Saturday, June 25, 2011

Floridians join Hands Across the Sand while Governor Scott and Senate President Haridopolos declare war on our beaches and coastal economy

Statement of Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Senior Organizing Manager
St. Pete Beach, Florida – June 25, 2011

This past week Governor Rick Scott and Senate President Mike Haridopolos declared war on Florida’s beaches and coastal economy.  In a cynically timed pair of events, the two called for new oil drilling off Florida’s coasts and building more coal and nuclear power plants.  

In addition, Governor Scott is starting to dismantle energy efficiency rules that we need to keep energy costs down for businesses and homeowners and to reduce the amount of poisons such as mercury and ozone from coal and gasoline emissions sent into our air.  

Rick Scott is embracing the dirtiest forms of energy for our state.  He is shirking his responsibility to protect the welfare of all Floridians.  

Tea Party Governor Scott and his actions deeply contrast with the policies of former Republican Governor Charlie Crist and Democratic Governor Bob Graham.  Charlie Crist and Bob Graham not only worked to protect all our people but served as strong stewards of  Florida’s wildlife – our fish, our dolphins, our magnificent birds - and our beautiful oceans, bays and Gulf beaches.

A year ago today oil was pouring out from BP’s Macondo deepwater well into the Gulf of Mexico.  It was the greatest man-made environmental disaster in America’s history. 

The Gulf of Mexico is still sick following this disaster.  The Gulf fishing industry still hasn’t revived.  People who live near the Gulf are reporting unexplained illnesses.  Tourism at our beach communities is down. Millions of Floridians are still depressed because of the damage done to the special places they loved.

We can’t take another hit from another spill. 
Not in the deepwater Gulf! 
Not in the Atlantic!  
Not in Florida’s coastal waters, just 3 miles off Florida’s shoreline!
And not in the waters between Cuba and the Florida Keys!

It’s risky business - too risky for Florida’s coastal businesses.  

Another spill could cause our fisheries to crash permanently.  That’s no exageration.  A recent report warns that sealife is jeopardized by a combination of man’s pollution, overfishing and warming waters.  Mass extinction is a real possibility.  We are courting disaster in the Gulf if we add another major oil spill to this mix.

Today we join Hands with thousands of Floridians (and thousands more at 300 events across the earth) to say there is a real alternative to oil drilling here in the “sunshine state” - It’s called sunshine.  Harness the power of the sun.  The sun’s energy is being harvested and converted into power for our homes just a little bit right now in Florida.  It is being harvested more than here in several other states.  And it is being harvested a whole lot more in much colder, darker places like Germany.  Sunshine is free to the touch and it can be captured economically.

The other part of the solution is to move to electric cars now.  The Sierra Club and other conservation groups are calling on the Obama Administration to adopt a new rule to get us to 60 miles per gallon average fuel economy for new cars and trucks by the year 2025.  That standard would push manufacturers to sell electric cars and trucks at affordable prices.  It can be done and it must be done if we are to get beyond oil and save the planet. 

Solar and electric cars ought to be Florida’s future, not more drilling in the Gulf.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Impassioned crowd: no to giant powerlines in Everglades National Park

An impassioned standing-room-only crowd told park managers and a Department of Interior attorney to reject a plan to place 15 story-tall power lines along the edge of Everglades National Park.  Twenty-nine of the 30 public speakers, wearing NO powerline stickers, objected to the 70 powerlines, that Florida Power and Light (FPL) is proposing to install. The only speaker in favor was FPL.

The proposal drew sharp criticism from park users about why the Park would even consider the action. Some speakers asked if tourists would enjoy coming to a park with an “industrial horizon.” Many asked why the Park had even allowed the situation to get to this point. Others were concerned about what this precedent would mean to other national parks. A leader of a university environmental group broke down and cried in front of the microphone. 

The meeting was the first step of an Environmental Impact Statement to review the plan to envelope the eastern edge of the park with high voltage lines to service two proposed additional nuclear power reactors on the edge of nearby Biscayne National Park next to two existing units. According to a Park report, "...wetland-dependent bird species, such as raptors, wading birds, waterfowl and passerines, are likely to be negatively impacted by the proposed power lines.”

Audience members line up to speak against the powerlines
The Mayor of Pinecrest Cindy Lerner, whose community is also fighting powerlines, called the Park plan “an aberration” and expressed support for those in the audience. The plan involves swapping the existing utility corridor that the Park has failed to acquire since it expanded 22 years ago. Legislation enabling the Park to pursue the swap that would allow construction of the power lines was placed into the 2009 Omnibus Public Lands bill.

