Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sierra Club Response to President Obama's Speech on Energy Security

Press Room:  For Immediate Release 
Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 30, 2011

Statement by Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club: 

Washington, DC - 
“True energy independence starts at home and we are encouraged by the President’s commitment to moving our nation beyond its dangerous addiction to oil.  

“As the President said, with soaring oil prices, Middle East unrest, national security concerns and disasters like the BP Gulf disaster, we cannot afford to hit the snooze button again on our energy independence.

“Today the Sierra Club joined the Center for American Progress and the League of Conservation Voters in releasing a “Cleaner Cars, Less Foreign Oil” plan, calling for President Obama and Congress to set firm targets for ending Big Oil’s stranglehold on our economy.

To save Americans money at the pump, we propose the following four-part plan:
  • Cut foreign oil use by 5 percent annually, and in half by 2022;
  • Build 21st century cars that get 60 miles per gallon by 2025 and invest in smart transportation choices like high speed rail;
  • End tax loopholes and government handouts for Big Oil, and invest one cent per dollar of Big Oil profit into ultra-clean vehicle research and development;
  • Stop speculators from driving up oil prices.


“We join the President in his call for American ingenuity and innovation and we share his vision for a safer, healthier and more prosperous nation.  However, the Sierra Club is firmly opposed to the misconception that coal or nuclear power can ever be clean.

“Instead of perpetuating our dependence on dirty energy, we urge the President and Congress to take meaningful action to move America into a clean energy economy.”


###

Monday, March 28, 2011

Three new Florida Panther deaths reported

The Florida Panther Project at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission sent an email this afternoon reporting 3 new panther deaths over the past 2 weeks, making a total of 11 so far in 2011.  The latest carcass was found on March 25 - an 11 year-old female panther killed by a motor vehicle.  Details were not released about the other 2 deaths which are listed as "under investigation." According to a state scientist I spoke with, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is withholding further information at this time. 


Below is the content of the email I received from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.  Take a close look at the chart at the end of the report which lists each dead panther found this year.


Frank Jackalone
Florida Staff Director
Sierra Club


This report, required by Section 2(d) of the Endangered Species Cooperative Agreement between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), is to provide you details regarding the death and handling of a Florida panther. 
The remains of an 11 year 10 month old female panther, FP83, were collected on 25 March 2011 on US41, approximately 3.2km (2 mi) west of Port of the Islands in Collier County. The cause of death was trauma associated with a vehicle collision.  The carcass is currently at the FWC Naples Field Office and will eventually be transported to the Wildlife Research Lab in Gainesville for a complete necropsy.  The remains will be archived at the FL Museum of Natural History. This is the 11th panther mortality for 2011 and the 5th road mortality (UCFP157 is not included in the 2011 tally because of the estimated age of the recovered skeletal remains).
FP83 was initially marked in the den as a kitten in June 1999 in the Picayune Strand State Forest.  She was eventually radiocollared and monitored through July of 2006, when her GPS collar released as programmed. 

This information is being provided as required by Section 2(d) of the Endangered Species Cooperative Agreement between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).  It is not intended as a News Release.  All information should be considered “pending” until all necropsy results and tests are finalized.

Click here for the chart of panther deaths:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

More Drilling in the Gulf?

Sierra Club - Explore, enjoy and protect the planet

Dear Friend,

Almost one year ago, the BP oil disaster demonstrated that our approach to oil and gas production was fundamentally flawed.  The President's Oil Spill Commission found that these shortcomings were not unique to BP's Deepwater Horizon but signaled systemic problems within the oil and gas industry.

Send a message to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) telling them our country needs move beyond oil!

BOEMRE is currently seeking public comments on two Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) that would allow new oil drilling leases off our coasts.  However, the Oil Spill Commission's recommendations have yet to be adopted and implemented by Congress, leaving our shorelines and coastal communities still vulnerable to tragedies like the BP oil disaster.  Until this happens, no new oil leases should be granted, especially in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tell BOEMRE that until the proper protections are in place, no new oil leases should be granted!

While the oil industry would like us to believe that dirty fossil fuels are the only option for our energy and economic needs, there is no reason why the Gulf Coast cannot lead our country into a clean energy economy.  The best way to protect the Gulf and other U.S. coasts from future oil disasters is to wean our country off of dirty fossil fuels and make real investments in clean energy.  If we choose to learn from history, the BP oil disaster can serve as a catalyst to launch our nation towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.

Thank you for all that you do for our Gulf Coast.

In solidarity,

Jordan Macha
Sierra Club Gulf States Representative



Alachua County Airboat Noise Limits Could be Overturned by State Law Proposed by State Senator Steve Oelrich

Airboat noise  < click here to hear! 
Ever been overwhelmed or disturbed by prop blast on what was going to be a quiet kayak paddle, while fishing on your boat, during a lake-side walk, or just while lounging on your back porch?  Well, some folks in central Florida have had enough:
  • The Sierra Club Suwannee/St. Johns Group and Quiet Lakes of  Alachua County (www.QuietLakesofAlachuaCounty.com), collected the necessary petitions last spring, placed a proposed nighttime curfew (7pm-7am) on the November ballot, and won the vote for the ordinance, 56% to 44%.(38,000 voters); the ordinance went into effect on 1/1/11.
  • In the first week of the 2011 legislative session in Tallahassee, state Senator Steve Oelrich filed a bill that essentially would nullify the hard-earned ordinance. The proposed statute overrules the voter-approved ordinance -- and raises the noise level allowed for airboats limited in a prior statute, from 90 dBa to 107 dBa. The Senator and ex-sheriff stated on TV that this bill will, "reduce the noise allowed for airboats." Hello!?
  • Comparative loudness is tough to represent.  But most of us know what is really loud noise.  For a reference table, click here.
  • A detailed talking points essay is posted on the Sierra Club Florida website, Florida.SierraClub.org, (click thru from the home page), along with contact information for the politicians and committees.
All concerned citizens are implored to communicate with these politicians who are attempting to trammel HOME RULE for Florida's local governments -- and who seem to have no sensibility for quiet in nature.
Thanks,
Whitey Markle, Conservation Chair

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fertilizer preemption narrowly passes 8 to 7 in House Subcommittee

Sierra Club Florida Water Quality Update

HB 457,  a bill that would preempt and gut fertilizer regulation ordinances adopted by 40 local governments throughout Florida, passed this morning in the House Community and Military Affairs Subcommittee by one vote.  The 8 to 7 vote count is below (all Democrats and two Republicans voted no).

Please take time today to call and thank the no votes – it is very important to show our gratitude. Sierra Club remains optimistic that we can defeat this bill as it moves on to other committees in the House and Senate.

HB 457 has been referred to two additional committees in the House for further consideration: the Rule-making and Regulations Subcommittee and the State Affairs Committee.  The Senate companion bill, SB 606, was approved 4-0 in the Agriculture Committee on March 15 and has been referred to the Community Affairs, Rules and Budget committees for additional consideration.

VOTE ON HB 457 3-23-11 in House Community & Military Affairs Subcommittee 

Name
District City
Local Phone
Email Address
YES  Rep. Ritch Workman, Chair
Melbourne
NO   Rep. Ed Hooper, V. Chair
Clearwater
NO   Rep. Lori Berman
Delray Beach
YES  Rep. Jeffrey ''Jeff'' Brandes
St. Petersburg
NO   Rep. Matt Caldwell
Fort Myers
NO   Rep. Daphne Campbell
Miami Shores
YES  Rep. Fredrick W. Costello
DeLand
YES  Rep. Jose Felix Diaz
Miami
YES  Rep. Chris Dorworth
Heathrow
YES  Rep. James ''J.W.'' Grant
Tampa
NO   Rep. John Patrick Julien
North Miami Bch
NO   Rep. Mark Pafford
West Palm Bch
NO   Rep. Scott Randolph
Orlando
YES  Rep. Ronald ''Doc'' Renuart
Ponte Vedra Bch
YES  Rep. Jimmie T. Smith
Lecanto








Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fertilizer Preemption Alert

Please call members of the House Community and Military Affairs Subcommittee today and urge them to vote against this bad preemption bill.  Committee contact information is below.  Telephone calls are best, but if you can’t call, please send an email.  HB 457 (Fertilizer) will be heard in the House Community and Military  Affairs  tomorrow, Wednesday, at 8:00 a.m.
HB 457 is a complete preemption bill that guts water protection ordinances adopted by 40 local governments. 
HB 457:
  • Sets up a weak “model ordinance” as the most a local government can do even though it was written as a minimum standard.  Since the weak model ordinance would apply statewide and no stronger ordinances could be adopted, water quality will inevitably suffer and clean up costs will be shifted to taxpayers.
  • Preempts local ordinances retrospectively by giving the Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) all authority over the sale, use, and application of urban turf fertilizer. All 40 local water quality ordinances adopted by officials closest to the people will be abolished.  (DEP, the agency responsible for water quality is cut out of the loop completely.)

Talking points
  • Localities have already adopted more stringent ordinances than the “model ordinance” and water quality has improved in those areas!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sierra Club Signs Coalition Letter to Senators Opposing "Policy Earmarks"

March 16, 2011

Dear Senator:

We urge you to oppose policy riders in the upcoming bill to extend funding for the remainder of the fiscal year.  In addition to large cuts to discretionary spending that would seriously impair the ability of regulatory agencies to function, H.R. 1, the House passed spending bill, contains at least 80 provisions that would radically alter existing policies of the federal government.  These provisions would harm millions of Americans by undermining critical public protections, and you should reject them in any continuing resolution.

H.R. 1 is an ideologically driven wish list of “policy earmarks” for powerful special interests, not a coherent set of policy priorities.  For example, there is a provision specific to implementing the “Education Job Fund” in the state of Texas, one specific to a mine in West Virginia, and another specific to Florida water quality standards.  Instead of putting together coherent strategies on water quality or mining, the House bill, with its inclusion of policy earmarks like these, opted to focus on satisfying the narrow concerns of interest groups rather than the nation as a whole.

The House has held no hearings on its budget bill, and numerous provisions were added on the House floor with limited debate, often late at night.  Committee members have not been given a chance to defend the dozens of programs that would be affected by these 80-plus policy riders.  Additionally, the public has been frozen out of the process, leaving no opportunity for outside voices to be heard. 

Even though the policy riders have major implications for clean air, health care, consumer protections, and much more, there is limited transparency and no meaningful public participation into these decisions.  In essence, it is a backdoor means for unraveling years of public protections.

We strongly urge you to oppose policy riders on the bill to fund government for the rest of the fiscal year.

Sincerely,
AFL-CIO
Air Alliance Houston
American Association for Justice
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform (CCAR)
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Food Safety
Consumers Union
Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias
Endangered Species Coalition
Free Press
Global Community Monitor
Government Accountability Project
International Center for Technology Assessment
International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW)
National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC)
National Farmers Union
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
National Women's Health Network
National Women's Law Center
Natural Resources Defense Council
OMB Watch
Public Citizen
Rural Advancement Foundation International -- USA (RAFI-USA)
Safe Tables Our Priority (S.T.O.P.)
Sierra Club
Union of Concerned Scientists
United Poultry Growers
Valley Watch, Inc.
Women's Information Network

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Stop feeding us Mercury

Sierra Club - Explore, enjoy and protect the planet

Dear Friend,

Tell the EPA to Stop Air Toxics
From Harming Our Communities 

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Take Action Today!
Mercury pollution is poison and 300,000 babies are born every year at risk.1


It might as well be Russian Roulette:  At least 1 in 12 and as many as 1 in 6 American women of childbearing age have enough mercury in their bodies to put a baby at risk. Mercury and other dangerous air pollutants are connected to extreme health problems: brain damage, learning disabilities, birth defects, heart disease, cancer and even premature death.2 And we finally have a chance to end the cycle.


Please send a message to the EPA today to stop air toxics like mercury from harming our communities.

After 20 years of delay, the EPA has finally proposed strong mercury and air toxics standards for power plants.

Our nation's biggest polluters want to block these standards, but if enacted we'll be preventing 17,000 premature deaths and 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms a year.3 The stakes are too high to let dirty polluters ramrod the process.
There has never been a clearer need for massive public involvement.  We must lead the charge to make sure the EPA has the support it needs to clean up this dangerous pollution and protect our health. Together, we will send hundreds of thousands of comments and ensure the best possible standards for our health.

Send your message to the EPA today in support of life saving protections that can keep mercury pollution out of our communities.

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, 5 tribes and two U.S. territories have issued fish advisories, many of them due to the risks of mercury poisoning.4
Other air toxics are just as dangerous to our public health. Arsenic, dioxins and acid gases are also spewing from the nation's power plants, putting people at risk across the country. Enough is enough.  We are all at risk.  And finally after years of delays, court orders, and your support, the EPA is making a strong stand for public health, requiring big polluters to stop spewing mercury, arsenic, acid gases, dioxins and other air toxics from their smokestacks.

Stand with us now and tell the EPA to get the job done!

Thanks for all that you do to protect our health and the environment.
Sarah Hodgdon
Sarah Hodgdon
Sierra Club Conservation Director

[1] "Blood Organic Mercury and Dietary Mercury Intake: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999 and 2000,"Environmental Health Perspectives: April, 2004.
[2] "Emissions of Hazardous Air Pollutants from Coal-fired Power Plants," Environmental & Health Engineering, Inc. Report 17505: March 7, 2011. 
[3] "EPA Proposes First National Standard for Mercury Pollution," EPA: March 16, 2011.
[4] "U.S. EPA, National Listing of Fish Advisories, Technical Factsheet, EPA-823-F-09-007," EPA: September, 2009.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Let the Everglades Flow

Sierra Club - Explore, enjoy and protect the planet


Sign the Petition:
Support the Everglades Skyway

Everglades RoseatesSign the Petition
Dear Friend,

In 1928, a road called the Tamiami Trail choked off the Everglades from the water it needs to survive.


Cut off from its main water source, Everglades National Park is literally drying up.


More than 80 years later, the National Park Service has developed a plan to elevate the crucial section of the road responsible for the damage.

Sign the petition supporting the National Park Service's plan to elevate 5.5 miles of Tamiami Trail so that the Everglades water can flow again.

We have dubbed the plan the Everglades "Skyway," because it will restore water flow and still allow traffic on the Tamiami Trail (part of U.S. Highway 41).

Help restore the natural flow of water to Everglades National Park by signing the petition in support of the Everglades Skyway.
The Everglades is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States and is home to a wide variety of rare, threatened and endangered species. Thank you for taking action to protect this special place.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Ullman
Sierra Club
Miami, FL


P.S. After you take action, be sure to forward this petition to your friends and colleagues!

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Image courtesy of migshots.com
 

House Transportation Hearing Misses the Train

 
A full house packed the Maitland Civic Center
for Monday's U.S. House field hearing on
America's transportation needs. Photo by Linda Stewart.
Sierra Club believes we need a transportation system that breaks our addiction to oil while creating jobs by providing transportation choices to all Americans. Oil dependence and lack of transportation choices has a profound impact on the well-being of American families and the economy.  Nowhere is this truer than in Central Florida, with America’s highest percentage of family earnings spent on transportation needs.

Sierra Club organizer Marti Daltry delivered written comments to Rep. Mica’s staff from 872 Sierra Club Florida members. Their message: America needs a transportation system that ends our dependence on oil, cuts pollution, and provides clean, efficient, and affordable transportation options while putting the country back to work.

Talk about these goals were completely missing from testimony heard at Monday’s Florida Field Hearing held in Maitland by the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, chaired by Congressman John Mica (R-Winter Park) with 4 fellow committee members present, including Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville) and Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV). Previous public hearings were held in West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Oregon, California, Arkansas and Tennessee to inform the House Committee's work on the transportation reauthorization bill.

Rep. Brown was quite vocal in her support of high speed rail, taking FDOT to task for failing to distribute its recent report projecting 1st year profits of over $10 million from high speed rail from Orlando to Tampa, using the old Sgt. Joe Friday motto from Dragnet: "The facts, ma'am, just the facts". Other than her lament for Florida’s lost jobs, there was little talk by the committee panel or witnesses about this urgent, key reason for federal investment in transportation alternatives.
The event was well attended by the public and several local elected officials (mayors, commissioners, city council members) representing Orlando area municipalities. The committee’s invited witnesses represented Volusia County, FDOT, FL Transportation Builders Assoc., Palm Beach MPO, law firm Nossaman LLP, U.S.-Japan High-Speed Rail, and the transportation disadvantaged community. These witnesses' concerns focused on an uncertain revenue stream and the need for a streamlined permitting process for new highway projects.

FDOT Asst. Secretary Ananth Prasad testified that in tough times no federal money should be spent on highway landscaping, sidewalks and bike facilities, a position supported by Bob Burleson of the Transportation Builders Association, and one we’re sure our bicycle and pedestrian group coalition members will find most distressing. Burleson also supported eliminating all transit funding from the highway trust fund, saying it should instead come from the general fund (where it could be subject to the level of budget cuts being experienced by a wide range of programs), and called for a change by 2020 from the gas tax to one based on vehicle miles traveled, as more efficient cars and trucks contribute lower taxes while creating the same need for road repair as low mileage gas guzzlers. Today's gas tax ($.184/gal) has not been increased since 1993, making it effectively $.13 in today's dollars.


No mention was made of negative environmental impacts on Florida's residents if more roads are built, nor of any of the numerous environmental and economic benefits of developing transportation alternatives. Instead there were calls for further privatization of roads to allow construction (regardless of demand). Former Orange County Commissioner Linda Stewart, originally slated to testify on environmental concerns at the invitation of Rep. Brown, was deleted from the panel by Rep. Mica and was not permitted to speak during the hearing despite a plea from Rep. Brown that she be heard.

Sierra Club's Central Florida Transportation Chair John Puhek held a large poster of an Acela high speed train during the hearing to show the committee that Florida still wants this form of transportation here. He says: “23% of Central Florida residents already live below poverty levels.  As the price of gasoline rises, more and more people simply will not be able to afford to drive to work for a $7 - $10/hour job.  Public transportation including high speed rail and SUNRAIL is not a luxury, but rather a necessity, if we are to have a vibrant economy in Central Florida.”

According to Mr. Puhek, “Orlando is one of the most pedestrian unfriendly cities in the nation primarily because it designs intersections to move cars, not people. Use of roundabouts has proven in other cities around the world to reduce automobile accidents by 80% while reducing the amount of lanes that must be crossed by pedestrians."

Rep. Mica said that written comments would continue to be received for the next two weeks. If you have not already done so, please send your comment on America & Florida’s transportation needs to marti.daltry@sierraclub.org  - she’ll forward them to the U.S. House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure.

Marti Daltry and Phil Compton, Sierra Club Florida Green Transportation Campaign staff