Monday, February 27, 2012

URGENT ACTION ALERT - Fertilizer PREEMPTION Amendment up in Budget Finance & Tax Subcommittee TUESDAY A.M.

Sen. Norman filed an amendment to SB 1184 that would eliminate every single fertilizer ordinance in the state - even the ones that mirror the minimum standards in the FDEP Model ordinance.

It will be heard in Budget subcommittee on Finance & Tax TUESDAY morning at 10:45 a.m.

Our hope for killing the amendment lies with senators Altman, Margolis and Sachs.

Please contact them by EMAIL and PHONE TO URGE THEM TO VOTE NO ON AMENDMENT 788010 - Fertilizer Preemption (Norman).


CALL BEFORE 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

Senator Thad Altman
Senator Gwen Margolis 
Senator Maria Lorts Sachs  

Sierra Video Exposes Costs of Nuclear Power

Sierra Club's Miami Group and Florida Chapter have co-produced a terrific, new video narrated by Ed Asner on Florida Power and Light's planned new nuclear reactors at its Turkey Point power plant in Miami Please click on these links to view. And forward them widely!

100Panthers Youtube link:

Sierra Club video starring Ed Asner re "Early Cost Recovery". Florida Power & Light plans to construct two new reactors at their Turkey Point facility located between two National Parks - Everglades and Biscayne Bay. And guess who is going to foot the bill for these new reactors? YOU.

2 Cute Animals, 2 National Parks, 2 Nuclear Reactors. Your money, your life: a Boondoggle

We encourage you to share this link with others.

David Cullen
Sierra Club Florida lobbyist

Monday, February 20, 2012

Oil and Gas bill up in Senate committee tomorrow morning. Please call today!

SB 1158 Development of Oil and Gas Resources by Sen. Evers will be heard in Senate Environmental Protection and Conservation tomorrow, Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 9:15 a.m.  This bill creates an alternate pathway to leasing state conservation lands by allowing state land management agencies to enter public-private partnerships with business entities to explore, develop, and produce oil and gas.  Please call today to urge Committee members to vote NO!  (contact information below)

The bill does not contemplate, or compensate for, any negative impacts from oil/gas activities - from the explosions used in seismic testing and the possible contamination of ground water, to the need for new roads, to the disposal of drilling fluid and production water, to the effects of a spill.

Currently, the only way these lands can be leased for oil/gas development is for the Governor and Cabinet sitting as the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund to put parcels up for bid, require a minimum return, provide public notice, and find that leasing the land is not contrary to the public interest.  SB 1158 skirts all of those requirements by starting the bill with the words “Notwithstanding the provisions in Chapter 253, Florida Statutes…”  

SB 1158 specifies conservation lands as its target by citing "land management plans" (non-conservation lands have “land use plans.” And it skirts the following provisions in Chapter 253:
  • It deprives the state of the operation of the market by eliminating the bids
  • It does not consider any possible downside of oil/gas exploration, development, or production or require any surety or property bond to pay for a disaster.
  • It does not set a minimum price for royalties and does not require rent
  • It does not guarantee the state use of seismic data
  • It eliminates notice requirements
  • It eliminates the need for municipalities to consent to oil/gas exploration, development, and production within three miles of their borders

    SB 1158 eliminates any consideration of the public interest until the very end of the process when the Board of Trustees has to approve the public-private partnership.  It is not clear that the Board is even required to consider the public interest when approving a public-private partnership contract as they would when approving the leasing of land for oil/gas development.  Legally, there  is a difference between approving a lease for oil/gas development and approving a public-private partnership contract – even if the partnership contract effectively approves leasing land for developing oil/gas resources.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    VICTORY against Big Fertilizer, Big Pest Control, Big Turf!

    Under the Clean Water Act, local governments are responsible for their local water quality, but this year, for the 6th consecutive year, lawmakers in Tallahassee proposed legislation to take away local control of water pollution - to preempt the nearly 50 strong urban fertilizer ordinances that have been adopted by local governments since 2007.

    This year the bills, HB 421 and SB 604 (Limited Certification for Urban Landscape Commercial Fertilizer Application) were aimed at gutting local fertilizer ordinances by exempting commercial fertilizer applicators from all summer rainy season bans. The summer rainy season ban is the backbone of meaningful fertilizer management and ordinances without the ban are essentially meaningless. The effort to kill these bad fertilizer bills is a true grassroots success story!

    This year the story starts in Tallahassee where Sierra Club volunteers and staff traveled to the Everglades Water Supply Summit in Tallahassee in mid-January and lobbied legislators urging them to vote against HB 421 before the Military and Community Affairs Committee heard the bill. We attended the committee meeting that week and spoke out against HB 421.

