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! 5 Florida transit agencies just WON Federal grants 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 battery electric buses that currently 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 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Just and Equitable Hurricane Irma Recovery

Image Source: 
NOAA
Another major hurricane is devastating the Caribbean and about to engulf communities from Florida up the eastern seaboard. Large numbers of Floridians are evacuating coastal areas. States of emergency have been issued from Florida to North Carolina.
Much of Puerto Rico is without electricity today -- parts are expected to be without power for many months to come. Tens of thousands are without safe water already, and the threat of poisonous chemicals -- particularly large amounts of toxic coal ash which Puerto Rico is burdened with -- is likely to emerge in the days to come.
Like in Texas and Louisiana after Hurricane Harvey, we know hundreds of thousands of people will be forced to abandon their homes due to catastrophic winds, storm surge, and flooding. While we hope and pray for everyone’s safety, we cannot ignore the fact that many may lose everything. The destruction and heartbreak caused by this hurricane will be found in the days, weeks, months, and years to come - and the recovery will take years.
And like Hurricane Harvey -- and everywhere we see the impacts of increasingly intense weather related disasters -- the most vulnerable communities are always hit the hardest. Those below the poverty line, many immigrant communities and communities of color, live next door to toxic facilities. Even before the storm, these communities often experienced polluted air and water. After a catastrophic event, their neighborhoods will be the most in need of resources and recovery efforts.
This is why we cannot wait.  We must respond with all the tools we have to provide immediate relief and begin the long road toward a just recovery. One that restores communities rather than scattering them to the winds. One that recognizes this as an intersection of social, economic, and environmental justice issues--and that if we don’t hold our principles of equity and justice at the center of this work, injustices will increase many times over.
This is why the Sierra Club has chosen to focus our efforts on behalf of those most impacted by this tragedy. And why we will ensure that 100% of all money donated will go directly back to these most affected communities.
The Sierra Club will provide support for relief and recovery -- both in donations and services -- to our local partners representing these front line communities. There are many deep-rooted community groups serving the neighborhoods and small towns who are and will bear the brunt of the hurricane and its aftermath. These are the people who will lead the recovery long after the waters have receded.
We will work with partners to establish a community-controlled fund to ensure that 100% of the money raised reaches communities directly impacted by the storm. By using the Jemez principles we have signed onto, and by partnering with other organizations and groups that adhere to the same principles, we seek to establish a just distribution of funds. We will also encourage other organizations use similar principles.
Please see our similar Hurricane Harvey response for more information on our transparency and distribution process.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Sierra Club says Trump Administration's Panther population estimates are inflated

The Trump Administration's Fish and Wildlife Service
is reviewing the status of the Florida Panther.
The Trump Administration's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing whether or not to keep the Florida Panther's endangered status under the Endangered Species Act. But Sierra Club attorneys say the government's flawed population estimates are far too high.

Many developers and ranchers want the big cat taken off the endangered list.

The Florida Panther has been on the federal endangered list since the list began in 1967. There were only 20-30 panthers in the mid-1990s, when Texas cougars were brought in to mate.

Sierra Club in comments said the best available scientific information shows that the Panther population was at most 139 in 2015. It also says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's estimate of up to 230 panthers is based on incorrect methodology and according to the best available scientific information, there is only one panther population, not the two required for downlisting. Meanwhile, in 2015 and 2016, 84 were killed, mostly on roads. So far, 22 panthers have died this year, 17 by vehicles.

The Sierra Club's official comments  detailing why the Florida Panther should not be downlisted can be read here.

Here are four reasons why we must continue to classify the Florida Panther as endangered:

1.     The size and distribution of the Florida panther population is insufficient to downlist the status of the subspecies to threatened.

2.   Vehicle collisions are a major threat to the Florida panther population.

3.   The effects of continued habitat loss and fragmentation are even more severe than previously acknowledged.

4.   Research indicates that crowding due to habitat limitations may be reducing kitten survival and placing a limit on population growth

Further reading: 

Don’t let Governor Scott’s South Florida Water Managers Throw Our Water Away!

Join the effort:  Don’t let Governor Scott’s South Florida Water Managers throw away water needed for drinking, Everglades Restoration and agriculture!

Poster, Army Conservation Project
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


Organizations and businesses from the Panhandle to the Keys are joining together to send the Governor a clear message:  Deep Injection Wells within the Lake Okeechobee Watershed are contrary to Everglades Restoration.

The below sign-on letter is being distributed now to gather more signatures from organizations and businesses so that the letter can be sent to Governor Scott before the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board takes its plan to flush away billions of gallons of fresh water in Deep Injection Wells (DIWs) any further.

A deep injection well



TO SIGN THE LETTER: Send your organization (or business) name, and the name and title of the representative signing for your organization/business, directly to cris.costello@sierraclub.org by close of business on Wednesday, September 6.


Please also forward this sign-on opportunity to any other organization or business you know that may be interested in getting involved.  You can also access the letter here.

For background:

State may pump stormwater below ground - 2/2/2017:  http://www.news-press.com/story/news/2017/02/02/water-district-meeting-focus-everglades/97356032/
New Everglades fix calls for flushing water deep underground - 2/15/2017:  http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article132963849.html
Deep injection wells would waste water and money | Opinion - 7/5/2017:  http://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/fl-op-injection-wells-20170630-story.html


SIGN-ON LETTER (as of 9 am 8/31/17)

[DATE]

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 LOWP 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.”     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.  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.

