Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Florida Black Bears earn two-year reprieve

A Florida Black Bear. Source: Wikipedia.
Black Bears will be safe from hunters for at least two years thanks to the outcry of Sierrans and Floridians from every corner of the state. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in April voted 4-3 not to have a black bear hunt in 2017 and 2018. The commission made the decision on April 19, in front of a packed house in the small town of Havana, north of Tallahassee. There were 85 speakers of the 200 in attendance, including Sierra Club Black Bear Committee members Whitey Markle and Darryl Rutz.

The Commission failed to support a pro-hunt motion made by Commissioner Liesa Priddy. Commissioner Ron Bergeron, as he had done in the past, did not support the hunt. In summarizing, the Commission said that science supported a hunt, but the citizens of Florida were not ready. They referred to the black bear as being iconic.

From 2002 to 2014/2015, there was a 53% increase in the number of black bears to 4,050, adjusted for the 2,941 bears killed on Florida roads.

The next meeting of the FWC will be July 10 and 11 in the Kissimmee area, although a specific location has not been given. Check here for updates.

Statement of Darryl Rutz,  Sierra Club Black Bear Committee Chair

All of you that made noise by calling, emailing and contacting officials get the credit for this great wildlife victory.

The Sierra Club and other wildlife organizations worked very hard to get the facts out. Our thanks go out to the members of the Black Bear Committee made up of Whitey Markle, Laura Hensley, Marian Ryan, Drew Martin, Rocky Milburn and Judy Kuchta. 
Even though the Committee will be in hibernation, we need to be vigilant of the activities of our Florida Wildlife. Now that the FWC has stated that the numbers of our manatees and Florida panthers have increased, we need to make sure they have a safe habitat to expand. We love our wildlife and want to see that they remain an integral part of our landscape.

Read more: Florida Officials: No Black Bear Hunt Until at Least 2019, Associated Press

Friday, May 26, 2017

Orlando Commits to Goal of 100% Clean Energy for All

Mayor Buddy Dyer yesterday issued a new proclamation endorsing a goal of powering Orlando, Florida entirely with clean and renewable energy by 2050. Mayor Dyer joins a growing coalition of Mayors for 100% Clean Energy who have similarly announced support for a goal of powering their communities with 100 percent renewable energy such as wind and solar as the community also transitions to zero emission electric transportation and safer pathways for cyclists and pedestrians. 

Dyer becomes the 63rd U.S. mayor and 8th Florida mayor to take Sierra Club’s pledge to commit his city to the goal of the complete elimination of all fossil fuel consumption. These mayors will gather at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Miami Beach on June 23 to affirm their commitment. 

Mayor Dyer joins these Florida mayors who have previously taken such action on behalf of their cities:
  1. Mayor Rick Kriseman, St. Petersburg
  2. Mayor Cary Glickstein, Delray Beach
  3. Mayor Philip K. Stoddard, South Miami
  4. Mayor Eugene Flinn, Palmetto Bay
  5. Mayor Philip Levine, Miami Beach
  6. Mayor Derrick Henry, Daytona Beach
  7. Mayor Judy Paul, Town of Davie
Here’s the text of the Mayors for 100% Clean Energy pledge that Mayor Dyer endorsed today:
I believe that a transition to 100 percent clean energy is good for my community: It will make us stronger, healthier, and more resilient; it will create jobs and new business opportunities; and it will allow us to become a more equitable society where everyone has opportunity in a thriving local economy. 
Nearly 200 nations have agreed, for the first time in history, that the world must achieve 100 percent renewable energy by the end of this century. In the United States, action by local government is already a significant driver of renewable energy growth because cities know firsthand that steps to reduce carbon emissions, clean the air, strengthen the economy, and improve lives. 
Positive, bipartisan, community-driven solutions are possible and already happening in our community. I will continue to work with all stakeholders to transition away from dirty energy and implement local, affordable solutions like energy efficiency, solar, wind, and pollution-free electric transportation.

