Friday, October 29, 2010

Sierra Club Announces: Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Science Forum

Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard/ Justin Sternberg

Sierra Club Announces:  
Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill:

NOVEMBER 16, 2010     6:00 – 8:30 pm 
St. Petersburg, Florida 

What DO We Know?     What Do We NOT Know Yet?

Scientists will share their findings on the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster on the fish and wildlife of the Gulf of Mexico.  Panelists will include local researchers from the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science, plus a report from the 1st meeting of President Obama's Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force.


  • Audubon Society, St. Petersburg
  • Defenders of Wildlife
  • Gulf Restoration Network
  • League of Women Voters, St. Petersburg
  • Progress Florida
  • RePower America
  • Sierra Club Florida
  • Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce
  • University of South Florida College of Marine Science

Karen A. Steidinger Auditorium
Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
100 Eighth Avenue SE
St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-5020
(downtown St. Petersburg, next to the campus of the University of South Florida)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sierra Club & Allies Reach Agreement with Mosaic to Protect Wetlands

Limited mining at South Fort Meade will proceed as lawsuit continues.

Sierra Club Florida, ManaSota-88 and People for Protecting Peace River (3PR) have reached agreement with The Mosaic Company on a partial settlement in their lawsuit against the company’s South Fort Meade extension phosphate mine in Hardee County, pending approval by the Federal District Court in Jacksonville. The partial settlement provides for the protection of critically important wetlands and surrounding areas that would have been destroyed by the mine in exchange for allowing Mosaic to proceed with approximately four months of mining elsewhere on the site.

The legal challenge asked the Court to dismiss Mosaic’s permit for failure to consider

Ads Out Respecting Florida Constitution Amendments 4, 5 & 6

Created by Sierra Club members in Florida, there's a new ad out addressing the pending Florida constitutional amendments 4, 5 and 6. Check it out on YouTube. (No mud was slung in the production of this ad!)

This message will be placed in several spots over the next few days on some cable channels in the Tampa Bay, Suncoast and Manatee-Sarasota group areas.

Kudos to the Sierra Club members who conceived and executed on this truly grassroots effort.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Appeals Court Reinstates Norman’s Candidacy in Senate District 12

The First District Court of Appeals today overturned the Circuit Court’s order that Jim Norman was ineligible to run for election in Senate district 12 (Hillsborough and Pasco Counties.) Read the decision.

While two write-in candidates have qualified for the District 12 seat, Norman’s will be the only name on the ballot and, barring a very unlikely write-in victory, will enter the State Senate in November. Norman, a Hillsborough County Commissioner who consistently sides with development interests tried to eliminate the County’s wetlands program last August.  He will replace Sen. Victor Crist who is term limited. 

As a Senator, Norman may get to vote on whether to eliminate the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), a long time target of many developers.  DCA is the agency that reviews comprehensive plan amendments and has the authority to reject them if they do not comply with Florida’s Growth Management Act.  The Senate may also take up “streamlining” proposals that would lower the bar for permitting.

Caloosahatchee River at Risk

On October 20, The News-Press held a forum about the crisis plaguing the Caloosahatchee River. More than 130 government officials, scientists and citizens came to listen to five panelists who also answered audience questions.

The forum grew from the newspaper’s September River at Risk series, which examined the health of the 75-mile-long Caloosahatchee that flows from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico.

The river is critical to the region it traverses — Lee County’s $2.6 billion tourism industry depends on it — but its health is challenged by wastewater runoff, toxic algae blooms, leaky septic systems and too much or too little water from Lake Okeechobee.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Big Florida polluters still pressuring Congress to drop EPA Water Rules

This past summer, 100 miles of the St. Johns River was covered with toxic harmful algae and the dead Redfish that succumbed to the poisoned river water.

Fortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to implement new limits to curb the sewage, manure and fertilizer (nitrogen and phosphorous) pollution that triggers algae outbreaks like this on November 14. 

It has been a long haul.  Twelve years have passed since the Clean Water Act was amended (in 1998) to require the development, implementation and enforcement of numeric nitrogen and phosphorous concentration limits (numeric nutrient criteria) for the nation’s water bodies.  Florida DEP dragged its feet until a lawsuit filed (in 2008) by the Sierra Club and four other organizations forced the EPA to make it happen in Florida.  The case was settled in 2009 and a schedule was set for the implementation of both freshwater and estuarine criteria.

Clean Energy Roadshow comes to Florida

Clean Energy Roadshow, a 50 state tour to promote collaborative strategies for market development and job creation in energy efficiency and the clean energy economy, came to Punta Gorda last week to hear how Floridians are leveraging private capital to make such improvements here. The Roadshow was hosted by Gil Sperling with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (USDOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

There was a consensus among stakeholders attending the Roadshow that Florida’s commercial buildings, universally covered with flat roofs baking in the sun, would provide ideal locations for solar panels. Owners of these buildings should be able to sell electricity they generate back to their tenants, but ...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sierra Club Praises New Federal Funding for Florida High-Speed Rail

An elevated, automatic light rail system in Taipei, Taiwan.U. S. Senator Bill Nelson’s office today announced that Florida will receive an additional $800 million in federal funds to help pay for the construction of a high-speed rail line from Tampa to Orlando.  This rail line could be the first-ever high speed rail project in the United States. Construction of the Tampa-Orlando route is scheduled to begin by 2012 and operation of the rail by 2015.

