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

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hundreds Move Beyond Oil to Join Hands on America's Best Beach

Gary and Jane Gibbons of Tampa say there's a better way!
350 joined Hands Across the Sand Saturday at America’s #1 beach destination, St. Pete Beach. For the 3rd year in a row the event was hosted by the Tradewinds, Tampa Bay’s best known beach resort, at their newly rebranded Guy Harvey Outpost, the first such beach venue to incorporate marine conservation art and activities into the visitor’s experience.

They came to say no to offshore drilling off America’s Best Beaches on Florida’s central gulf coast, and to say yes to clean energy, yes to Tampa Bay’s $6 billion beach tourism economy, and yes to moving beyond Florida’s dependence on oil. In the most dangerous state to ride a bike or walk down a street, lacking much of the basic transportation choices most Americans enjoy, many came not by car but by PSTA trolleys or in electric vehicles.

20 cyclists rode from the Bay to the Gulf to say NO to Oil.

20 people rode 14 miles across St. Petersburg from Tampa Bay to the Gulf of Mexico in a Sierra Club outing that showed Tradewinds’ staff that bikes only require 1/10 as much space to park. They rode to counter the  American Petroleum Institute message that Floridia must allow drilling off its pristine beaches to compensate for the state’s high level of oil consumption. Floridians joined Hands on the beaches of Tampa Bay Saturday to tell Big Oil that, actually, we can save more oil than we could ever drill for in the gulf. From bicycles to trolleys to EV’s, the technology is here that will help protect our local economy's #1 source of jobs and income, coastal tourism and fishing. 
Kofi Hunt and Ren Reilly of St. Pete say "Let's Break Our Addiction to Oil!"

Before Hands were joined at noon, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) joined speakers from Gulf Restoration Network, Sierra Club, the Tradewinds, and the local family-owned fishing and shopping center John’s Pass Village at a press conference. In the near future PSTA plans to create vastly expanded bus service, Rapid Bus Transit, light rail connecting Clearwater and St. Petersburg, and safer streets for bikes and pedestrians.

These long overdue infrastructure improvements will, at long last, provide residents and tourists alike with the transportation choices most Americans and Europeans now take for granted, the lack of which now keeps Floridians dependent on oil and keeps their air quality at unhealthy levels due to how much oil most of us now burn, not because we want to, but because we don’t yet have access to the safe choices we need in order to move beyond oil. Sierra Club’s Florida Healthy Air Campaign is building support for a community consensus that this full range of transportation improvements, investments that will benefit both our economy and our environment, must be carried out post haste.
Bicyclists Show How to Move Beyond Oil

Monday, August 6, 2012

Conservation, Wildlife, and Health Groups Seek Dispersant Rulemaking

Clean Water Act suit filed against lagging EPA 

August 6, 2012

Washington, D.C. -- A coalition of conservation, wildlife and public health groups in the Gulf region and in Alaska filed a citizen suit under the provisions of the Federal Clean Water Act today to compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a rule on chemical oil dispersants.  EPA’s current rules --which during the 2010 Gulf oil disaster failed to ensure that dispersants would be used safely --do not fulfill the requirements mandated by the Clean Water Act. 

“We’re disappointed that the agency doesn’t seem to understand the widespread public urgency to initiate this rulemaking process,” said Jill Mastrototaro, Sierra Club Gulf Coast Protection Campaign Director. “If a spill or blowout happened tomorrow in the Gulf of Mexico, or any U.S. water for that matter, any dispersant that is used would not necessarily be safe for the waters, ecosystems, response workers, or nearby communities.”

During the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, nearly 2 million gallons of chemical dispersants were dumped into Gulf waters with little knowledge or research into the chemicals’ toxic impacts. Currently, regulations dictating dispersants eligible for use in oil spills require minimal toxicity testing and no threshold for safety.

Over 5,000 petitions have been sent by residents across the Gulf Coast region urging EPA to use its authority to initiate comprehensive testing of oil dispersants and to create regulations that include safety criteria and identify acceptable waters and quantities for use.  But EPA still has not created a new rule that will ensure that dispersants will be used safely in the next disaster. 

“We sent EPA a notice of intent to sue in October 2010 following the debacle of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the unprecedented use of dispersants during that response,” said Earthjustice attorney Hannah Chang, who is representing the groups in court.  “Our filing today will push EPA to take further action to follow through on its promise to get a much-needed rule in place.”

“The Clean Water Act requirements have been in place for decades, but administration after administration has failed to comply with the law,” said Cyn Sarthou, Executive Director of Gulf Restoration Network.  “Consequently there was little data available to EPA officials when they were confronted with the devastating BP oil disaster.”

The Clean Water Act requires EPA to identify the waters in which dispersants and other spill mitigating devices and substances may be used, and what quantities can be used safely in the identified waters, as part of EPA’sresponsibilities for preparing and publishing the National Contingency Plan.  The Plan governs responses to discharges of oil and hazardous substances. But the use of toxic dispersants in response to the Gulf oil disaster was implemented without prior understanding of the effect on the Gulf of Mexico marine ecosystems and human health.  Groups in oil producing regions, represented by Earthjustice, claim that EPA’s current rules do not follow Clean Water Act guidelines, and as a result they are taking action to force EPA to carry out its legal responsibility.