Phil Compton, Senior Organizing Representative
Sierra Club's FL Healthy Air & Ready for 100 Campaigns
1990 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, FL 33712

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sierra Club members hit the Florida beaches for Hands Across the Sand

Sierra Club members joined and helped organize Hands Across the Sand events on beaches and cities across Florida on Saturday, May 20. At noon for 15 minutes, participants locked hands to say no to fossil fuels and yes to clean energy. Hands Across the Sand was launched in 2010 just two months before the BP oil disaster, but this was the first since Trump announced intentions to expand drilling and seismic airgun blasting off the Arctic, Atlantic and Gulf Coasts and on public lands throughout the U.S.

In Florida, 27 Hands Across the Sand events were scheduled, while nationally, 100 events in 20 states took place. Main sponsors were: Sierra Club, Oceana, Surfrider Foundation, Environment Florida, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Friends of the Earth, Gulf Restoration Network, Chart 411 and Urban Paradise Guild. Here are just some of the highlights:

Treasure Island (Tampa/St. Pete)

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman/Photo by Steve McMurtry

Photo by Shannon Kalahar

Fernandina Beach

Photo by Jonna Wood

Photo by Jonna Wood

Pompano Beach

Photo: Surfrider Broward

Miami Beach

Aerial photo by Christian Mock
Photo by Sam Van Leer

Indian Rocks Beach (near Largo)

Photo by Phil Hanna

Key West, Smathers Beach

Photo provided by Hands Across the Sand Facebook

Photo by Jeane LaRance

Jacksonville Beach

Photo provided by Hands Across the Sand

Tallahassee, the Capitol

Photo provided by Grant Gelhardt

Pompano Beach: http://wsvn.com/news/local/dozens-hold-hands-on-pompano-beach-to-protest-offshore-drilling/
Treasure Island (Tampa/St. Pete): http://www.tbreporter.com/environment/offshore-drilling-treasure-island-mayor/
Miami Beach: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/miami-beach/article152128532.html
Fernandina Beach: https://fernandinaobserver.com/2017/05/22/concerned-citizens-join-together-to-support-clean-energy-and-renewables-hands-across-the-sand/
Pensacola: http://weartv.com/news/local/environmental-advocates-join-hands-across-the-sand
Ft. Myers: http://www.news-press.com/story/news/local/cape-coral/2017/05/20/hands-across-sand-hits-cape-fm-beach-no-substitute-water/334293001/

Monday, May 22, 2017

Mayor Philip Levine Endorses Goal Of 100% Clean Energy on Miami Beach

Mayor Philip Levine displays proclamation with Ready for 100 activists.
Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine issued a proclamation last Wednesday supporting an aim to power the densely-populated barrier island entirely with clean and renewable energy. Miami Beach, known for its wide beaches and pastel-colored art-deco hotels, is one of the cities most-threatened by climate change's rising seas.

Supporting the measure at City Hall were 12 Sierra Club Miami Group members, and representatives of allies Miami Surfrider and 350 South Florida who held signs that read "Clean Energy For All." The Mayor also proclaimed Wednesday, May 17, "Sierra Club Day."

Tens of thousands join Hands Across the Sand
on Miami Beach against fossil fuels in 2010
Emily Gorman, representing the Sierra Club, thanked the Mayor and Commission and said clean energy presents an opportunity "not just for our pocketbooks, but for our communities and our economies."

City staffers shared plans to update their Climate Action Plan, and Vice-Mayor Kristen Rosen Gonzalez introduced a measure to commit the city's municipal buildings to 100% clean and renewable energy supply by 2025. In addition, all City Commissioners voiced their support for Sierra Club and its Ready for 100 campaign to shift cities to 100 percent clean and renewable energy.

“As mayor of Miami Beach, I am proud to support a vision of 100 percent clean energy for my community.  Our vibrant, historic city will be a model for other communities around the world on the importance of addressing the threat of climate change. We have already taken steps to expand renewable energy and we will continue to improve our infrastructure and innovate clean energy solutions for a stronger Miami Beach,” said Mayor Levine. 

Mayor Levine is a national co-chair of the new Mayors for 100% Clean Energy, a new effort to engage and recruit mayors to endorse a goal of transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy in cities across the country.

“Cities can help lead the transition away from dirty fuels to renewable energy, but it will require boldness and ambition to get it done," said Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director. "The Sierra Club applauds Mayor Levine for supporting a vision of powering Miami Beach with 100 percent clean, renewable energy."

Florida created more than 1,700 new jobs in the state’s growing solar industry last year, according to a report released earlier this year by The Solar Foundation. Florida is now home to 8,260 solar jobs—an increase of 26 percent from 2015 figures. According to the Solar Foundation, the Miami metropolitan area gained 811 solar jobs from 2015 to 2016, representing a 31 percent increase.

Miami Beach will host the U.S. Mayors Conference June 23-26. Sierra Club Ready For 100 nationwide campaign leaders will meet in Miami Beach to participate in trainings and other events that week.


Friday, May 12, 2017

ALERT: Unhealthy Smog Making Breathing Difficult for Floridians

For the first time in years, many Floridians are suffering from high levels of unhealthy smog. 

Orlando is still suffering from its worst smog in years. 
This week, smog levels have spiked in cities like Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale. That's hazardous for people with asthma, heart disease and COPD, reaching levels unhealthy for everyone. The main source, emissions from our cars, trucks and buses' tailpipes, has been exacerbated recently by additional nitrogen oxide from fires. Today, as smog levels begin to decline in the Tampa Bay area, cities like Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando are still suffering from dangerously high levels that mean that exercise outdoors in the late afternoon is off limits for sensitive people, and not a good idea for anyone.

Most Floridians have had a rough time breathing this week. 
Where does smog come from? Our tailpipes' nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions combine with Florida sunshine throughout the day to convert to ozone. Power plants burning coal and, to a lesser degree, natural gas, also contribute, but not at levels as significant as our own cars' tailpipes. Smog levels increase throughout the afternoon, peaking as people get off work and go walk the dog or jog, and then rapidly decreasing after sunset. Summer rains help wash nitrogen out the air (and into lakes and rivers!), but in May, with our seasonal dry conditions, smog builds up. Combine that with a stagnant high pressure system and wildfires that contribute more nitrogen along with particulate, and you have what Hillsborough County EPC Air Quality staff Alain Watson today described to us as a "perfect storm" for unhealthy smog.
Florida's had several days in both the Orange and Red Alert levels this week. 

You can't see and smell smog like you can the particulate-laden smoke from fires, so being aware of the risk is important, especially those whose asthma or other conditions make them more sensitive. Media in central and south Florida have been busy alerting the community this week. The Hillsborough Environmental Protection Commission's Air Quality office sends alerts upon request. You can get on EPC's list by calling 813-627-2600, ext. 1298.

What can you do to make the air healthier for everyone to breathe? Maybe you can't fight forest fires like Smokey the Bear, but you can fight smog at its main source.

This weekend, take Mom for a test drive in an Electric Vehicle, like a Nissan Leaf or Tesla, or a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle like a Chevy Volt that only uses gas on trips over 50 miles. Great deals are abundant on both new and used EVs and PHEVs that'll save you big bucks on fuel and maintenance, while eliminating your own personal smog contribution. As utilities, business and homeowners continue to add more solar power, the net amount of air pollution your EV causes from generation of electricity it runs on, already much lower than even a Prius, will continue to decline over the life of the vehicle, making your EV cleaner each year, while any car that runs on gas or diesel will remain just as dirty a source of smog as it is today.

Consider joining Sierra Club staff and other members who've made the switch to a clean, quiet electric vehicle, and next weekend, Saturday May 20, drive your new EV to your local beach to Join Hands Across the Sand and say No to new offshore seismic testing and oil drilling for new sources of oil that are now completely unnecessary. Tell Donald Trump: "no thanks, we don't need any new oil rigs - we're trying to quit!"

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 

Everglades Reservoir law is an improvement, but we can't let up the fight

Another Year in the Pines, Everglades NP. Photo by Paul Marcellini

Everglades Reservoir bill becomes law
Sierra Club backed legislation but urges vigilance

Statement of Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director Frank Jackalone:

Sierra Club supported the Everglades Reservoir bill, which the Governor signed this week. We backed the bill because, on balance, its passage benefited the Everglades and Florida's coastal waters.

The law funding construction of a reservoir will help reduce Lake Okeechobee freshwater discharges that have been producing toxic algae in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, as well as send clean freshwater south to replenish aquifers, the Everglades and Florida Bay. Restoring these freshwater flows to the south will also improve the resiliency of South Florida from sea level rise and saltwater intrusion.

House and Senate leaders improved the final version of SB 10 by removing earlier provisions that would have used Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) revenue to fund Phase I of the C-51 water supply project and other inappropriate uses of voter mandated funding set aside for conservation and recreational land protection. Unfortunately, the bill still includes the LATF as a potential funding source for Phase II of the C-51 reservoir, which would be an impermissible expenditure of funds from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund under Article X, Section 28 of the Florida Constitution. We continue to oppose funding for all water supply projects from LATF monies.

While the new law speeds up the process for storing water on public land south of the Lake, it failed to provide any of the 60,000 acres of additional sugar land requested in the original bill for water storage, treatment and conveyance. The law also prohibits the state from using the power of eminent domain to acquire sugar lands, an important tool sometimes necessary to protect the Everglades, prevent ecological collapse, and preserve the water supply for 6 million people. The law forces more water to be stacked up in a smaller footprint, driving up costs and limiting options. We also remain very concerned that the South Florida Water Management District plans to rely on Aquifer Storage and Recovery and Deep Injection Wells north of the Lake instead of buying more land and building adequate above ground storage, which would provide more ecological benefits in line with Everglades restoration goals.

We are very pleased however that the law provides training programs and preference for Lakeside residents to secure jobs building the new reservoir.

We hope that this is just the beginning of serious efforts to transition the Lakeside communities to a diversified, stronger economy that protects its vast natural resources and public health.


The House passed the measure with a 99-19 vote; the Senate passed it 33-0.

The Governor signed SB 10 into law on May 9, 2017

Details of SB 10:

Accelerates the state's 20-year goal of storing water south of Lake Okeechobee.

Requires SFWMD to develop a project plan for an Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir that provides at least 240,000 acre-feet (about 78 billion gallons) of water storage by utilizing the A-2 parcel (14,000 acres of state-owned land), land swaps, early termination of leases, and land acquisition.

Provides for at least two-thirds of the water storage capacity of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) Component G.

Allows the A-1 parcel to remain a Flow Equalization Basin (FEB) as provided for in the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), or to be utilized for the EAA Reservoir if SFWMD can provide for at least 360,000 acre-feet of water storage.

Requires SFWMD to include increased canal conveyance improvements, if needed, and features to meet water quality standards in the EAA Reservoir project.  

Provides deadlines for submitting the plan to Congress as a post-authorization change report, which will seek approval of the use of the A-2 parcel in a different manner than was authorized in CEPP.

If the Corps has not approved the post-authorization change report and submitted it to Congress by October 1, 2018 or the post-authorization change report is not approved by Congress by December 31, 2019, SFWMD must request the Corps to develop a project implementation report for the EAA Reservoir Project located somewhere else.

Prohibits the use of eminent domain to obtain privately held land.

Provides for termination of the U.S. Sugar option agreement prior to the October 2020 expiration date if the post-authorization change report receives congressional approval or SFWMD certifies to the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House that acquisition of the land necessary for the EAA reservoir project has been completed.

Authorizes the use of Florida Forever bonds in an amount of up to $800 million for the costs of land acquisition, planning and construction of the EAA reservoir project.

Appropriates $30 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) to the Everglades Trust Fund, in the 2017-18 fiscal year, for the purposes of acquiring land or negotiating leases to implement or for planning or construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir project.

Appropriates $3 million from the LATF to the Everglades Trust Fund in the 2017-18 fiscal year for the development of the CEPP post-authorization change report.

Amends the LATF distribution to include $64 million of additional funding for the EAA reservoir project.

Appropriates $30 million from the General Revenue Trust Fund to the Water Protection and Sustainability Program Trust Fund to provide a loan for implementation of Phase I of the C-51 reservoir project.

Appropriates $1 million from the LATF to the Everglades Trust Fund in the 2017-18 fiscal year for the purpose of negotiating Phase II of the C-51 reservoir and provides the LATF as a potential funding source for the implementation of Phase II of the C-51 reservoir.

Creates the water storage facility revolving loan fund and requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to adopt rules for its implementation.

Creates the Everglades Restoration Agricultural Community Employment Training Program within the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) to provide grants to stimulate and support training and employment programs that seek to re-train and employ displaced agricultural workers.

Requires SFWMD to give preferential hiring treatment to displaced agricultural workers, consistent with their qualifications and abilities, for construction and operation of the EAA reservoir project.

Terminates the inmate labor work program on state-owned lands in the EAA.

Important deadlines:

By July 1, 2017 SFWMD must request that the US Army Corps jointly develop a post-authorization change report for the Central Everglades Planning Project to revise the A-2 parcel element of the project.

By July 31, 2017, SFWMD must contact the lessors and landowners of 3,200 acres of state-owned land and 500 acres of privately-owned land just west of the A-2 parcel. SFWMD must express interest in acquiring this land through purchase, exchange, or terminating leases.

If the US Army Corps agrees to begin developing the post-authorization report, work on the report must begin by August 1, 2017.

SFWMD must report the status of the post-authorization change report to Fla Legislature by January 9, 2018.

SFWMD and Corps must submit the post-authorization change report to Congress by October 1, 2018.*

The post-authorization change report must be approved by Congress by December 1, 2019.*

*If these two deadlines are not met (and no extension is granted), then the SFWMD must request that the Corps initiate the planning for the EAA Reservoir project that will result in a new Project Implementation Report (PIR) and may continue to build CEPP components as planned in the 2014 PIR.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Sierra Club applauds bill enacting pro-solar tax exemption for business. Urges Governor to sign.

Sierra Club Florida today applauded the passage of SB 90 sponsored by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), which carries out last year's constitutional amendment providing solar tax exemptions for commercial property owners

The bill implementing Amendment 4, grants businesses an 80 percent exemption from property taxes on renewable energy devices, like solar panels, similar to the 100 percent exemption Florida homeowners currently enjoy.

In August of 2016, the pro-solar Amendment 4 was approved by 73 percent of voters. Amendment 1, an anti-solar bill was defeated by voters three months later. Sierra Club Florida's volunteers worked tirelessly to secure Amendment 4's passage and to defeat Amendment 1.

The overwhelming support for the Amendment 4 implementation bill by both chambers of the Florida Legislature is a major victory for solar power in the Sunshine State. The bill now heads to Governor Rick Scott's desk. Sierra Club strongly urges him to sign it.

If SB 90 is signed into law it will put a major chink in the armor of Florida utilities FPL and Duke Energy, which have sought to stymie private rooftop solar installations. The law is seen as a major stimulus for the growing Florida solar industry. Currently, Florida utilities generate less than one percent of power from solar power, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Florida utilities now rely almost entirely on climate-change-causing fossil fuels like natural gas and coal and expensive, risky non-renewable nuclear reactors.

Studies show clean, renewable solar energy could supply all of the state's energy needs