  If it’s their well, they should be responsible for what’s in it.
  • The legislature should impose a moratorium on any fracking in the state at least until the EPA report on the impact of fracking on the drinking water resource is completed and studied. There should also be a moratorium on fracking until the study required in section 8 of the bill is completed and analyzed.
  • Citizens have no federal protection under the Safe Water Drinking Act (Congress passed an exemption for fracking in 2005 (the Halliburton loophole).)

The ‘Trade Secrets’ provisions in HB 1209 allow any company to merely mark any chemical it submits to DEP as a ‘trade secret’.  From that point on, DEP is prohibited from releasing any information about the chemical to the public.  The company has to get a court to agree that the ‘trade secret’ actually is one.  But here’s the hook – the judge can only use what is in statute to decide what constitutes a ‘trade secret.’  And the Florida Statutes consider only ethical business practices in regard to ‘trade secrets.’   812.081 (1)(c) defines a ‘trade secret’ as something that is secret, that is of value, that is for use or in use by the business, and that is an advantage to the business.  The court does not consider whether the trade secret is dangerous to public heath.

  • There should be complete transparency in disclosing the volume and identity of fracking fluids, and full and robust public participation before any fracking activity takes place.  Without full disclosure, public participation is frustrated since citizens won’t even know there’s a problem until it’s too late.  The interests of one industry cannot supersede those of entire communities.

  • There are legitimate concerns about fracking:
    • Volume of water used and (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).   

Please call these member’s offices tomorrow (Monday) and urge them to vote NO on HB 1205 and HB 1209 
House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee 2015
Rep. Tom Goodson, Chair      850-717-5050
Rep. Jake Raburn, V Chair      850-717-5057
Rep. Jim Boyd                              850-717-5071
Rep. Neil Combee                     850-717-5039
Rep. Brad Drake                         850-717-5005
Rep. Bobby DuBose                  850-717-5094
Rep. Katie Edwards                   850-717-5098
Rep. Eric Eisnaugle                     850-717-5044
Rep. Larry Lee                             850-717-5084
Rep. Ray Pilon                             850-717-5072
Rep. Jimmie Smith                     850-717-5034
Rep. Jennifer Sullivan               850-717-5031
Rep. Clovis Watson                   850-717-5020,,,,,,,,,,,,

David Cullen
Sierra Club Florida lobbyist

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Advocate for GREEN ENERGY in the Florida Capitol for St. Patrick's Day!

Help us turn the Capitol Green on St. Patrick's day!
Sierra Club Florida joins ReThink Energy Florida in hosting
Advocacy Day Tuesday, March 17 at the Florida Capitol.

Here is the schedule:
  • Monday 3/16, 6-8pm at Florida State University Oglesby Uniion 311C - Citizen Advocacy Training Session -- learn to effectively get your message across to legislators.
  • Tuesday, 3/17 - 9AM - Capitol Rotunda - Press Conference with Senator Soto and others
  • Tuesday, 3/17 - 9:30-5 - meetings with legislators (take a break for a lunch sponsored by Sierra Club Florida)
  • Tuesday, 3/17 - 5pm - Happy Hour Celebration at the DoubleTree, 101 S. Adams
We will be discussing important issues with our legislators, such as: 

Banning Fracking in Florida

This extreme extraction method poses risks to our environment and does not help the people of Florida We don't want to see what happened in Naples to happen anywhere in Florida again!

End Hidden Nuclear Fees

Let the investors pay! Floridians who purchase their energy from Investor Owned Utilities can and have been charged in advance for building and repairing their power plants, even if the power plants never get repaired or built! We want to end this tremendous consumer rip-off!
Act now and register here!

For more information email us here

Encouraging Energy Freedom

Many Floridians are unable to benefit from solar energy because of restrictive regulations. We'd like to see more consumer choice in where Floridians get their energy, and encourage job growth by ending these restrictions. 

Clean Power Plan

The Clean Power Plan is the plan put forth by the EPA to cut carbon pollution from existing, coal-fired power plants in Florida and other states around the country. This plan has strong support from Floridians, 77% of whom said they supported the new EPA rules, and 69% of whom said they wanted an emphasis on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Opponents, however, are working to distort the facts and undermine the plan before it is even fully adopted. Let’s encourage or leaders to move Florida in a direction that’s cleaner, healthier, and more economical for Florida families and businesses.

Kim Ross
ReThink Energy Florida

David Cullen
Sierra Club Florida Lobbyist

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Alert – Energy bills up in House Subcommittee tomorrow morning

House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee will take up two good bills and two bad bills tomorrow morning.  Please make calls today!

Please call the Subcommittee members listed below to urge them to SUPPORT HB 865 and 867 by Rep. Ray Rodrigues.

HJR 865 and HB 867 (both titled  Renewable Energy Source Devices) are linked:
·         HB 865 would put a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot to extend the exemption from ad valorem taxation for renewable energy devices to commercial and industrial properties (instead of limiting the exemption to residential property only.) 
·         HB 867 is an implementing bill that would go into effect immediately when voters adopt the amendment proposed in HB 865.  This would avoid the problem that happened with the residential tax exemption amendment that voters adopted in 2008.  The legislature failed to implement it for five years.
The Senate companion bills to Rep. Rodrigues’ bills  (SJR 400 (the constitutional amendment) and SB 402 (the implementing bill)) both passed their first committee yesterday 8-0.

Please also urge members to OPPOSE  HB 949 by Rep. Wood and House Memorial 949 by Rep. Rodrigues:

HB 849 -- Legislative Ratification/Department of Environmental Protection by Rep. Wood is designed to prevent or delay Florida’s DEP from submitting a State Implementation Plan (SIP) to comply with EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) by requiring legislative ratification before submission.    If DEP submits the plan without prior legislative ratification in order to meet the deadline every rule that is needed to implement the SIP would have to be ratified by the legislature before it can become effective.   At best, this would mean long delays in reducing carbon emissions.  At worst, it would prevent Florida from choosing how to meet the requirements of the CPP and a federal plan would be imposed on the state.

The Clean Power Plan is part of the President’s Climate Action Plan and proposes new carbon standards for power plants.  Florida’s s target reduction is 38% of our current emissions by 2030. 
The EPA plan is heavily tilted toward natural gas, but Florida is free to create its own plan.  Our state is more than ready for renewable energy and increased energy efficiency.  Transitioning to clean, renewable energy and saving energy through increased efficiency will:
o   reduce  emissions that hurt human health and increase climate disruption
o   increase the diversity of our energy portfolio and reduce the state’s vulnerability to price spikes
o   create jobs in the solar PV and thermal industry sector
o   result in lower energy costs for residents and businesses alike

HM 949 -- Regulation of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Fossil Fuel-Fired Electric Generating Units by Rep. Rodrigues

This memorial sends a message to the US Congress urging them to direct the EPA to decrease the EPA’s goals for carbon reduction and to delay both the implementation and the deadlines for achieving the goals of the Clean Power Plan.  Delay is usually considered good legal strategy, but it’s a bad idea where the health of the state and its people is concerned. 

House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee 2015
Rep. Dane Eagle, Chair         850-717-5077
Rep. Halsey Beshears, Vice Chair   850-717-5007
Rep. Jason Brodeur               850-717-5028
Rep. Janet Cruz                     850-717-5062
Rep. Dwight Dudley              850-717-5068
Rep. Tom Goodson                850-717-5050
Rep. Walter Bryan 'Mike' Hill    850-717-5002
Rep. Matt Hudson                  850-717-5080
Rep. Mike La Rosa                850-717-5042
Rep. Jeanette Nuñez               850-717-5119
Rep. Michelle  Rehwinkel Vasilinda    850-717-5009
Rep. Ray Rodrigues                850-717-5076
Rep. Alan  Williams               850-717-5008