    Simultaneously, volunteers on the ground throughout Florida began generating phone calls into Representatives’ offices. The grassroots pressure was so loud that the bill sponsor asked to “temporarily postpone” the vote – it was clear that we had the necessary “no votes” to kill the bill and the sponsor needed time to rally the votes he needed to pass the bill through committee.

    Sierra Club activists voice their opposition loud & clear!

    While we waited for the next committee vote on HB 421, Sierra Club, other clean water organizations and local elected officials organized four press conferences throughout Florida – in Clearwater, Sarasota, Ft. Myers and Stuart. The press conference sent a loud message to legislators in Tallahassee, as well as the media, that local governments, organizations, businesses and citizens wanted to keep their local urban fertilizer ordinances in place.

    Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah at the Fort Myers Press Conference

    Despite the building political pressure to kill the bad fertilizer bill, the sponsor worked the Tallahassee system and turned just enough legislators to yes votes the next week when HB 421 was addressed again in the Military and Community Affairs Committee.

    A very similar process was followed in the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee: We knew our grassroots approach was working so we got on the phones, urging citizens, business owners and even progressive landscapers to make calls into the committee members’ offices urging them to vote against SB 604. Again, when it became apparent we had the “no votes” to kill it, the bill was temporarily postponed.

    Time to turn up the heat!

    We knew it was now time to turn up the heat.

    Both SB 604 and HB 421 were based on the claim that the pest control and fertilizer applicators could be trusted to self-regulate, but just days before the committee vote the Pinellas County Water Resources Department provided bombshell photographs of commercial landscapers applying fertilizer during a rainstorm- a violation of the industry’s own rules and local ordinances. Sierra Club coordinated a press conference, in Pinellas County, our 5th press conference in two weeks, to highlight the photographs - proof that the industry cannot be trusted to self-regulate when it comes to fertilizer management.

    Fertilizer being applied in a rainstorm- a violation of the industry's own rules and local ordinance.

    We also took our story to the editorial boards in Tampa, Sarasota and Fort Myers urging the editors to speak out to protect local water quality. Both the Tampa Bay Tribune and Fort Myers News-Press responded by publishing editorials in opposition to SB 604 the morning before the vote.

    When SB 604 came up for a vote the following week in the Environment Preservation and Conservation Committee, our local elected champions travelled once again to Tallahassee and the committee rejected the fertilizer preemption bill with 3 votes in favor and 4 against. The bill was officially dead in the Senate for the year!

    For the sixth year in a row, Sierra Club helped secure a victory for our waterways in the face of great pressure from the biggest names in lawn care - Scotts Miracle-Gro and TruGreen - and the powerful Florida Turf industry.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    Florida: Let's Grow Smarter and Healthier

    Cities like San Francisco and Portland, Oregon often top the list as the “Greenest” cities in America for reasons including the number of available bicycle lanes, progressive recycling policies, and energy efficient buildings.  These “green” cities also boast respectable ridership statistics within their public transportation systems.  In Portland, Oregon a little over a quarter of daily commuters use public transportation - an impressive number for a city that size.  On the other hand lets consider Manhattan.  82% of Manhattan residents commute to work using public transportation per day! The reason for this is obvious and happened quite by accident.  The city is surrounded by water on three sides which caused development to concentrate inward and upward. Manhattan’s population density is more than 800 times that of the nation as a whole.  The average Manhattan resident doesn’t own a car (because they're so inefficient). They run most of their daily errands on foot, live in very small spaces (relatively speaking), and use very little energy thereby contributing to one of the smallest per-capita ecological footprints in the world. I’m sure that the founders and early developers of New York City were not considering “smart growth” in their early planning. However, as it turns out Manhattan embodies nearly every accepted smart growth principle: mixed land use, compact building design, livable/walkable neighborhoods, and development directed towards existing communities with a variety of transportation choices. Concentrating human activity concentrates pollution and also reduces the need to travel long distances.

    Who knew Manhattan could be so “green?” 

    It seems counter-intuitive that concentrating human activity is the answer to some of our most pressing environmental concern. However, it’s time we change our thinking regarding what it means to be “Green.”  Concentrating development and providing efficient transportation alternatives that reduce vehicle miles traveled also reduces the amount of fossil fuels we burn, the amount of smog and ozone we emit, and the number of doctor visits that result from respiratory illnesses triggered by these pollutants. Florida has surprisingly unhealthy air and 1 in 10 children suffer from asthma. It doesn’t have to be that way.

    Granted, the average city in Florida is a far cry from Manhattan.  However, the consensus seems to be that Florida’s growth management and transportation policies are inadequate to support our growing population.  Urban sprawl is a serious issue in Florida and the argument could be made that it is a direct result of poor planning and regulatory frameworks. While Florida cities may never be as dense or have as many commuters that use alternatives to cars as Manhattan does, we can better serve a growing local demand for transportation choices and by so doing, grow in a way that creates far less sprawl.