National Groups such as Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Clean Water Action and the Izaak Walton League joined by Tropical Audubon Society spoke against the powerline plan and one organization, South Florida Wildlands Association said it was already preparing to sue. NPCA delivered several boxes full of thousands of comments against the powerline plan.

The National Park Service is accepting public comments online until July 10. To submit comments and support Alt. 3, acquisition of the FPL property, click here.

For the a list of documents related to the powerlines, click here or type into your browser and click on the "document list" tab on the left-hand side.

Story by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:,0,1545393.story

-- Jonathan Ullman, South Florida/Everglades Organizing Representative, Sierra Club

Tampa City Council Adopts Strongest Urban Fertilizer Rule

Sixty supporters of clean water answered the call from Sierra Club and community partners to show up at the Tampa City Council meeting (June 23) to urge council members to pass an ordinance banning purchase and use of nitrogen lawn fertilizer during Florida’s rainy summer months. Backed by this massive outpouring of support from residents, council members stood firm in the face of immense pressure from national corporate fertilizer, pest control and landscape companies and passed the ordinance in a 6 to 1 vote! Tampa joins Pinellas County across Tampa Bay in eliminating the sale and use of nitrogen lawn fertilizer in the summer when North America’s most intense thunderstorms deliver most of the state’s annual rainfall. These heavy downpours wash fertilizer off lawns and into rivers, canals, Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, feeding all manner of harmful, toxic algae blooms.

A sense of urgency filled the room with a July 1 deadline looming for local governments to pass a summer sales ban on non-compliant fertilizers, under a new state law passed after the Scotts MiracleGro Company donated $1 million to legislators. Sierra Club members were joined by neighborhood associations, small businesses, local conservation and civic organizations whose members spoke eloquently about the importance of taking action to reduce the amount of harmful nutrients - nitrogen and phosphorous - that flow into our bays and waterways. Friends of the Hillsborough River, Suncoast Native Plant Society, Tampa Bay Estuary Program, Tomorrow Matters, Florida Consumer Action Network and many others filled the chamber and an overflow room.

Tampa now joins the other 43 cities and counties along Florida’s Gulf Coast that are covered by rainy season nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizer application bans, now in effect from Tampa Bay to Naples. For the past several years Sierra Club Florida’s Red Tide campaign has led the way in organizing community support for these many victories from our offices in Ft. Myers, Sarasota and St. Petersburg, gaining broad-based, bi-partisan support from neighborhoods and businesses dependant upon waterways free of toxic algae blooms for fishing and tourism.

Starting June 1, 2012, Tampa will join Pinellas County and all of its municipalities in prohibiting the sale of the products that are illegal to apply during the June 1 to Sept. 30 rainy season.  This move in Pinellas County has already replaced the unsustainable products on store shelves with “summer-safe” blends developed by Florida businesses that make lawns greener and healthier with iron & other elements that, however, don’t feed algae when washed into the water. Fertilizer sold October – May will be required to have half its nitrogen in a slow release form so it stays on lawns for months to gradually feed turf without washing off, eliminating any need to apply during the rainy season.

The ban is expected to prevent eight tons of nitrogen from getting into Tampa's waterways, saving the city $56 million in removal costs. In a victory luncheon following the council vote, Sierra Club Florida Senior Organizing Manager Frank Jackalone told supporters: "Tampa is now the largest city in the state of Florida with a strong summer fertilizer ban, which is why this is such an important victory." Sierra Club Organizing Representative Phil Compton, added: "Today we won a victory for the Hillsborough River, Tampa Bay and all of our waterways. It was a victory for our future!"

Tampa now shares with Pinellas County the distinction of having the strongest urban fertilizer regulations in the state – something we hope every county and city that cares about improving water quality will aspire to in the future.

Thanks to Marcia Biggs, Chair of the Sierra Club Tampa Bay Group, and Phil Compton for contributing to this story.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

No to offshore drilling -- Yes to clean energy!

Take Action: Join Hands Across the SandTake Action: Join Hands Across the Sand

This Saturday join hundreds of citizens from across the U.S. in joining hands against expanded offshore drilling. People will hold hands along scenic stretches of beach and inland landmarks at more than 250 locations in dozens of states and 19 countires in a show of solidarity for clean energy solutions and better transportation choices.