EPA’s failure to have sufficient dispersant rules in place was one of the many causes of the confusion, concern, and uncertainty surrounding the response to the 2010 well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.Approximately 1.84 million gallons of dispersants were applied in the Gulf despite widespread recognition that little was known about the health and environmental effects of applying such massive quantities of dispersants, and applying them beneath the ocean's surface.

As the federal government and BP waffled on dispersant use in the middle of the crisis, it became apparent how little testing and study had been done beforehand.Even EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson readily acknowledged the agency’s lack of knowledge about the dispersants that were being applied. The result was a poorly planned, haphazard response, the effects of which will be felt for years to come.  Just this week, a peer-reviewed study found that the use of dispersants may have wreaked significant and ongoing damage on the Gulf of Mexico food chain [link]. 

“The oil industry learned from the Exxon Valdez that ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is its preferred spill response strategy, so the first tool out of the box these days is dispersants,” said Bob Shavelson with Alaska-based Cook Inletkeeper.  “But dispersants add toxic insult to injury for Alaskan fisheries and Alaskans have a right to know about toxic pollution around our coastal communities.”
“The damage in the Gulf has already been done. Nearly two million gallons of dispersants with essentially unknown environmental effects were released into the waters,” said Marc Yaggi, Executive Director of Waterkeeper Alliance.“We need more effective and responsible EPA dispersant rules so that we are never caught unprepared and uninformed in a crisis situation again.”

Public interest environmental law firm Earthjustice filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, Florida Wildlife Federation, Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Alaska-based Cook Inletkeeper, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, WaterkeeperAlliance, and Sierra Club.

Hannah Chang, Earthjustice, 212-791-1881 x 8233
Jill Mastrototaro, Sierra Club, 504-861-4835
Pamela Miller, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, 907-242-9991
Marylee Orr, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, 225-928-1315
Cyn Sarthou, Gulf Restoration Network, 504-525-1528
Bob Shavelson, Cook Inletkeeper, 907-299-3277
Marc Yaggi, Waterkeeper Alliance, 212-747-0622 x14 

# # #

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Join Hands! No to Offshore Drilling, Yes to Clean Energy!

Statement by Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Senior Organizing Manager

     On April 20, 2010, our nation’s worst man-made environmental disaster struck when the Deepwater Horizon platform erupted, pouring oil into the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana.    It was a horrific nightmare for people living along much of the Gulf coast and it led to gruesome destruction of marine life in and near the water.  Hands Across the Sand grew from that moment, and the movement was embraced by people all over the world  two months later, when 100,0000 people gathered in 50 states and 46 countries with the unified message:  No Offshore Drilling – anywhere.

     There isn’t a major spill in the Gulf today - but the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon disaster remain with us.  Scientists continue finding new evidence that the Gulf is still sick - from dying dolphins to dead plankton at the beginning of the food chain.

     Meanwhile our leaders continue hiding their heads in the sand, refusing to see what is happening.  They yield to the pressure of the oil industry in its rush to drill – Atlantic Coast, more deep wells in the Gulf, Cuba, Alaska, Brazil, New Zealand – wherever oil can be found.  That puts our communities and coastlines at risk again.  But the worst thing is that  all that drilling is unnecessary.

     It is unnecessary because the future we have dreamed of – civilization powered by clean energy – has arrived.  It is technologically feasible, it is being built, and it is affordable.  All we need do is embrace it.

     How do we make this change to prevent the next disaster?

     Our counties need to adopt multi-modal transportation systems that include modern rapid bus and light rail.

     Our states need to move highway construction money to high speed rail connecting our cities, and they need to accept help from the federal government when it offers it.

     Our cities and towns need to redesign our streets to make them safe for pedestrians and bicyclists.

     Our public utility commissions need to make it easy for utilities to replace dirty coal, nuclear, oil and natural gas power plants with solar power arrays.   Every sod farm in Florida should be a candidate for conversion to a solar power field.

     Our state legislatures need to remove the barriers that make it difficult for homeowners to install solar panels on our rooftops.

     Our nation needs to put in place a network of rapid charging stations on our interstate highways that will allow electric car owners to recharge quickly on longer trips.

     Our power companies need to fully embrace energy efficiency and make it possible for every person to cut their power consumption in half and recharge their electric cars at the same time.

     And each of us here today, business owners, environmentalists, government leaders, citizens joining hands and, yes, even you members of the press – have an individual responsibility to lead.  We personally need to buy electric cars, make our own houses energy efficient, and install solar panels on our rooftops.  We need to ride the bus and train and walk or bicycle to our destinations whenever possible.  We need to recycle our waste, and use less products made from oil.

     This is how we will get beyond oil.

     This is how we will create millions of jobs as we rebuild our nation’s energy infrastructure.

     This is how our children and their children will breathe cleaner air.

     This is how we will protect our beaches like this one on the Gulf of Mexico.

     This is how we will protect our coastal economy.

     This is how we will let the earth cool off a little bit and prevent catastrophic melting of the ice caps on the South Pole and Greenland.

     Let us join hands today and move beyond oil to a cleaner, healthier, and prosperous future.


Delivered at Hands Across the Sand Event 8/04/12
Tradewinds Resort - St. Petersburg Beach on the Gulf of Mexico 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Florida's Transportation Battle: Smart Road Improvements

All across America there are roads lined with strip malls and box stores. What may have been a two lane road is now four or more. Driving down this road could put you in any-place America - a sea of parking lots, entrances and exits, traffic lights and traffic. Most of the stores are probably the same, too.  

These are roads with one mode of transportation in mind - the car. The more lanes the road has, the more dangerous it is for pedestrians, bicyclists, and those taking the bus who may find that crossing this multi-lane road is a challenge at best. 
One road that fits this description is the U.S. 41 Corridor running between Sarasota and Bradenton, Florida.
US 41 is well known for congestion and unsafe
conditions for walkers and bikers 
Can a road like this be fixed? The answer is yes, if the will, the plans, and the funds are committed to making it safer for pedestrians and biking and safer for those who use transit to get to shopping, jobs, and schools along this congested road. 

Sierra Club Florida sent a letter in July to the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization to remind the agency of a long-standing vision of  "achieving and sustaining a safe and effective multimodal transportation network that strengthens the economy, improves long-term community livability, reduces energy demand and its effect on climate change, and supports wise land-use decisions and redevelopment in appropriate areas." The letter aimed to push back against an impending decision to take funds committed to making U.S. 41 to make it accessible for multiple modes of transportation (not just cars) and instead applying them to - you guessed it-widening another road: the Venice Bypass.  
The Sierra Club’s letter and others challenged the sincerity of the Sarasota Metropolitan Organization's and Florida Department of Transportation's commitment to supply sufficient crosswalks and designated turn lanes that lessen the chance of vehicle-pedestrian fatalities.

Yet rather than improving U.S. 41, the option the agencies now want is to take another road, the Venice By-Pass, and expand it from four to six lanes. Wider must be better to them, it seems.  

Traffic along the busy Venice By-Pass
Sierra Club Florida Healthy Air Organizer Britten Cleveland notes that:
We are concerned with the proposal to transfer funds designated for multimodal improvements to the U.S. 41 corridor for widening Venice Bypass - a project that does little to achieve the visionary goal of a safe and effective multimodal transportation network.

(Sarasota Metropolitan Organization) board members should not approve the transfer of funds unless all of the transferred funds are used only for significant multimodal treatments. This includes using the proposed third lane for plans to improve bus pullouts and establishing designated right turns rather than a thru lane. 
Widening the Venice By-Pass has been on table since the early 1990s, when gasoline cost $1.06 per gallon. The road was built to not only take traffic around a more congested downtown area, but also to provide more access to sprawl. Florida, like most other states, experienced an enormous amount of development in the 1990s, as well aso during the recent housing boom (now bust). 

The debate really boils down to what developers want vs. what is best for smart-growth principles that add to community livability and safety of those using the roads to get where they need to go. Gas is far from $1.06 per gallon. High gas prices drive up demand for transit and getting around without a car.

So, plans to invest in fixing U.S. 41 are losing dollars to acquiring a third lane for the by-pass. A wider road will still end up congested and it won’t help air quality or those walking, biking, and taking transit. 

According to one advocate, the Florida Department of Transportation's own data show that when a road expands from four to six lanes, pedestrian fatalities rise 158 percent, and bicycle fatalities rise 249 percent. Sierra Club is entering this debate to ensure that funds that have now been transferred will in fact be used to make real improvements to this project.

Americans are demanding transportation choices. Wider roads offer little choice and make travel even more dangerous for those eager to reduce air pollution, dependence on oil, and get where they need go without a car.

-- Ann Mesnikoff, Director of the Sierra Club Green Transportation 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Nation's First Affordable "Net Zero Energy" Homes to be Built in Florida

Where's the worm hole?
     This morning I entered what appeared to be an alternate universe.
     City of Dunedin and Pinellas County officials stood side by side with business leaders and environmentalists. (It happens sometimes -- nothing abnormal there.) Then they all picked up shovels and broke ground for construction of the nation's first affordable, "net zero energy" homes.
     "What??"  I pinched myself.  "Did this just happen in Florida?"

     Homes will range in price from $135,000 for an 1100 square-feet, two bedroom unit, to $170,000 for a 1,500 square-feet, 3 bedroom townhouse. Add a zero electric bill and you have a home that's affordable for most people.
     The project's developer, Planet Green Group, says that the features of its Dunedin townhouses are usually found in homes costing $300,000 or more.  91 people have placed reservations for the 25 units.

Net zero energy
    Homes will have LED lighting, foam insulation, specially-designed duct work, energy efficient appliances, electric vehicle charging stations, whole house water filtering, hybrid heat pump water heaters, household energy management systems, and rooftop solar panels.
     General Electric, Eco Construction, Inc., Algatec Solar, Mesh Architecture and Farias Marketing Group are major strategic partners providing features, design and marketing for the project.