Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wall Street Journal takes a close look at Florida phosphate mining fight


Miners Dig In for a Fight

Environmentalists Say Phosphate Mining 

Threatens Florida Wetlands, Farmland

WAUCHULA, Fla.—The phosphate mined for more than a century here in central Florida to make fertilizer has yielded thousands of jobs and countless harvests around the world.
But environmental groups are arguing in federal court that the cornucopia extracts too high a price in lost wetlands, spoiled water supplies and ruined farmland.
The Sierra Club and local environmentalists have slammed the brakes on an 11,000-acre mine extension planned by industry giant Mosaic Co. after securing a court injunction in July—the first such ruling in a state that supplies approximately 70% of U.S. phosphate rock for fertilizer. Mosaic is appealing the ruling.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Turkeys of Everglades National Park

A Wild Turkey in Everglades National Park. All photos from  http://www.nps.gov/ever/naturescience/Wild-Turkey.htm
In January 2000, 29 Osceola Wild Turkeys, 10 with radio collars, were released into the Long Pine Key area of Everglades National Park. Park officials led by Dr. George Dalrymple thought the timing was right. The last major strand of pineland in Southeast Florida was finally robust enough after decades of logging had ended and a natural fire regime had been restored. Since hunting was prohibited in the National Park, the turkeys would seem to have a bright, protected future.

Excitement however turned to despair after 7 of the 10 radio-collared turkeys died within a year. Animal predators were suspected, but never proven.

Although once widespread, the Wild Turkey’s habitat was destroyed by logging by the early 1900s and the Osceola Wild turkey, the Florida variety once common in Long Pine Key was no exception.

Turkeys released into Park.
Dalrymple, the scientist behind the 2000 turkey introduction, lost his own battle with cancer in January 2005. In response to his death, exactly one year later, another 31 wild turkeys were released into Everglades National Park under the auspices of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Initially things looked good for the turkey transfer. Numbers were up. But by 2009, the Park’s turkeys were in decline again. It’s not certain how many are left. Sightings have been rare. The Wild Turkey was one of three pineland birds reintroduced into the Park. The other two were the Eastern Bluebird and the Brown-headed Nuthatch.

Tom Pelham resigns, Energy Efficiency in Comp Plans Delayed

Tom Pelham, Secretary of the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) has confirmed his resignation effective at the close of business on January 3, 2011 – the day before Governor-Elect Scott will be inaugurated. 

Pelham was a staunch advocate for Florida’s 1985 Growth Management law which he had a central role in implementing while running the agency for Gov. Bob Martinez from 1987-91.  He was appointed Secretary again in 2007 by Gov. Crist who recently asked his agency heads to submit letters of resignation so the Scott administration can start fresh.

The Secretary’s tenure the past four years was not without controversy.  The development community has complained regularly that DCA is stopping growth, and incoming Governor Scott has echoed that the agency is “killing jobs”. 

At the beginning of the 2010 session he informed legislature that DCA did not interpret the previous year’s growth management bill, SB 360, which created dense land use areas (DULAs) exempted from transportation concurrency requirements, the way they expected.  He told them

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Marine Scientists Tell Us What's Known About Deepwater Horizon Oil Impact On Gulf of Mexico

Three marine scientists from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg's College of Marine Science shared their recent findings and perspectives on the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill at a St. Petersburg Gulf Science forum Tuesday evening. A capacity audience filled the 250 seat auditorium at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Institute Auditorium
adjacent to USF St. Petersburg.

The forum was organized by staff of the state offices of several environmental organizations in order to share important scientific data with the public.
Attendees asked over 40 questions of the three scientists in a Q & A session after their presentations. The environmental organizations: Sierra Club Florida, Gulf Restoration Network, Defenders of Wildlife and the Pew Environmental Group, also gave updates on the prospects for restoring the gulf’s health and moving beyond oil to a more efficient and clean energy future.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Floridians Seeing the Light but Only Partial Funding on Solar Power

During the special session last Tuesday the Legislature provided funding for energy efficiency and solar power rebates.  The money is coming from the federal stimulus program but lawmakers held off on approving the payments until they could hold a special session.

The funding is not complete: Only HVAC rebates applied for during a two week period – August 31 to Sept 14 - qualify for efficient heating and air conditioning rebates totaling $2,467,244, and the remaining $28,902,623 will be applied to backlogged solar power rebates amounting to $52 million. The rebate will cover about 55% of the amount solar purchaser expected, but it is still a significant figure. (See this Gainesville Sun Article for further details on the limits of the rebates.)

Floridians want solar energy.   Florida TaxWatch, a non-partisan, non-profit fiscal watchdog organization has just released the results of a survey  that shows how popular renewable energy is.  An impressive 89% of respondents agreed that “Investing in renewable energy is important to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and make our nation more secure.” And 84% agreed that “Investing in renewable energy is important to create jobs for Floridians and improve the state’s economy.”