Sincerely,

Anglers for Conservation
Rodney Smith, President

Aquatics for Life
Susan Steinhauser, President

ASBRO LLC
E. Allen Stewart III P.E., Manager

Bullsugar.org
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., Associate Director

Citizens for an Engaged Electorate
Barbara Byram, Co-Founder

Clean Water Action
Kathleen E. Aterno, National Managing Director

Conservancy of Southwest Florida
Marisa Carrozzo, Senior Environmental Policy Specialist

“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

Florida Clean Water Network
Linda Young

Florida Native Plant Society - Conradina Chapter
Carol Hebert, 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

IDEAS For Us
Clayton Louis Ferrara, Executive Director

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

National Parks Conservation Association
Cara Capp, Everglades Restoration Program Manager

Nature Coast Conservation, Inc.
DeeVon Quirolo, 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

Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation
Rae Ann Wessel, Natural Resource Policy Director

Santa Fe Lake Dwellers Association
Jill McGuire, President

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

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

Spectrabusters, Inc. 
Debra Johnson, Board Member 

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

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation
Partnership
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

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

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

Women's March Florida
Natalia Duke, Environmental Policy Director

Women's March Central Gulf Coast Florida
Jayne Arrington, Chair



Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Broward mayors recognized for committing to 100 percent clean energy


Dania Beach, Fla. – On Friday August 25, Sierra Club Florida and U.S Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston) recognized the mayors of four South Florida cities for taking a courageous lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting public health in the global fight against climate change.  
Broward Mayors Tamara James, City of Dania Beach; Josh Levy, City of Hollywood; Greg Ross, Cooper City; and Daniel Dietch, Town of Surfside Mayor in Miami-Dade signed The Sierra Club’s Mayors for 100% Clean Energy Declaration supporting a vision of 100% clean and renewable energy in their cities.

Mayors (left to right) Tamara James, City of Dania Beach; Josh Levy, City of Hollywood; Greg Ross, Cooper City; and Daniel Dietch, Town of Surfside, with U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director Frank Jackalone behind them.




Congresswoman Schultz lauded the mayors for filling a leadership vacuum.

“The current occupant of the White House has taken a cowardly path by siding with polluters and failing to protect our state, this nation and future generations from the harsh effects of climate change,” said Wasserman Schultz. “Florida’s current governor has been proven to be just as weak in confronting this harsh reality. Fortunately, Florida’s mayors are showing what courageous leadership looks like by tackling this global challenge.”


Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director Frank Jackalone said South Florida’s local leaders will need to counter the imminent threats sea level rise poses. “Seventy percent of climate change causing emissions comes from our cities, which is why cities are the place to start in addressing climate change,” said Jackalone. “If the cities take leadership on clean energy then the counties will follow, if the counties take leadership ultimately the states will follow, and if the states take leadership ultimately the federal government will follow.”


Mayor Tamara James, City of Dania Beach, described the various sea level rise issues affecting the coastal city of Dania Beach like beach erosion and flooding. “It's very important to take strides locally to save and preserve our future," said Mayor James. In light of the sea level rise challenges her city faces, Mayor Taylor said she looks forward to working with other cities and elected officials to “being part of the solution and not part of the problem.”


Mayor Josh Levy, City of Hollywood, covered some of the sea level rise challenges facing the coastal city of Hollywood in addition to his optimism that emission reduction technologies are now available to help create real climate change solutions. “I’m excited solutions are coming from industry, it’s coming from residents, it’s coming from our cities. Those of us who understand the impacts to ourselves, our economies, and our lives are taking leadership to ensure we all move as one and together to continue to have a world that is livable for generations to come” said Mayor Levy.


Mayor Greg Ross, Cooper City, spoke about sea level rise issues affects us all in South Florida including the Western Broward County town of Cooper City whose drinking water is threatened by ongoing saltwater intrusion into South Florida’s fresh water aquifers. Regarding climate change Mayor Ross said “you can count on one thing, not that it will happen, but it is happening right now. We have to address it, and when I say we, I mean local mayors.”


Mayor Daniel Dietch, Town of Surfside, said “addressing climate change is a leadership issue, not a partisan issue.” He reiterated that local leadership on climate change issues can guide the nation as a whole towards a more sustainable economy and future.

Sierra Club staff and volunteers pose with U.S. Representative Wasserman Schultz and the participating Mayors at the conclusion of the press conference

The mayors joined a growing body of
150 mayors throughout the country who are addressing climate change by providing for lower energy costs, improved public health, and new stable clean energy jobs for the residents of their cities.


Other Florida mayors who have signed the Mayors for 100% Clean Energy Declaration include:

Rick Kriseman-St. Petersburg
Willie Shaw-Sarasota
Phillip Levine - Miami Beach
Jeri Muoio - West Palm Beach
Richard Kaplan  - Lauderhill
Phil Stoddard - South Miami
Eugene Flinn - Palmetto Bay
John Adornato - Oakland Park
Harry Dressler - Tamarac
Buddy Dyer - Orlando
Michael Ryan - Sunrise
Lamar Fisher - Pompano Beach
Judy Paul - Town of Davie
Cary Glickstein - Delray Beach
Derrick Henry - Daytona Beach
Gary Resnick - Wilton Manors
Frank Ortis - Pembroke Pines
Joy Cooper - Hallandale Beach
Joe Ayoub, Safety Harbor
Julie Ward Bujalski, Dunedin
Leslie Babonis, Marineland
Linda Provencher, Flagler Beach
Stephen Emmett, Beverly Beach
Milissa Holland, Palm Coast


-- Patrick Ferguson, Sierra Club Organizing Representative