    The Florida Healthy Air campaign is poised to draw the connection between transportation, public health and our dependency on fossil fuels.  We need to build a community consensus that providing transportation alternatives and fostering livable communities is essential to ensuring that we will all have healthy air to breathe and a pristine environment to enjoy. It would be nearly impossible to imitate those policies adopted by NYC because of the innate uniqueness of that city- but we can argue that it is time for Florida to move past our archaic transportation policies that emphasize building more roads or widening existing ones. Those objectives do nothing but induce more traffic, exacerbate urban sprawl, and keep Floridians helplessly addicted to oil. Florida has an opportunity to make our communities distinct and livable by following a few examples provided to us by this accidental “Green City.”

     You may never ride the bus or train but you will nevertheless benefit because someone else did. When Floridians are given the same transportation choices that the majority of American’s enjoy, our air will get cleaner for everyone to breathe. Bottom line: Transit means Smarter, Healthier, Cleaner Communities. That is something we can all get behind. – Britten Cleveland, Sierra Club Conservation Organizer for the Florida Healthy Air Campaign

    For more information on the Florida Healthy Air Campaign, contact:
    Phil Compton, Regional Representative,
    Britten Cleveland, Conservation Organizer,

    Sierra Club Florida Alert – Oil/Gas and Septic Tank Bills on Agenda Tomorrow

    HB 695 – Development of Oil and Gas Resources and HB 999 – Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems will be heard in House Appropriations tomorrow.  Please call committee members and urge them to vote NO on these bills

    CS/HB 695 - Development of Oil and Gas Resources by Rep. Ford allows any state land management agency to enter a public-private partnership contract to explore, develop, and produce oil or gas under state lands. It’s focus is short term financial gain. The bill provides that the state’s evaluation of business proposals be based on “contemporary industry practices” which do not have a public interest component.
    The words "environment", "impact", "protection", or "mitigation" appear nowhere in the bill. And the trigger for pursuing public-private partnerships to explore for oil or gas is the "yield [of] greater, near-term revenue returns for the state, ...” There is no consideration of the potential impacts to state resources that will be associated with exploration and extraction, never mind a bad spill.

    CS/HB 999 - Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems, the Septic Tank evaluation and inspection bill preempts local governments from protecting their groundwater by requiring any local program to conform to the (weak) requirements and the significant limitations of the bill.  It specifically excludes inadequate separation of the drainfield from the wettest season water table from the definition of “system failure” and thereby prevents any requirement for repairing a problem with

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    Rep. Pafford asking hard-hitting questions about Numeric Nutrient Criteria bill sponsor

    Check out the transcript of Representative Pafford asking questions of the numeric nutrient criteria ratification bill sponsor.

    If you go to this link and pull up the archived session from 2/2/12 and go to minute mark 343:25, you can watch online.

    More questions are below. It's pretty clear that the legislature has been bamboozled on the entire numeric nutrient criteria issue:

    7051 Numeric Nutrient Criteria Questions:

    (honest answers are in parentheses)

    Question: One of the differences between the DEP and EPA rules is that the DEP's rule has numeric thresholds instead of numeric criteria. What actions are triggered under the DEP rule when a numeric threshold for nutrients is exceeded?

    (The water body goes on a planning or study list)

    Question: And while the water body is on the planning or study list is there any requirement to mitigate the impairment?


    Question: Oh, so there are more steps… What is the next step for water bodies on the study list? Is there a requirement that water bodies on the study list be studied?


    Question: Ever?


    Question: So I an impaired water body could be on the study list for five years and no corrective action would be taken?


    Question: 10 years?


    Question: Well, what if the study is done; what actually has to be determined to trigger corrective action?

    (The study would have to confirm biological condition failure of the waterbody and link that condition to the nutrient exceedance.)

    Question: But isn't confirming biological condition failure essentially the same as the current narrative standard: “an imbalance of flora and fauna”? If not, what is the difference?

    (There is no difference)

    Question: So this whole rule gets us to exactly where we are already?

    Let me try to understand this from another angle. One of the basic ideas of the EPA rule is to protect downstream waters by not allowing upstream nutrients to cause the downstream water body to exceed its limit. How can the DEP rule be protective of downstream waters if nothing triggers corrective action upstream?

    (It can’t)

    Question: South of Lake Okeechobee is there a proposal to reclassify the waters in the canals (most of the water in South Florida) as Class III limited because they exceed the numeric and threshold limits?


    Question: And would Class III limited waters fall under the purview of this DEP rule?


    Question: Then how will the downstream receiving water bodies – all of South Florida's estuarine systems – be protected?

    (They won’t)