Coalition opposes nuclear expansion near Biscayne & Everglades National Parks

City of South Miami Mayor Phillip Stoddard (ctr.) called FPL's proposed nuclear reactors an "economic scam."
A coalition of citizens, civic organizations and public officials spoke out against FPL’s proposed expansion of two nuclear reactors between Everglades and Biscayne National Parks. The groups gathered in front of Homestead City Hall where a three-judge panel from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission heard arguments from several of the groups’ lawyers Friday.

Representatives of the Sierra Club Miami Group, Tropical Audubon Society, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, 1 Sky Florida, Everglades Law Center, Save it Now, Glades!, National Parks Conservation Association and the South Florida Wildlands Association hosted the press conference.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Senator Nelson Needs to Hear From Us Again

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced new limits to reduce contamination from inadequately treated sewage, animal manure and fertilizer on November 15.  The new standards set specific numeric limits on the amount of nutrient pollution allowed in Florida’s lakes, rivers, streams and springs and will finally provide Florida with a systematic approach to protecting water quality.

Currently, Florida has more than 1,900 miles of rivers and streams, 375,000 acres of lakes, and 500 square miles of estuaries that are impaired by nutrients –  there is no time to lose.  Clean water is essential to Florida’s environmental and economic health.

Because of a potential Congressional attack on our new pollution limits, it is imperative that our Senator Bill Nelson defends the new rule.  Please take a moment to call his office and leave a message in support of this EPA action. Senator Nelson needs to hear that you support the new pollution limits over and above the needs of the special interest polluters.

Click to see recent Editorials on the new rule from the Orlando Sentinel, the Palm Beach Post, The Gainesville Sun and the St. Petersburg Times.

Thanks again for taking action to protect Florida’s precious water resources.

Cris Costello
Florida Red Tide Campaign Coordinator
Sierra Club

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Florida panther on Hendry County road is 13th killed by vehicles in 2010

JUST IN --  from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission  (web link):

"The remains of FP176, a 4-5 year old male panther, were collected on 17 November 2010 on Keri Rd approximately 660 m (0.41 miles) west of the Ok Slough SF headquarters (Google map link). The cause of death was trauma associated with a vehicle collision. The carcass is at the FWC Naples Field Office and will be sent to the FWC Wildlife Research Lab in Gainesville for necropsy. The remains will be archived at the FL Museum of Natural History. This is the18th panther mortality and the 13th road mortality for 2010."

Sierra Club's View
About 100 Florida Panthers survive in the wild – clinging to less than five percent of their historic range.  Their entire remaining habitat is located in a handful of South Florida Counties.   It is the last of the eastern cougars which once roamed across the southern U.S., and is the last species of large cat east of the Mississippi River.

Over the past two decades the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved every development proposal in panther habitat.  The last rejection came in 1993.  More development brings more roads dissecting Florida panther habitat and with those roads -- more cars and trucks.  That results in more panther deaths each year.  In 2009, a record 17 panthers were killed by vehicle collisions.  

What can be done?
  • Limit SprawlFlorida panther habitat has been whittled down to a few counties in south Florida. Plans for expansive development in the rural lands of southwest Florida  such as the enormous Big Cypress shopping mall and housing complex in Collier County – will bring more cars into panther habitat and threaten the small panther population left. 
  • Protect Passage.  Increased fencing and accelerated installation of protective panther “crossings” at strategic panther movement corridors would eliminate much of the killing. 
  • Designate Critical Habitat Protection for the Florida Panther.   Although it has been listed as an endangered species since 1967, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has never designated critical habitat for the Florida Panther. Critical habitat is a geographic area necessary to help an endangered species recover its population, and its designation is a critical tool within the Endangered Species Act.  By the Service's refusal to make this designation, only the panther is protected.  But its habitat – the living and breeding space it must have to survive – is not.

The Sierra Club and four other conservation groups, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida,  the Center for Biological Diversity, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER,) and the Council for Civic Associations, filed a lawsuit on February 18, 2010 in Federal District Court in Fort Myers, Florida against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after it denied the groups' petitions and refused to designate critical habitat.  A favorable decision on this pending legal action would be an important step forward towards protecting the panther’s last remaining habitat, before it is irreversibly lost due to over-development and climate change.   

Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Senior Field Organizing Manager - FL & PR

Monday, November 15, 2010

NEWS RELEASE: New EPA Limits on Fertilizer, Animal Waste, and Sewage Pollution Are Key To Cleaner Florida Waters


November 15, 2010

David Guest, Earthjustice, (850) 681-0031
Manley Fuller, Florida Wildlife Federation, (850) 656-7113
Andrew McElwaine, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, (239) 438-5472
Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club, (727) 824-8813, ext. 302
Neil Armingeon; St. Johns Riverkeeper, (904) 256-7591

New EPA Limits on Fertilizer, Animal Waste, and Sewage Pollution
Are Key To Cleaner Florida Waters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Five major Florida environmental groups join together today to welcome the first-ever limits on the widespread water pollution that poses a major public health threat in Florida.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced new limits to reduce contamination from inadequately treated sewage, animal manure and fertilizer. The new standards will be phased in gradually so that industries have time to make needed changes to clean up dirty discharges into public waters.

These pollutants wash into Florida waters every time it rains. They trigger toxic algae outbreaks – green slime that covers lakes, rivers, bays and streams. Exposure to these algae toxins – when people drink the water, touch it, or inhale vapors from it - can cause rashes, skin and eye irritation, allergic reactions, gastrointestinal upset, serious illness, and even death.  Fish and wildlife can also be killed by the toxins.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Septic Tank Law Faces Backwash of Objections

Hold your nose, folks, and stay out of the river and off the beach.  Your Florida neighbors likely won’t have to take better care of their septic system than they have in the past.  The Green Monster and Red Tide will continue to run free in Florida should some in the 2011 legislature have their way.  Oh, and don’t expect to always get clean water from your well.
The landmark bill passed and signed into law last summer has encountered a heavy backwash from folks unwilling to pay their way and keep your neighborhood and your waters clean.
Check out this recent flush of reports from around Florida:
Constantine Defends Septic Tank Bill As Delay Nears, News Service of Fla., via Fla. Assn. of Community Colleges News, 11/12/10
The push to weaken septic tank legislation approved last spring by lawmakers is dividing the usually clubby Florida Senate . . . The wide-ranging bill is designed to protect Florida’s natural springs and waterways which are often threatened by septic tank overflow. Beginning in January, the legislation would require inspections of the state’s 2.6 million septic tanks once every five years. . . .

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rulemaking Override Leading to Environmental Paralysis?

Florida legislators will be meeting on Tuesday in special session.  The main agenda item will be votes to override several bills vetoed by Governor Cirst earlier this year.  If the Governor’s veto is overridden on any of those bills, it will immediately become law and go into effect.  

One bill vetoed by Governor Crist is HB 1565 - Rulemaking which says that any rule set by Florida’s environmental regulators having an “adverse” impact on small businesses of $1 million over five years will have to be ratified by the Legislature. 

The “adverse” fiscal impact threshold equals just over a penny for each Floridian for five years.

Almost any rule that requires polluters to clean up their act or restricts land use could trigger the ratification provision, making it almost impossible to do anything to protect clean water,

Friday, November 12, 2010

Oil Disaster Forum: What Do the Scientists Know?

Public Forum on Tuesday:
The Gulf Oil Disaster,
What Do the Scientists Know?

Oil Hand
What do scientists say about how the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster affected the  fish, wildlife and people in the Gulf of Mexico?

Join us on Tuesday and hear from three top scientists whose courageous research sheds light on how to restore and protect the Gulf of Mexico from harm.

Bob Weisberg, David Hollander and Ernst Peebles from the USF College of Marine Science will tell you about their findings related to fish, dispersants and how the oil was spread by the Gulf's currents.

Here are the details:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Gold Standard

Judge Alan Gold’s bold plan to save the Everglades: ‘Make it so.’

Judge Alan Gold, 66, meant business when he ordered Environmental Protection Administration Administrator Lisa Jackson to his courtroom in Miami. He wanted her to fly down from DC to explain what he called the “glacial delay” in cleaning up Phosphorus in the Everglades. It was a bold, if theatrical, move that got people’s attention. Gold knows that despite decades of promises, the state and federal governments wouldn’t save the Everglades unless an alligator was nipping at them. Enter Gold. While the appeals court ruled that Jackson didn’t need to book a flight to Miami, her agency did comply with Gold’s order to release its plan.

The EPA’s blueprint calls for expanding the 60,000 acres of Stormwater Treatment Areas, shallow plant beds that suck up Phosphorus, by another 42,000 acres by 2020. The land would come from

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cape Coral Moving Forward to Reduce Harmful Algae Blooms

Sierra Club members in Cape Coral spoke up at  a public workshop last night on a proposed fertilizer ordinance to be considered by the City Council.   Cape Coral is the only municipality in Lee County that has not adopted a strong fertilizer management ordinance.

The need for Cape Coral to get on board with the rest of southwest Florida was highlighted by the Fort Myers News Press recently in a series of articles on the declining water quality of the Caloosahatchee.  Cape Coral's 400 miles of canals cut through the city's well-fertilized lawns, creating serious impacts on the Caloosahatchee River and the Gulf of Mexico.

One of the goals of the Sierra Club's Red Tide Campaign is the reduction in runoff of excessive nitrogen and phosphorus found in fertilizers.  Nitrogen and phosphorus fuel the growth of harmful algal blooms like Red Tide and blue green algae; blooms that kill fish, manatees, birds, turtles and other wildlife, cause respiratory problems and even more severe medical conditions to human life and negatively impact our tourism economy, as well as recreational and commercial fishing industries.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tell Sen. Nelson: "Don't Feed the Toxic Algae"

This past summer, the surface of the St. Johns River was littered with corpses of fish. These fish died because they were unable to survive in river water poisoned by the toxic algae bloom that covered the river’s surface for almost 100 miles.

Senator Nelson toured the algae-covered rivers and saw how unhealthy waterways can devastate local economies. But now Florida’s Big Polluters have swamped Senator Nelson with misinformation.  While the polluters claim Florida can’t afford to clean up the mess they make, we know the truth: Florida can’t afford not to.

We must make sure Senator Nelson puts the interests of our state’s environment and its people above the demands of dirty polluters!

The EPA is set to implement new limits to curb the sewage, manure and fertilizer pollution that triggers algal blooms. But in September, Senators LeMieux and Nelson made an attempt to stop the new pollution limits with an amendment to the 2011 federal funding bill.

Click here to send a message to Senator Nelson urging him to oppose any attempt to sidetrack the EPA's efforts to protect our water.  Florida's drinking water and the state’s waterways are at stake.

Thanks for taking action to protect Florida’s precious water resources.


Cris Costello
Sierra Club Florida

P.S. After you take action, forward this message to your friends!
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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Industrial agriculture, developers, and lax sewer plant operators continue to falsely claim that clean water costs too much

For over a year opposition to the EPA rule (numeric nutrient criteria) to limit nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in Florida’s freshwater and coastal water bodies has come from the state’s major polluters. Their ridiculous cleanup cost claims since last November – two months even before the first EPA proposals were released – have been based on the cost of converting every wastewater treatment facility in the state to reverse osmosis (the method normally used to convert salt water to fresh water). Nowhere in the country, and certainly not in all of Florida, is that level of wastewater treatment required to meet cleanup requirements.

To date, polluter attempts to thwart the development and implementation process of the rule have been unsuccessful; however, in recent months they have accelerated the pace of their lobbying efforts.  On October 20, forty-seven Florida businesses and other groups wrote Congress urging action to delay the water-quality standards; the list includes our state’s worst polluters and those agencies responsible for pollution clean-up. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

VOTE TUESDAY NOVEMBER 2ND! Sierra Club Florida 2010 Endorsements


2010 Sierra Club Florida Endorsed Candidates & Amendments

Sierra Club Florida in the News - Week of October 25-31


Palm Beach Post - John Lantigua  October 25, 2010
The Sierra Club has pumped $800, 000 into last minute television ads for three Democratic Party Congressional ...

An elevated, automatic light rail system in Taipei, Taiwan.FEDS OFFER $800M MORE FOR RAIL PLAN

Daytona Beach News-Journal
Dinah Voyles Pulver - October 26, 2010
The Florida chapter of the Sierra Club also heralded the announcement Monday, saying the rail network would be a win for the state's economy and its ...

Agriculture commissioner candidate 

Putnam fought to block 

water quality rules 

The Florida Independent - Virginia Chamlee 
October 27, 2010‎
The Sierra Club, an agency instrumental in leading to the implmentation of the standards, recently endorsed Maddox as its choice for agriculture ...

Orlando Sentinel · 10/27/2010Cecilia Height, chairwoman of the political committee for Sierra Club of Florida, said Scott would be working with a far more conservative-leaning Legislature than Bush had. House Speaker-designate 

Mosaic, environmentalists agree to 

limited mining 

Bizjournals.com - Margie Manning - ‎October 28, 2010

  Sierra Club Florida and other environmental groups brought a lawsuit in federal district court     contesting the US Army Corps of Engineers' issuance of a ...

Fernandina Beach News Leader

County adopts 2030 plan

Fernandina Beach News-Leader - Ryan Smith 
October ‎28, 2010‎
Robert Weintraub of the Sierra Club, however, said that although the plan showed improvement from earlier drafts, more steps could be taken. ...

Orlando Sentinel - October 29, 2010
John Henderson, co-chairman of the Central Florida chapter of the Sierra Club, said he wouldn't choose bio-cremation because it uses chemicals, heat, gallons of water and you end up in a container. "I'm leaning personally more toward the green burial, so …

Hopefuls run to end funding for 

Dust Bowl-era conservation districts 

Tbo.com - Christian M. Wade - ‎October 29, 2010‎
"They don't do much in the way of conservation," said Mariella Smith, of the Tampa Bay Sierra Club. "I honestly don't think ...