Sierra Club’s Florida Green Transportation Campaign welcomes the announcement of additional funding for high speed rail in Florida. The development of a high speed rail network in Florida will help make the state a leader in building the transportation choices Floridians need to help end our dependence oil and protect Florida's beaches from oil drilling and devastating spills.

Sierra Club Florida in the News - Week of October 18-24

Two are far apart on green issues - Craig Pittman - ‎Oct 24, 2010‎
... Sierra Club sent both candidates a questionnaire, Sink responded, but Scott did not, said Cecilia Height, the club's political chairwoman in Florida. ...

Agriculture Chief Also Top Environment Officer 

The Ledger - Kevin Bouffard - ‎Oct 24, 2010‎
The Sierra Club sued the EPA because the Florida DEP was dragging its feet on implementing numerical nutrient standards, Costello said, and it would not ...

Transit tax money would bring road relief - Janet Zink - ‎Oct 18, 2010‎
Mariella Smith, a Sierra Club leader who lives in Ruskin, said she would have preferred that all the new tax money go to rail and bus service. ...

Orlando Sentinel - Aaron Deslatte - ‎Oct 22, 2010
The company is fighting a legal battle with the Sierra Club to keep one of its phosphate mines in Hardee County open. Scott spokesman Brian Burgess said before the speech that Scott would talk about how "the phosphate industry is vital to Florida's 

Grayson has big lead over Webster in money race

Orlando Sentinel - Mark K. Matthews - ‎Oct 18, 2010‎
Among the few special interests giving to Grayson were unions such as the National Education Association and environmental groups such as the Sierra Club. Webster, who didn't get into the race until April, also has relied on individuals to fund his …

Scott, Sink Differ in Environmental Policy Stances The Ledger - Tom Palmer ‎Oct 22, 2010‎

"I can't divine anything from Rick Scott's website about what his position is," said John Ryan, a Sierra Club activist from Winter Haven who is also heavily ..

Lake Worth looking for green ideas from residents

Sun-Sentinel - Willie Howard - ‎Oct 23, 2010‎

Drew Martin, conservation chairman of the Sierra Club's Loxahatchee Group and a member of the Mayor's Climate Protection Task Force, said the city could ...

Pensacola News Journal - Oct 18, 2010
The result: The back-and-forth between EPA and DEP has led environmental groups like the Sierra Club, St. John’s Riverkeeper and the Florida Clean Water Network to sue one or both, charging the agencies have not followed the law in setting water …

Gainesville Sun - Christopher Curry - ‎Oct 18, 2010‎

The environmental group Sierra Club, both locally and statewide, supports Amendment 4. Statewide, the political committee Florida Hometown Democracy had ...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Republican leadership set to undo Crist’s vetoes?

Gov Crist vetoed 18 bills passed during the 2010 session. But if Republicans take 2/3 of the House and Senate, the legislature might override some of those vetoes. The Florida Constitution says an override can take place any time up until the end of the next regular session which will be May 6, 2011.

Incoming Senate President Haridopolos is reported[1] to have directed staff to list vetoed bills that might be overridden – perhaps as early as

Thursday, October 21, 2010

National Park Service is focusing on 5.5 mile Tamiami Trail bridge plan

The epic struggle to restore freshwater flow to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay is gaining steam. Last summer, the National Park Service wrapped up a comment period on its plan to bridge 5 1/2 miles of Tamiami Trail in addition to a one-mile span currently under construction. At a public hearing in Miami last June, more than 75 Sierra Club members and supporters came out to speak in favor of the plan and thousands submitted comments on-line.

Sierra Club’s original vision, dubbed the “Skyway,” called for elevating 11 miles of the road to restore flow to the Everglades’ largest tributary, Shark River Slough. As a compromise,

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Move Beyond Oil to Promote 21st Century Transportation Choices

Last month, Florida Sierra Club members sent a message to President Obama that Florida cares about transportation reform that will end our oil dependence. Sierra Club members throughout Florida wrote letters to the editor to both local and national newspapers to launch a well-spring of public support for green transportation alternatives that will greatly benefit Floridians' well-being and safety as well as the State's economy and much-needed jobs.

Transportation reform is back on the national agenda after President Obama's

2010 Florida Election Endorsements

2010 Sierra Club Florida Endorsed Candidates & Amendments

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sierra Club Presentation to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

Presentation to USACE Phosphate Mining Workshop 
Lakeland, FL
October 6, 2010

Phosphate strip mining presents a number of serious environmental issues; a few of them are addressed here but we call the attention of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to the several letters detailing our concerns sent to them on behalf of Sierra Club and other groups with regard to the urgent need for a thorough region-wide cumulative Environmental Impact Study (EIS) to be completed before any more of Central Florida is opened to further phosphate strip mining.

Destruction of Wetlands
The frequent claim is that phosphate miners replace the wetlands destroyed by mining with

Monday, October 18, 2010

Put the Everglades in your portfolio!

What’s the return on investment of a restored Everglades? That may sound like an odd question to a kayaker or bird watcher, but it’s one that could resonate deeply with government officials during hard times.

The answer is $46.5 to $123.9 billion, according to the Everglades Foundation, which commissioned Atlanta-based Mather Economics to do the study. The figures were based on an $11.5 billion investment in Everglades Restoration.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Great American Neighborhood

Shocked and delighted. That’s the way I felt when I saw in the morning news that my neighborhood in north Florida has been selected as one of ten Great Neighborhoods in America by the American Planning Association. Wow, this is incredible!
What makes my ‘hood a Great Neighborhood? A lot of the things Sierra Club thinks are important for a liveable community are the same qualities that guide the selection for the APA.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Septic Septic Tank Legislation Proposed

Sen. Don Gaetz (R - Destin) and Rep. Marti Coley (R - Marianna) have promised to file a bill to repeal an important water quality victory from last year’s session. They want to eliminate the requirement for septic tank inspections every five years.

Sierra Club Florida supports the Evaluation and Assessment section of last year’s SB 550 which requires an evaluation of the tank and drainfield every five years (scroll to page 62 of the bill). Inspections are standard practice and protect homeowners from costly system failures that can require not only pump-outs, but also drainfield replacement. They also protect the community from water pollution and health hazards.

According to an EPA Fact Sheet, improperly functioning systems can introduce nitrogen, phosphorus, organic matter, and bacterial and viral pathogens into the surrounding area, wells, and groundwater.

Florida’s Dept. of Health (DOH) reports the state does not currently have a statewide inspection program and that only three counties, Charlotte, Escambia and Santa Rosa, mandate them at costs ranging between $83.93 to $215 per inspection. The inspections are performed by the Health Dept. or the private sector. Florida has between 2.3 and 2.7 million septic systems with the estimated failure rate during the initial round of inspections to be 9.5 percent.

The cost of mandating this routine maintenance is much lower than hooking up to a sewer system. See Sarasota County’s Property Owner’s Guide for a comparison (well over $8,000 to hook up plus $35-50/month ($420-600/year) depending on usage.)

DOH estimates the annualized cost for inspections to be $122.40, ($500 for inspection and pump-out, and $112 for County Health Dept. fees once every five years.) And last year’s bill included a grant program to help low-income families comply.

According to DOH, over half of Florida’s septic tank systems are over thirty years old and were installed under less stringent standards than are now required. Legislators will not be doing their constituents a favor by passing laws that say in effect, “clean water is too expensive.”

Sierra Club Florida’s Legislative Advisory Committee and lobbyist will be following this issue closely in the coming session. Watch for alerts!

David Cullen, Sierra Club Florida lobbyist

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Everglades Sugar: The Die is Cast

Today $194,234,087.08 will be electronically transferred from the South Florida Water Management District to the U.S. Sugar Corporation. And that push of a button will begin the actual restoration of the Everglades. Today marks the beginning of the transfer of the critical Everglades headwaters known as the Everglades Agricultural Area from private to public ownership. Before the passage of the now estimated $15 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Act of 2000, Sierra Club and its allies advised government officials to buy sugar land instead of pouring billions of dollars into unsafe underground water storage wells and giant lined mining pits. The way to heal the Everglades, we wrote to the Clinton Administration in 1999, was not to be found in more mechanical, heavily-manipulated water schemes that little resembled anything nature could devise. Indeed, the only way to put the once mighty Everglades back together was to dismantle many of the canal, pumps and water control structures which had torn it apart. We must purchase sugar lands, Sierra Club advised, to clean, store and allow the water to flow across the Southern Florida peninsula.

Sierra Club Congratulates Gov. Crist for Giant Leap in Everglades Restoration

Miami, FL (October 12, 2010) -- After court battles and repeated down sizing, the South Florida Water Management District will today acquire 26,800 acres of land strategically located south of Lake Okeechobee that is key to the restoration of the Everglades. The South Florida Water Management District will have an option to purchase additional land as necessary to help with the restoration plan.

Sierra Club Florida congratulates Governor Charlie Crist for foresight, leadership and willingness to fight against entrenched interests opposed to this important land purchase
The Water Management District, which is responsible for providing for sufficient water for drinking and other uses in South Florida, will use the land as part of the plan to return the historic flow of water from Lake Okeechobee through the Everglades and thereby replenish the aquifers that provide fresh water to the residents of South Florida and  restore the natural habitat of the Everglades. It is expected that native birds and other wild life will return in numbers that were greatly diminished by draining and other now rejected practices.

The leadership provided by the Governor and the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District will give future generations of Floridians a chance to enjoy the Everglades as it was before the 20th Century. 

-- Jonathan Ullman, South Florida Everglades Senior Organizer, (305) 860-9888