Thursday, March 28, 2013

Federal Deal with State Puts Florida's Endangered Species at Risk

For Immediate Release, March 29, 2013
Contact: Alexis Meyer, Sierra Club Florida, (727) 490-8215

Federal Deal with State Puts Florida's Endangered Species at Risk

Sierra Club Applauds Legal Challenge by 3 Environmental Groups

Naples, Florida - The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have initiated a conservation agreement under section 6 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which will give full-agreement power to the State in the matters of threatened and endangered species management.

Sierra Club applauds the Center for Biological Diversity, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and the Everglades Law Center in their litigation against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The groups filed a notice of intent to sue on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

Sierra Club Florida was never included in the initial comment stage of planning between Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The development of this agreement was not adequately noticed to the public, with no public hearing or opportunity to comment. “Floridian’s have a right to know what is happening with the future of our endangered species,” said Alexis Meyer, the associate organizing representative for Sierra’s Florida Panther Critical Habitat Campaign. “As a former federal biologist, this transfer of power is troubling for future projects that will impact threatened and endangered species.”

A number of issues were raised with this conservation agreement that Sierra Club objects to:
  • This agreement will give full power for FWC to issue incidental take permits of threatened and endangered species without Federal review, thus violating the intended purpose of the ESA to co-manage species protection by both State and Federal authorities. Incidental take is defined as “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct,” in reference to an action against a species.
  • Diverging from all previous Section 6 Cooperative Agreements, FWS will delegate permitting authority for incidental take on activities and projects that occur in protected species habitats.
  • Section 6 agreements were historically set up to provide cooperation between state and federal agencies for such activities as education and scientific research. This new agreement would now allow the state to solely permit impacts from development, construction, and mining, which does not follow the intended purpose of Section 6 under the ESA.
  • Finally, this agreement ensures no provision of appeal to FWS. A checks and balance system is needed for independent scientific review of species, and projects that will impact them and their habitat. This new agreement will ensure that does not happen. 

“Given the recent economic and financial hardships of the State, Sierra Club feels that the scope of the work cannot and will not be properly managed by a single agency, especially given the recent employee and budget reductions of the FWC,” stated Marian Ryan, the Sierra Club Florida’s Conservation Chair.

“This is an erroneous decision and one that will impact the future of Florida’s green spaces, and threatened and endangered species for years to come,” said Meyer.  "We do not want to see projects rubber-stamped without federal review, especially in regards to our state’s most imperiled species."


~Alexis Meyer, Florida Panther Critical Campaign Representative, Sierra Club

Sierra ClubSierra Club Florida

1990 Central Avenue
St. Petersburg, FL 33712

Bill Nelson sides with Big Oil in vote for Keystone XL

Sen. Bill Nelson at Sierra Club event on BP Gulf Oil Disaster  
Last Friday, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) sided with Big Oil and voted to support the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. 
I was sorely disappointed by this vote, particularly because Nelson has been a true ally and strong champion on so many of the issues near and dear to the Sierra Club's heart.

Even during last Friday's so-called "vote-a-rama" on the 100-plus amendments to the Senate budget resolution, Senator Nelson stuck with us on some key votes! 
He voted the right way on an amendment that would've undermined the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to issues climate pollution standards, he voted the right way on an amendment that would've undermined EPA's recent mercury and air toxics standard for power plants, and he even voted in support of a carbon tax! 

Senator Nelson has been our top leader in the Senate against expanded oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and he has joined Sierra Club in demanding that BP fully pay the cost of restoring the Gulf and its coastal communities following the Deepwater Horizon disaster. We also know Senator Nelson's heart is in the right place, and that he actually wants to take action to address climate change -- which is why it's so shocking he decided to join with some of Big Oil's best friends in the Senate and vote to support Keystone XL.

If approved, Keystone XL would carry 830,000 barrels a day of the world's dirtiest fuel over the Canadian border, across thousands of U.S. rivers and streams, so that it could eventually be delivered to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Most of that product would then be exported to other countries.

You may have heard some argue that it's no big deal; tar sands will be developed anyway. Well, that's not the case. So far, Canadians have put their foot down to these thousand-mile-plus pipelines to carry this toxic sludge to their coasts, so the industry is intent on gaining access to our coasts. And right now, Keystone XL is the best shot it has. Keystone XL is intended to get the tar sands industry's dirty oil onto the international market, allowing it to greatly expand its polluting industry.

As a climate champion, Senator Nelson should know better than to side with Big Oil on an amendment like this. Although President Obama is still the ultimate decision-maker on Keystone XL, he needs the support of senators like Nelson.

Will you call Senator Nelson today at 202-224-5274 to ask him to change his stance and oppose the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline?
-- Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Scholz coal-fired power plant - Chattahoochee, FL

March 27, 2013



ST. PETERSBURG, FL – Gulf Power, the Florida-based arm of Southern Company, has announced its plans to phase out and retire the Scholz coal-fired power plant located in Jackson County by April 2015. Nationwide, dozens of utilities are choosing to retire aging coal-fired power plants in favor of cleaner, cheaper options, including wind and solar power and energy efficiency solutions. Gulf Power’s Scholz plant is now the 144th coal-fired power plant slated for retirement in the United States.

“Gulf Power is making the right decision, to retire the Scholz plant by early 2015. Almost every month we see utilities making the same decision – choosing cleaner air and lower costs for their customers,” said Frank Jackalone, with Sierra Club. “Gulf Power made another smart decision by prioritizing their workers and keeping them employed with the company. But there’s more work to do to clean up Gulf Power. The Sierra Club now calls on Gulf Power to take the next step and phase out the Lansing Smith coal-fired power plant, in Panama City. That old plant is far dirtier than Scholz and it makes no economic sense to keep it running. Gulf needs to replace the obsolete facility with twenty-first century energy efficiency solutions.”

The Scholz plant, completed in 1953, contributed nearly 5,000 tons of smog-forming pollution to Florida’s air when Gulf Power was running the plant frequently. Over the past few years, Gulf Power scaled back operations at the facility as it grew increasingly expensive to operate. Still, the plant pumped more than 100,000 tons of carbon pollution into Florida’s atmosphere, and nearly 2,000 tons of smog-forming pollution into the air in 2011. Smog pollution, also known as ozone, causes serious health problems for the elderly, young children, people with existing respiratory illnesses, and those who work or recreate outdoors on hot days. By retiring the Scholz facility, Gulf Power is taking a good step toward reducing the pollution the company generates in Florida each year.

Since 2002, the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign has worked with partners and allies to secure the retirement of 144 existing coal-fired power plants and has stopped proposals to build 177 new coal-fired power plants. Clean energy is now powering more homes and businesses than ever before, with states like Iowa and South Dakota generating more than 20% of their power from wind energy, and New Jersey has installed 1 gigawatt of solar power, enough to power 139,000 homes. Recently, the Sierra Club moved its Florida headquarters into a net-zero energy building in St. Petersburg. The building produces more electricity than it consumes, using solar power, geothermal power, and cutting edge energy efficiency technology.


Jenna Garland, Sierra Club,
Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club,

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

HB 33 would give away state lands in return for a temporary easement

Sierra Club Florida ALERT!
Calls needed prior to Committee Vote 
on Wednesday, March 27 at 4:30 pm

HB 33 by Representative Jimmie T. Smith will be heard in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee tomorrow, Wednesday, March 27 at 4:30 p.m.

This bill proposes to give state lands away in return for a temporary easement. It does an end-run around statutes that ensure Florida gets equal or better value in any land exchange. And it could be applied to any land next to a state highway or state owned water body. Please call the members of the committee and tell them that Florida’s conservation lands belong to all of us and must not be given away for a song.

House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee 2013

Rep.                                  District Phone  Capitol Phone                 Email
Rep.  Matt Caldwell, Chair  (239) 694-0161  (850) 717-5079
Rep.  Halsey Beshears       (850) 342-0016  (850) 717-5007                                
Rep.  Jim Boyd                   (941) 708-4968  (850) 717-5071
Rep.  Katie A. Edwards       (954) 838-1371  (850) 717-5098
Rep.  Larry Lee (L)             (772) 595-1391  (850) 717-5084
Rep.  Cary Pigman             (863) 386-6000  (850) 717-5055
Rep.  Ray Pilon                  (941) 955-8077  (850) 717-5072
Rep.  Elizabeth W. Porter    (386) 719-4600  (850) 717-5010
Rep.  Kevin Rader              (561) 218-5010  (850) 717-5081
Rep.  Betty Reed                (813) 241-8024  (850) 717-5061
Rep.  Patrick Rooney, Jr.    (561) 625-5176  (850) 717-5085
Rep.  Clovis Watson (C)     (352) 264-4001  (850) 717-5020

Talking Points:
  • The state-owned land the private party might want title to could be sovereignty submerged land, State Forest, Everglades parcels,Green Swamp, you name it. These state-owned lands should not be up for a swap meet. 
  • Under no circumstances should the bill allow the Ordinary High Water Mark issue to be resolved in favor of turning over 500,000 acres of sovereign submerged lands to private interests in exchange for a conservation easement, permanent or temporary. (NB: Property owners on the state’s water bodies meet the condition of contiguousness.) 
  • If state lands are to be exchanged for a conservation easement, the easement should be permanent and the equal or better value provisions should apply. The state-owned land to be exchanged should only be non-conservation land. 

Thank You!

David Cullen

Sierra ClubSierra Club Florida

1990 Central Avenue
St. Petersburg, FL 33712

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Everglades one-mile bridge is only the beginning

The new one mile bridge over Tamiami Trail was open only to pedestrians yesterday for two hours

It was finally real. After two decades of advocacy by the Sierra Club and others, the ribbon was cut yesterday on a one-mile bridge over Tamiami Trail. Cars will be sailing over the bridge in about a month. The old road will be removed and parts of the River of Grass will flow free again for the first time in 85 years. This is just the beginning. The next 2.6 mile span, currently being designed by the National Park Service, will be part of 6.5 miles of total bridging, known as “the Everglades Skyway,” that will restore fresh water to Shark River Slough, the main-artery of Everglades National Park.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar

Yesterday was a celebration of what is real; no longer confined to the pages of a glossy brochure, an on-line petition, or a plea to the President. For Skyway advocates, it’s been a long, hard road, but the long walk across the new bridge seemed to make time disappear.

But time is what is in short supply for the Everglades. The realities of human-induced climate change and sea level rise are finally beginning to set in. The timetables of bureaucracies must synchronize with the timetables of physics.

View from the bridge
The Skyway is our best weapon to stave off the effects of sea level rise. The road must be lifted quickly and sufficient clean water must pass underneath so fresh water can hydrate the aquifer and the soil. Otherwise, Everglades National Park will fall to the salt-water sea. These are not the words of doomsayers. These are the words of scientists. And not some distant future. Probably in your lifetime.
Construction workers at the ceremony

While much attention was placed yesterday on the benefits to wildlife, as scores of wading birds flew overhead, the unspoken truth was the bridge is about so much more. It's about the very survival of the Everglades.

We have one mile that is real, but so is climate change. Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and finish the job before time is up.

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

Friday, March 15, 2013

An Appeal to Protect Panther Habitat

An Open Letter to Rick Scott
RE: Save the Florida Panther Day

Dear Governor Scott:

Your recent decision to declare March 16th as “Save the Florida Panther Day” is a first step in the education and promotion of one of the rarest species within the United States.

Your declaration that the panther is a “symbol of the natural character of Florida,” however raises some issues. Unnecessary roads, housing developments, and mining activities are currently carving up natural Florida. Our waters are filled with slime, our air is polluted, our lands are constantly under threat by development, and backdoor deals ensure that this treatment of wild Florida will continue for generations to come. Is this the type of natural character you are promoting?

The last vestiges of panther habitat are under threat and the necessary measures to prevent this habitat destruction are being ignored. There is no critical habitat designated for Florida panthers. Mitigation banking for panthers does not add any new habitat for this imperiled species, but only sets aside a small percentage of land, while the rest of their current habitat is destroyed. They have nowhere to go. You have the opportunity to protect wildlife corridors that would ensure their safe travel throughout the state. You have the power to protect their last remnant of functioning habitat which is only 5% of their original habitat, and shrinking every day.

If it truly is your intention to save the Florida panther, and not just create an arbitrary day, then protect their habitat from all further development by supporting a protected wildlife corridor throughout the state of Florida. In doing so, you will protect the greater Everglades ecosystem, the species of natural Florida, and provide a true service to all the current and future residents of Florida. Instead of “pausing and reflecting on the plight of the Florida panther,” take the action to ensure the survival of this species.

Otherwise, this day of celebration will one day be a day of mourning for a species whose extinction you took no steps to prevent.


Alexis Meyer

Associate Organizing Representative
Sierra Club Florida
Florida Panther Critical Habitat Campaign

Marian Ryan

Conservation Chair
Sierra Club Florida

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Everglades Pollution Bill (HB 7065) gives the sugar industry a free ride. Vote is Thurs PM. Call your Representative now!

Everglades Pollution Bill (HB 7065) gives the sugar industry a free ride.

The House Appropriations Committee will vote on this bill at 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 14. 

Call your state Representative now!

The Sierra Club opposes HB 7065, a bill that seeks to drastically weaken Everglades cleanup standards to benefit the sugar industry.

The ailing Everglades cannot afford delay. Its waters cannot be restored until polluting phosphorus effluent discharged by the sugar industry is cleaned up.

HB 7065 lets the sugar companies off the hook.

-          The bill caps the sugar companies’ share of the $880 million cleanup leaving the bulk on on the shoulders of taxpayers.

-          It does not require the sugar industry to further reduce phosphorus coming off their lands.

-          It doesn’t require the sugar companies to pay their fair share of the rising cost of cleanup and leaves the industry’s meager share at 14 percent of 1994 levels.

HB 7065 jumps the gun.

-          It tries to legalize on the state level a bad cleanup proposal that must ultimately be decided by the Federal Court.

-          It is highly unlikely the Federal Court would agree to this proposal that lets the sugar industry off the hook

-          It is a waste of state resources to pass a bill until a cleanup plan has been agreed to by the Federal Court.

HB 7065 hurts the 7.5 million Floridians who rely on the Everglades for their clean drinking water.

-          This bill allows the sugar industry to pollute in the same way they have been doing for years.

-          It takes away State accountability.

This bill was written for the benefit of the sugar industry. It creates potential conflicts with Federal rules and the Courts and allows polluters to continue their business as usual at the expense of the Everglades and taxpayers.

Take Action!

Check the list below and see if your Representative is on it. Call him or her, then call as many as you can starting with the counties closest to you. 

Tell the Representatives to vote against HB 7065 to protect the Everglades and the drinking water supply for almost 8 million people.

House Appropriations Committee 2013

Rep. Seth McKeel, Chair                    Polk                        (850) 717-5040
Rep. Steve Crisafulli, V. Ch.              Brevard                  (850) 717-5051
Rep. Ben Albritton                               DeSoto                   (850) 717-5056
Rep. Dennis Baxley                            Marion                    (850) 717-5023
Rep. Marti Coley                                  Holmes                  (850) 717-5005
Rep. Richard Corcoran                      Pasco                     (850) 717-5037
Rep. Janet Cruz                                   Hillsborough         (850) 717-5062
Rep. Erik Fresen                                 Miami-Dade           (850) 717-5114
Rep. Reggie Fullwood                       Duval                       (850) 717-5013
Rep. Joe Gibbons                               Broward                  (850) 717-5100
Rep. Eddy Gonzalez                           Miami-Dade            (850) 717-5111
Rep. Ed Hooper                                  Pinellas                   (850) 717-5067
Rep. Matt Hudson                               Collier                      (850) 717-5080
Rep. Clay Ingram                                Escambia               (850) 717-5001
Rep. Mia Jones (M)                             Duval                      (850) 717-5014
Rep. Charles McBurney                     Duval                      (850) 717-5016
Rep. Marlene O'Toole                         Lake                       (850) 717-5033
Rep. Mark Pafford                                Palm Beach          (850) 717-5086
Rep. Jimmy T. Patronis                      Bay                         (850) 717-5006
Rep. Steve Precourt                            Orange                  (850) 717-5044
Rep. Hazelle P. Rogers                      Broward                (850) 717-5095
Rep. Darryl Rouson                             Hillsborough        (850) 717-5070
Rep. Cynthia A. Stafford                      Miami-Dade          (850) 717-5109
Rep. W. Gregory Steube                     Manatee                (850) 717-5073
Rep. Perry E. Thurston, Jr.                 Broward                 (850) 717-5094
Rep. Alan B. Williams                         Gadsden               (850) 717-5008