Find an event near you!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Join Hands Across the Sand to Take a Stand against Big Oil Sat, June 25

Sierra Club - Explore, enjoy and protect the planet

Dear Friend,
Last year, people across the globe joined together at over 900 events in 39 countries to call for an end to offshore drilling in the wake of the BP oil disaster.

Will you help us make this year's event even bigger?

Sign up to attend a Hands Across the Sand event on Saturday, June 25th.

Hands Across the Sand started in Florida, when over 10,000 people joined hands on over 90 beaches to protest efforts to lift the ban on drilling off their coasts. Since then it has grown to become an international movement calling on President Obama and world leaders to adopt policies encouraging the growth of clean and renewable energy sources in place of oil and coal.1
What: Join tens of thousands of citizens as we draw human lines in the sand against the threat dirty fuels and offshore oil drilling pose to our families and our planet.

When: June 25th at noon for 15 minutes.

Where: Your favorite beach, lake shore or riverfront.

RSVP: Find an event near you:
The timing of this year's event couldn't be more critical. As gas prices go up through the summer, the pressure to expand drilling mounts. Drilling off our coasts is not only dangerous, but it will have no impact on the price of gas.

But there is an alternative. It's time to invest in clean, renewable alternatives, cleaner cars, and transportation options that will end our addiction to oil once and for all.

Help us move beyond oil. Sign up for Hands Across the Sand on June 25th.

Thanks for all that you do to protect the environment,
Sarah Hodgdon Signature
Sarah Hodgdon
Sierra Club Conservation Director

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[1] You can learn more about Hands Across the Sand here.

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sierra Club Florida Requests Veto of HB 993 - Rulemaking

Sierra Club Florida has asked Gov. Scott to veto HB 993 - Rulemaking.  The bill has not yet been sent to him, but will be as soon as it is signed by the Senate President and Secretary and the House Speaker and Clerk.  The Governor will then have fifteen days to sign the bill, allow it to become law without his signature, or veto it.

The text of the veto request is below:
June 4, 2011

The Honorable Rick Scott, Governor
State of Florida
The Capitol

400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Dear Governor Scott:

Sierra Club Florida urges you to veto CS/CS/CS HB 993, titled “Rulemaking.”
HB 993 deprives the party challenging a license, permit, or conceptual approval of due process and wrongly assigns them the burden of proof under three Chapters of the Florida Statutes dealing with environmental law, and fails to address how the intent of the legislature expressed in a grant of rulemaking authority is to be accomplished by the executive branch when the resultant rule remains unratified.

Specifically, the bill would:

1) Inappropriately shift the burden of proof from the applicant for a license, permit, or conceptual approval under Chapters 373, 378, or 403 of the Florida Statutes to the party challenging an agency’s intent to issue said license, permit, or conceptual approval.  When an agency gives notice that it intends to issue a license, permit, or conceptual approval, that notice does not constitute granting the requested approval.  Rather, the notice of issuance starts the clock on the period during which a challenge

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Letter from Senator Bill Nelson -- Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes!

June 1, 2011

Frank Jackalone
Senior Organizing Manager
Sierra Club
111 Second Avenue, NE
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Dear Mr. Jackalone:

     Thank you for contacting me regarding gas prices and Federal regulations related to the extraction of oil and natural gas.
     I believe that special interests have hijacked congressional tax and spending bills for their own gain, at the expense of the public. That’s why I am an original cosponsor of S. 940, the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act.  This bill would eliminate tax breaks for large oil companies that make revenue in excess of $1 billion per taxable year. As Congress debates measures to improve our fiscal outlook, we must ensure that seniors and working-class Americans are not left holding the bill for these outdated and unnecessary oil subsidies.
     Furthermore, we must not allow oil companies to shift the cost of their mistakes to the average taxpayer. That’s why I recently introduced legislation (S.983) to prevent oil companies, such as BP, from deducting the cost of oil spill recovery efforts. Last year, BP announced that they’d use nearly $12 billion in tax savings to offset clean-up costs associated with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It is clear the Gulf oil spill was the result of wrongdoing. Even if BP is technically entitled to these tax deductions under current law, it doesn’t make it right.
     I believe we should modernize our tax system to encourage innovation and the development of new, alternative technologies in the energy sector.  I support efforts to prevent a rise in energy prices and reduce our dependency on foreign oil, and I’m open to new ideas that will further these goals while protecting our precious environment.
     I appreciate hearing your views on this important issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future.
                                   Senator Bill Nelson

Contact information for Senator Nelson: