Thursday, December 13, 2012

Everyone Wins with Complete Streets

Sierra Club Complete Streets Training

Minneapolis, Minnesota 
December 7-9, 2012

….a complete streets approach offers the perfect intersection of my twin guideposts: safety and livable communities.” – Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Nov. 17, 2009

A future free from our reliance on dirty oil means tackling some of our toughest transportation and mobility problems.  Currently, Americans are struggling with the health, climate and economic costs of our car-centric society.  The solution is to make our streets safe for everybody with green transportation choices – walking, biking, and public transit -  which will reduce our community’s oil use (and help address the climate crisis) because people want to, and will walk, bike and take transit when these options are safe and convenient.  Many U.S. cities are beginning to make wise investments in infrastructure that balance the competing needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and motorists.  These changes have come about because of a recent shift in transportation planning practices that now focus on complete streets. A complete street is safe, comfortable, and convenient for travel via automobile, foot, bicycle and transit. Complete streets policies provide for everyone, regardless of age or ability, by ensuring that the entire right-of-way is designed and planned for all users. 

Complete streets create more choices, shorten travel times, and encourage less carbon-intensive transportation.

This paradigm shift is due in part to a growing grassroots movement to pressure our local transportation agencies to make smart transportation and land use decisions.  Citizens are getting involved, building relationships with local decision-makers, and voicing their concerns about their community mobility.

That is why the Sierra Club’s Green Transportation campaign convened their first ever Complete Streets Training December 7-9, 2012.  Activists were hand-selected from across the U.S. to attend this training that focused on the following objectives:
  1. Understanding complete streets policy and the process through which transportation planning and funding decisions are made.
  2. Learning basic skills for how to launch and run a grassroots Complete Streets campaign.
  3.  Next steps for how to build cohesive complete streets movement at both the national and local level. 
Why should we all be joining the movement for complete streets? Because it’s the right thing to do.

One-third of all Americans are not able to drive because of age (older and younger), income, or ability. Therefore, complete streets benefit more than just the average recreational walker or biker; it provides safe access for all commuters.  This has the added benefit of reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT), oil consumption, obesity, and economic inequality (more people can afford transportation with complete streets).  There is also a growing movement that recognizes the added benefits that complete streets has on quality of life, smart growth and environmental sustainability as an economic engine.   

Know enough to ask hard questions.

In order to bring about the needed change at the grassroots level, it is necessary to understand transportation and land use planning so that we can know how to ask the right questions.  Historically, transportation planners and engineers primary responsibility is moving cars as efficiently as possible from point A to point B – and they've done well.  However, the age of the automobile is beginning to sunset which means we have new range of problems to solve.  This is why organizers of the Sierra Club Complete Streets training invited transportation experts to provide complete streets and engineering 101 crash course.  Attendees learned everything from complete streets guiding principles, to the nuts and bolts of transportation policy – decision-making, designing roads, funding, implementation, interfacing with engineers, and “talking the planners talk.” 

We learned that a shift to complete streets requires the following:
  •  Updating design guidelines to embrace best practices for planning and zoning
  •  Restructuring procedures for public input
  • Updating the performance measures for roads 
  • Seeking opportunities for improvements i.e. "piggy-back" on other projects 
  • Collecting and analyzing data
  • Continually educating and advocating for equal access for all users

Organizing to win and building alliances. 

Sierra Club Florida Organizer Britten Cleveland demonstrates a
"one-on-one" as a tool to build campaign leadership teams
Transportation is not unlike any other environmental or political issue in the sense that it requires grassroots organizing: individual people acting together to affect change in our communities. Luckily, this is what Sierra Club does best.  The complete streets training focused on building the skills necessary to build relationships to change the balance of power and win concrete improvements in people’s lives. The overarching theme of the weekend was movement building through partnerships built by uncovering shared values. Understanding how to reveal the values that inspire action through emotion is a skill that can help us build community and solidarity.

Complete streets work involves building alliances with a variety of stakeholders because transportation affects each of us differently.  So, we must ask ourselves, and one another: what brings you to the table and how can we work together to achieve our common goals?  We need to learn to be good partners, respect and acknowledge differences, listen to what matters to potential allies and seek ways to be mutually supportive.

Interested in becoming involved in a complete streets campaign in Florida? Contact in the Tampa Bay area or in Southwest Florida.  Even if you live outside of these locations, we can connect you with fellow transportation activists that may be active in your area. 

     The Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign is working to launch a complete streets activist network that has the skills and knowledge necessary to build grassroots campaign in communities that need better access to safe, efficient, and clean transportation.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Net Zero Headquarters Grand Opening

Ribbon cutting of new Florida Sierra Club headquarters in St. Petersburg held Dec. 3, 2012 in downtown St. Petersburg/ Photos by Marcia Biggs

By Marcia Biggs
Chair, Tampa Bay Group

The sun was shining on the canopy of photovoltaic solar panels that provide energy for the new Florida Sierra Club headquarters near downtown St. Petersburg today for the official grand opening of the new Net Zero building. It was a star-studded day filled with dignitaries, city and county officials, Sierra Club honchos from Washington DC, Atlanta and West Virginia and a retinue of community friends.

Hundreds gathered to celebrate this ground-breaking building which promises to create more energy than it consumes through solar panels, geothermal heat and AC, and tankless water heaters. The Sierra Club office also features cork flooring and recycled carpeting.  To see full details and photos of the building, click here.  For a complete story on the opening, including video clips, click here.

Let there be light... solar light!
Frank Jackalone
Florida Sierra Club staff manager Frank Jackalone held court over the day's festivities, which included a powerful speech by Mary Anne Hitt, national director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.  Sierra Club friend and nationally renowned photographer Clyde Butcher was also on hand to present the office with a large photograph depicting the Caloosahatchee River. Mayor Bill Foster thanked the Sierra Club and all those involved in bringing Net Zero to downtown St. Pete and urged the community to continue supporting clean, green energy.

Trisha Kirby and Karl Nurse

Clyde Butcher marvels over the teeny weeny video clips he is shooting.
Sierra Club Florida Chair Rudy Scheffer seems entertained, too.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Major Victory for Florida's Environment!

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 
Agrees to Set Enforceable Clean Water Limits 
for 100,000 Miles of Florida Waters

Judge Fails to Grant Extension Sought by the EPA

Nov. 30, 2012


TALLAHASSEE – In a case with national implications, a Florida federal judge today failed to grant an extension sought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the EPA has agreed to immediately propose enforceable, numeric limits to curb the water pollution that causes toxic algae outbreaks, taints drinking water, kills wildlife and threatens public health in Florida.

After years of court battles and foot-dragging, the federal agency has agreed to establish numeric pollution limits for some 100,000 miles of Florida waterways and 4,000 square miles of estuaries. Standards for Florida’s lakes and springs have already been set.

“Slime outbreaks and Red Tides are a pestilence on the state, contaminating water, killing fish, destroying property values and chasing off tourists.  Now the EPA has to stop dragging its feet and deal with it,” said Earthjustice attorney David Guest. “We fought every polluting industry in Florida for four years to get to this result.”

Currently, Florida and most other states have only vague standards regulating contamination from the inadequately treated sewage, manure and fertilizer that runs off into lakes and streams.  Because Florida is so hot and so flat, these contaminants fuel massive slime outbreaks and recurrent Red Tide. 

“EPA’s response here will set the standard for the nation.  What we’ve lacked is a set of quantifiable numbers that are basically a speed limit sign to make the law clear and enforceable,” Guest said.  “The EPA will now start painting the numbers on that speed limit sign. It will be abundantly clear what the rules are.”

The EPA got several court-granted delays in the case, and was seeking another, which U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle today failed to grant.

Now, using extensive data it has been collecting and analyzing in concert with Florida Department of Environmental Protection scientists, the EPA will impose numeric limits on the allowable amount of phosphorus and nitrogen – so called “nutrient” pollution – in the state’s waterways.

The EPA began working to set pollution limits for Florida in 2009 – part of a settlement in a 2008 Clean Water Act suit filed by Earthjustice in the Northern District of Florida on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. John’s Riverkeeper, and the Sierra Club.  The suit challenged the decade-long delay by the state and federal governments in setting limits for the pollution.

“The state of Florida has spent the past 14 years asking for more time to develop protective limits on sewage, manure and fertilizer pollution.  Today, the time is up,” said Frank Jackalone, Florida Staff Director for the Sierra Club. “EPA has agreed to take immediate action to finally bring the Clean Water Act to Florida with strong rules that will clean up our slime-fouled springs, rivers, lakes and beaches.”

The public supports the EPA pollution limits. In response to a call for action, more than 40,000 citizens have written the White House this year, urging the Obama Administration to stand firm on imposing effective federal standards for Florida waters.

“We are pleased that Floridians do not have to wait any longer to receive the Clean Water Act protections they deserve,” said Andrew McElwaine, President of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “We can now move forward toward effective pollution limits which truly protect public health, our economy and our environment.”

Becky Ayech, of the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, said EPA pollution limits are especially welcome in her part of the state, which started this year’s tourist season with a nasty red tide outbreak and dead fish on the beaches.

“This slime shut down a drinking water plant for 30,000 people. That’s not right. We can prevent this mess, and we ought to be preventing it,” Ayech said. “Not only is it disgusting, but it kills our economy when tourists show up and they see dead fish, stinking algae, and they can’t swim or fish or even ride in a boat without getting stinging eyes and breathing problems.”

“The St. John’s River was covered with a 100-mile long green slime toxic algae outbreak and fish kill in 2010. We had more green slime in 2011.  It has been heartbreaking to hear health officials warning us not to boat or swim in the water. We are really hoping that the EPA standards will start us on the road to preventing this so we can enjoy our river,” said St John’s Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman.

“We’ve waited long enough to get moving on these cleanup standards,” said Florida Wildlife Federation President Manley Fuller. “A new, positive chapter starts today.”


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Clean Water Voting Record of the 112th Congress

Sierra Club Press Release

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October 18, 2011
Contact: Maggie Kao, 202-675-2384
** View the Report Card: **

Sierra Club Marks 40 Years of the Clean Water Act with Clean Water Voting Record

Washington, D.C. – Today the Sierra Club marked the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act by releasing a Clean Water Voting Record for the U.S. House of Representatives.  The online report card features an interactive map and issues letter grades for U.S. Representatives’ voting records on clean water issues. 

The House has voted to endanger the drinking water sources of 117 million Americans, allow toxic pesticide discharges into our waterways without oversight  and halt strong protections for toxic coal ash and destructive mountaintop removal, just to name a few. 

“Americans rely on clean water – we need it to drink, grow our crops and supply our food.  Many of us depend on it for the things we enjoy most – swimming, boating, hunting and fishing,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club.  “For forty years, the Clean Water Act has helped protect our water.  But in the 112th Congress, we’ve seen an unprecedented attack from House Leadership on clean water policy.”

The Sierra Club’s Clean Water Report Card highlights which members of Congress side with Americans who care about clean water and who sides with big polluters.

“The Clean Water Act is one of America’s great success stories,” said Brune.  “Take for example, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio, which at one time was one of the most polluted rivers in the nation.  The Cuyahoga was so polluted, that it actually caught on fire multiple times in the late 1960s.  Since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, the Cuyahoga – once devoid of fish – now supports 44 species and is recognized as an American Heritage river.”

“Today we should celebrate that success and move forward to build on that progress to ensure that our children and our children’s children will have safe, clean water.”

View the Sierra Club’s new Clean Water Report Card Here.


Sierra Club
Sierra Club
85 2nd St.
San Francisco, CA 94105

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sierra Club, Partners Celebrate 200 Million Oil-Free Miles

Sunday September 23rd was National Plug In Day, a public education event on the many benefits that now come with widespread availability of new electric vehicles and public charging stations. Sierra Club's Florida Healthy Air Campaign's volunteer teams organized two of the nation's most successful events, both on Florida's gulf coast.

In Sarasota the day began with a press conference and awards ceremony attended by more than 75 people.  National Plug In Day City Captain, Ken Stokes, opened with his welcoming remarks.  He then introduced Frank Jackalone, Florida Organizing Manager, who spoke on the many benefits of driving an electric vehicle (he knows what he is talking about, he drives a Chevy Volt himself!). Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson spoke about what the County has done to prepare for EVs on the road in regards to charging infrastructure and planning.  A big moment was when the Mayor of the City of Sarasota delivered the City's National Plug In Day Proclamation, naming Sierra Club as a stakeholder and partner in the planning process. Sierra Club presented Certificate of Recognition to both the City and County, thanking them for their valuable contributions to Electric Vehicle Community Readiness.

The fun really started when 60 electric cars participated in a "silent EV parade," led by a police escort, from downtown Sarasota over a scenic bridge to one of our beautiful barrier islands, all donning special "National Plug In Day" flags attached to their vehicles. It was a sight to see (but not hear)!

After the parade, the vehicles assumed their position inside our expo venue and displayed their vehicles, answered questions, and let the general public get up close and personal with the next generation of oil-free automobiles.  Also on display inside the expo were dozens of green exhibitors, from producers of solar powered charging units, to electric bicycles, and non-profits advocating for the oil-free cause. Additionally, the public was encouraged to participate in the free EV Ride-and-Drive, provided by licensed auto dealers.  Six different EV models were available for the Ride-and-Drive, including the Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, Mitsubishi Mi-EV, Fisker Karma, Wheego, Tesla Model S (only one in Florida), and the Pedego E-Bike. About 50 people were able to get in the drivers seat and experience the joy of EV driving for themselves! 

In Tampa Bay, Sierra Club celebrated National Plug In Day with the City of Temple Terrace, a city of 24,000 near Tampa and the University of South Florida (USF). Hundreds of area residents got to learn more about EVs and green transportation firsthand through test drives, a press conference, exhibits, and live radio broadcast.  
This was the first public event held at the city’s new urban redevelopment site. The first stage of what city leaders envision will be a walkable residential and retail area, the site is carved out of a typical suburban asphalt parking lot. Temple Terrace Mayor Joe Affronti  proclaimed the day National Plug In Day and expressed his excitement that Sierra Club’s Florida Healthy Air Campaign team chose this site, as it demonstrated how his city’s urban oasis, with a pavilion and trellis-covered courtyard, is a better way to build than typical sprawl housing and retail development.
Co-sponsors providing green transportation information included the USF Patel School for Global Sustainability, USF Student Environmental Association (USF SEA), national EV charging station company NovaCharge, Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission’s (HCEPC) Air Quality Division, and the Sierra Club's Florida Healthy Air Campaign. Volunteers collected signatures on Sierra Club’s petition asking Florida’s governor to support policies to help jumpstart the new EV alternative.
EVs from TECO (Tampa Electric Co.), HCEPC and privately owned cars like the Tesla roadster lined Temple Terrace’s new town square, while local dealers Daniels Chevrolet and Ferman Nissan were busy all afternoon providing test drives around the property. Hundreds told Sierra Club’s team they were amazed at how well the Volt and Leaf handled, how quietly they operate and how affordable they really are when one considers fuel only costs the equivalent of $.75/gallon.
As local community-sponsored radio station WMNF provided sound for the press conference and broadcast its “Shakedown Sunday” show for 2 hours during the event, a tai chi demonstration added to the fun of what National Plug In Day City Captain Tom Krumreich called "a great day for the City of Temple Terrace and for the future of air quality in Tampa Bay".
All in all, both events were enormous successes, serving as launching points for the Florida Healthy Air Campaign's EV Initiatives and also helping build important bridges between our local City and County leaders and elected officials. We can't wait for next year's National Plug In Day! 

Sarasota Herald Tribune "A Day to Celebrate Electric Cars"

Video: SNN Local News/Herald Tribune


Monday, September 17, 2012

Join Us for National Plug In Day Sept. 23

Written by Ann Mesnikoff and Gina Coplon-Newfield

For the last few weeks, we have been celebrating the new vehicle fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards that mark President Obama's biggest climate accomplishment yet. Tens of thousands of Americans have sent letters to the White House thanking the president for new policies that will ensure that automakers produce much more efficient vehicles as well as cars that run on little or no oil at all. Now there's another way to celebrate.

Sunday, September 23rd, is National Plug In Day, a nationwide celebration of electric vehicles (EVs). By turning their back on the pump, oil spills, and tailpipe emissions, these vehicles are a huge step toward moving America beyond oil. They are also a lot of fun to drive. On the 23rd, EV drivers and the EV-curious in over 60 cities across the country will be taking part in free events to test drive EVs, kick the tires, and check out solar-powered EV charging stations. Ten lucky people who register for and attend Plug In Day events will even win a new iPad.

You can see if there is an event near you and register today.

A switch to EVs is an important part of a future with greener transportation choices, domestic clean energy manufacturing jobs, and a healthier planet. Every year, we burn roughly 121 billion gallons of oil in our passenger cars and trucks -- and even after taking into account the electricity used to charge EVs, these are almost always the cleanest cars around and will only get cleaner as we shift to more renewable sources of power. You can't say that about a gasoline-powered vehicle!

Electricvehicle-plugThe Plug In Day events feature electric cars, trucks, and motorcycles in electric car parades, "tailpipe-free" tailgate parties, awards to leaders promoting EV-readiness, the launch of new public EV charging stations, and other educational events.
  • Event-goers in the Los Angeles area will be taking EV test-drives and checking out more than a dozen models of electric cars of the past and present at the Automobile Driving Museum.
  • In New York City, there will be electric delivery trucks on display from companies like Fed Ex, Coca Cola, and Duane Reade.
  • The mayor of Sarasota, FL, will be issuing a Plug In Day proclamation where participants in that city will enjoy test-rides, musical entertainment, and a silent and emission-free EV parade.
Whether or not you can make it to a Plug In Day event, you can take a moment to sign a petition showing your governor that you support EV-readiness programs in your state, such as more consumer education, public charging stations, and utility programs that provide off-peak electricity rates and improve infrastructure.

Sierra Club has teamed up with Plug In AmericaElectric Auto Association, and dozens of local groups to organize this second annual National Plug In Day. With double the number of events this year than last, the momentum is electric.

-- Ann Mesnikoff is the Sierra Club's Director of Green Transportation, and Gina Coplon-Newfield is the Sierra Club's Director of Green Fleets & Electric Vehicles Initiative

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Who's Got the Power?

By Marcia Biggs
Chair, Tampa Bay Sierra Club

I recently attended a public forum by Adam Putnam  on "Florida's Energy Future: Increasing Diversity in Florida's Energy Portfolio." Putnam is commissioner for the Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services and has inherited the Office of Energy under his domain. The program was presented by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at  St. Petersburg College.  Putnam made it clear from the start that he sees "diversity" in the state's energy future summed up  in two words: "natural gas."  He said the Solar Energy Rebate Program of 2010 was a "disaster" because TOO MANY PEOPLE SIGNED UP (12,000 plus) ... and that $200 million in grant money to fund solar energy research was a waste, because, when the recipients were audited they found 2 companies had gone bankrupt and there was over $2 million attributed to fraud. Not bad odds in my book when you're talking $200 million.
Putnam sees the future, and it's gas ... lots of gas. Coal burning plants mean jobs so not ready to pull the plug yet. Nuclear energy? Still on the ouija board but let's not talk about the millions of dollars homeowners will be forced to pay in advance. Not when there are 2 pipelines now from Louisiana delivering natural gas right to Florida! It's abundant and affordable, says Putnam,  not like solar energy that relies on the sun, and, well, you know how rare that resource is here in the Sunshine State.
A few in the audience got a chance to speak, including St. Petersburg City Councilman Karl Nurse who urged Putnam to consider a requirement converting street lights across the state to LED for both financial and energy savings.  Also Steven Smith for Southern Energy Alliance spoke eloquently about the importance of using scientific study data to determine our energy future like other southern states do, but Putnam seemed none too interested in that. The lecture video is  posted on (YouTube) along with several other Energy lectures held at the Institute in the past year.
It was disheartening to see Putnam so adament in his conviction that one form of energy is "the way" while basically waving away solar, wind and other cleaner forms of energy as "too expensive" or "too unknown".  President Obama supports a truly diversified energy portfolio that includes natural gas, but also  other forms of alternative power. If one thing was clear at this forum, there is a groundswell of Florida residents, academics and public officials  who support and will continue to push for a move to clean, alternative fuels such as solar.  Shine on!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Obama Administration Makes History by Raising Fuel Standards to 54.5 MPG

Sierra Club Press Release

For Immediate Release                                              
Contact:  Eddie Scher, 415-977-5758
August 28, 2012
White House Releases New Car and Light Truck Fuel Efficiency and Carbon Pollution Standards
Washington, DC – Today, the Obama administration finalized standards for model year 2017-2025 vehicles cutting carbon pollution to 163 grams per mile and achieving a fuel efficiency equivalent of 54.5 MPG by 2025. Combined with standards in place for 2012-2016 vehicles, the standards announced today will double the average efficiency of new vehicles and cut vehicle carbon emissions in half. In 2030 they will cut U.S. carbon emissions by the equivalent of 10% of current levels.
Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director, issued the following statement:
“Today, President Obama has taken the most significant action by any President in history to move our country off oil and slash dangerous, climate disrupting pollution that threatens our children’s future.  
With June and July registering as the hottest months on record, and droughts ravaging America’s heartland, these standards are a major victory for our planet and our families.  They will also save families thousands of dollars at the pump and create more than half a million new jobs.
American automakers are roaring back as leaders of the global market because they are delivering what consumers want -- vehicles that use less gas, emit less pollution, and save families more money at the pump. Today Sierra Club, automakers, and autoworkers stand together to celebrate success for American industry, jobs, and the environment.”


Benefits of Vehicle Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Standards
Both rounds of vehicle standards (2017-2025 standards combined with 2012-2016 standards)
  • By 2030, both rounds of vehicle standards will cut oil use by 3.1 million barrels per day. That’s the amount of oil we currently import from the Persian Gulf and Venezuela combined.
  • In 2030, new standards will reduce climate disrupting pollution by 570 million metric tons – nearly 10% of current US carbon pollution.
  • Consumers will save $8,000 over the lifetime of a vehicle sold in 2025 compared to the average vehicle on the road today.
2017-2025 fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for passenger vehicles
  • According to a recent study by the Blue Green Alliance, standards for cars and light trucks sold from 2017 through 2025 will create 570,000 new jobs across America by 2030.
  • By 2030, the new standards for vehicles sold from 2017-2025 alone will save 1.5 million barrels of oil per day.  That’s how much we currently import from Saudi Arabia.
  • Americans will save up to $4,400 over the lifetime of a vehicle sold in 2025, even after paying for fuel saving technology.
  • These new standards alone will reduce climate disrupting pollution by 270 million metric tons in 2030. That’s equivalent to shutting down 65 coal fired power plants for one year.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Make a call to President Obama!

Sierra Club - Explore, enjoy and protect the planet

Dear Friend,
slime fish florida
Make a Call
This spring, you joined more than 19,000 Sierra Club supporters who asked President Obama to support a strong pollution standard to protect Florida's water.
The administration is listening and the EPA has developed a pollution limit that will help clean up the toxic slime. But, this pollution limit is at risk.
Florida Governor Rick Scott and his administration want to replace the EPA standard with a weak rule written for Florida's corporate polluters.
More than 1,900 miles of rivers and streams, 375,000 acres of lakes, and 500 square miles of estuaries have been impacted by fertilizer, manure and sewage. Florida's economy and way of life are in danger. It's time to act.
As we speak, big polluters are putting strong pressure on the EPA to back off and let the state "handle" the slime crisis. That hasn't worked before, and it won't work now.
Clean water is essential to the environmental and economic health of Florida. By making a call today, you'll let President Obama know that the people -- not the polluters -- need to be heard.
Thanks for all you do for the environment,
Cris Costello
Florida Sierra Club
P.S. The more calls we get to the White House, the stronger our message. Share this alert with your friends and family.
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Thursday, August 9, 2012

How to Fix America's Most Dangerous Streets?

Sierrans Engage Statewide as Florida DOT Finally Addresses Crisis

Bicyclists ride to join Hands Across
the Sand
@ St. Pete Beach 8/4/12.
photo by Alan Snel

Walking or riding a bike down Florida's streets is more dangerous than anywhere else in the U.S. This sad state of affairs not only results in America's highest rates of injuries and fatalities, it also keeps many Floridians stuck behind the wheel, afraid to take short trips in their community on foot or on a bicycle. Last month over 3,600 Floridians signed Sierra Club’s letter to Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Ananth Prasad addressing their concerns and recommendations regarding this dreadful, deadly distinction. The letter was received by Secretary Prasad’s office Wednesday morning.

Find our how dangerous your community's streets are in this report - just enter your zip.

FDOT is conducting a series of stakeholder roundtable sessions – one in each DOT district except NW FL – intended to begin the development of pedestrian and bicycling safety improvements as recommended by a recent report of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). These sessions, are being held with little public notice and in locations and times that make it difficult for many residents Floridians to be involved in the process of making our state’s streets safer. Despite this barrier, concerned Floridians responded to Sierra Club’s news of the stakeholder roundtables by attending each of the six FDOT sessions held around the state.

“We believe it’s important that all citizens concerned about our state’s crisis of dangerous streets have the chance to participate in the process of making them safer,” said Sierra Club Florida Healthy Air Campaign Representative Phil Compton. “Despite the fact that Florida Department of Transportation is holding public meetings without inviting the public, we have nevertheless ensured that our members and supporters who share our concerns are aware of the meetings so they may participate. In Tampa 18 members of the public took time out on a Monday morning at the beginning of a work week to participate and show their strong support for making our state’s streets safer and accessible for all. We hope Secretary Prasad’s office shares our concern that making our streets safer for all who use them must become a high priority for Florida."

Not only is the safety of individuals who walk or ride bikes a serious concern, but our dangerous streets force many to drive when they would rather walk or ride a bike, but who, with good reason, are afraid to. This gross deficiency of our transportation system adds more vehicle miles traveled by cars and trucks, adds more traffic congestion and adds more air pollution, especially smog (a.k.a. ozone).

Everyone needs safer streets, not just those who now walk and ride their bikes on our dangerous streets. And not just those who would walk or ride their bike more often were our streets safer, but also children with asthma and seniors with COPD and cardiac disease who now suffer from Florida's unhealthy levels of ozone generated by our excessive vehicular traffic. When Floridians feel safe walking or riding a bike, instead of driving, everyone who breathes the air benefits. Everyone gets a little healthier, not just those who are getting some exercise by walking or riding their bike instead of driving."

The Sierra Club is concerned that the new transportation bill, MAP 21 that Congress passed on June 30, for the first time gives governors control of half of funds for critical safe walking and bicycling improvements (the other half still being controlled by local Metropolitan Planning Organizations). Governors and their Departments of Transportation now have the ability to choose to opt out of using these funds for their intended purpose. “Clearly, many average Floridians care deeply about making our streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. We applaud FDOT for finally addressing this grave situation, but urge the Department to recognize the level of public concern and fully engage citizens from the beginning of the process in an open and transparent manner that ensures that the safety of all who use our streets remains a high priority,” said Jacksonville transportation activist Linda Bremer.

Alan Snel, director of South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers, attended Monday morning’s session in Tampa and states: “It was good to see Florida DOT District 7 (Tampa Bay area) Secretary Don Skelton acknowledge at the start of the bike-ped discussion that there is a problem of too many bicyclists and pedestrians being hit by cars and that his agency needs to take steps to address this issue."

"We need a fundamental new cultural shift in Tampa Bay to educate motorists that bicyclists and pedestrians are co-users of our right-of-ways that we call streets and roads and that they need to change their behaviors about sharing the road with vulnerable users such as bicyclists and pedestrians. Getting people on bicycles is good policy. It decreases dependence on constantly widening roads and building new parking lots, has proven to be effective transportation for urban areas and is part of a healthy lifestyle.”

In its letter to Secretary Prasad, Sierra Club stated its support for the full implementation of the NHTSA report recommendations, and urged him to adopt the following policies:

“FDOT must incorporate and analyze pedestrian and bicycle crash data in setting measurable goals and strategies to immediately reduce deaths on various problem roads and intersections throughout the state.”

“FDOT should take a leadership role in providing training and education for other agencies such as law enforcement, transit agencies, media, as well as community organizations whose members include at-risk pedestrian and bicyclists such as churches, AARP, and school and college programs."

“FDOT must immediately adopt an inclusive program such as Complete Streets and remove all exceptions and exemptions to road construction that protects bicyclists and pedestrians.”

“Legislation must be sponsored to require pedestrian and bicycle safety to be incorporated in every driver licensing and education program especially on-line licensing through the use of enhanced graphics, videos and illustrated scenarios.”

“We are asking you as Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation to help remove Florida from this disgraceful condition and create a state which is welcoming and safe for bicycle and pedestrian road use by making pedestrian and bicycle safety a greater priority in our state.”

FDOT's stakeholder roundtables were held August 6-10 in Tampa, Bartow, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Deland and Jacksonville.

Phil Compton, Florida Healthy Air Campaign
St.Petersburg - 727-824-8813, ext. 303

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sierra Club: Don't pump sugar's polluted water into Lake Okeechobee

August 8, 2012

Dear South Florida Water Management District Governing Board members,

Thank you for looking into alternatives that could provide water to the Caloosahatchee River.

More than a century of drainage, channelization and diking plus climate-induced drought has led us to the current dilemma. However, backward pumping polluted water is not the solution.

The Sierra Club, the country’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization opposes any plan to pump agricultural pollution into Lake Okeechobee.

Under the plan to boost water levels, untreated EAA run-off, laden with nitrogen, phosphorus, pesticides and herbicides, would be pumped backwards into Lake Okeechobee.

According to a recent South Florida Sun-Sentinel report, the pollutants “could lead to a dead zone in the lake, resulting in algae blooms and low oxygen levels that kill fish, aquatic insects and disrupt other aspects of the lake’s food chain.” 
Polluted runoff would run through the heart of the City of Belle Glade and be pumped into Lake Okeechobee at Torry Island, home to the community’s public fishing area and recreational space. Backpumping would be detrimental to the local public’s enjoyment of the area and would all but eliminate any tourism in this community.

In addition, pumping water into Lake Okeechobee diverts water critically needed in the Everglades, water that the State of Florida is proposing to spend an additional $890 million to clean. Instead of cleaning the water and allowing it to flow south to the Everglades naturally, the District would force the water back north, cutting off a vital water supply to the water-starved wetlands and native species. Diverting water that would otherwise go to the Everglades and replenish the aquifer would reduce water available to Southeast Florida’s urbanized areas.

The Sierra Club supports supplying more water to the Caloosahatchee by modifying the adaptive protocols to eliminate the tributary hydrologic conditions restraint, prioritizing the Lake Hicpochee project, expediting the C-43 reservoir, and greater water conservation measures. 

Taking these steps – not backpumping – will protect the Greater Everglades, as well as the people and the economies that depend upon a healthy ecosystem.

Again, thank you for your attention to this important matter.


Jonathan Ullman,
Sierra Club Everglades Team

Sierra Club South Florida/Everglades Office, 2600 SW 3rd Ave., 5th Floor, Miami, FL 33129, 305-860-9888