Monday, December 16, 2013

Green Transit Plan Goes on 2014 Pinellas Ballot

Sierra Club Healthy Air Campaign Wins Grassroots Victory for “Greenlight Pinellas”

After two years of educating the public, organizing members and activists and building coalitions with both progressives and business leaders, Sierra Club’s Florida Healthy Air Campaign triumphed Tuesday night over those who would have us remain dependent on oil and a transportation system that requires all to own and drive cars for every trip. By a 6-1 vote the Pinellas County Commission voted to put the “Greenlight Pinellas” transit plan on the November 2014 ballot after a public hearing at which more than 100 supporters turned out to pack both commission chambers and two floors of overflow space.

Bruce Nissen sports a Greenlight
Pinellas t-shirt to show his support.

During the three-hour public hearing, 45 supporters spoke in favor, presenting a diverse range of perspectives for why the last metropolitan area in America without a multi-modal system, and Florida’s most densely populated county, should increase its investment in transit. Aside from a half dozen of the Tampa Bay region’s top business leaders, all citizens speaking in favor were members of the Healthy Air Campaign team, Suncoast Sierra members, or activists with allied progressive groups who responded to our request to show up and stand up for cleaner, greener transportation choices.
The outcome of Tuesday’s public hearing was a direct result of our campaign’s work in the Pinellas side of Tampa Bay to achieve this milestone. For the past 18 months, Sierra Club has turned out supporters month after month, meeting after meeting, in substantial numbers at every significant opportunity to demonstrate support and influence decision makers, completely overwhelming and frustrating well-organized and persistent extremists who had brought the Pinellas transit plan to the very brink of extinction prior to our beginning our public engagement. Across Tampa Bay we have also succeeded in Hillsborough County moving forward to the point of committing to its own transit referendum within the next 2-3 years, as that County responds to new public demand for transit options after a 2010 failed ballot referendum in an effort that was totally devoid of the grassroots organizing and public education that Sierra Club has used to build support on both sides of the bay in the last two years.
From Sierra Club’s viewpoint, we advocate for moving beyond our current dependence on oil by offering new, cleaner and more affordable options that will slash or eliminate how much oil we use: from convenient electric vehicle charging infrastructure, to safer streets for bikes and pedestrians, to making it possible for anyone to take a bus or train any time to get anywhere. When people take transit, their carbon emissions and smog-producing emissions of nitrogen oxide are cut in half vs. what their tailpipe would have emitted had they driven a car. Indeed, travel by bus or train is about as effective as driving an electric car charged by electricity generated by utilities burning coal or natural gas in reducing one’s personal contribution to air pollution and climate change.
At the same time, as an active member of business organizations that also endorsed the plan, we agree with our Tampa Bay Beaches and St. Petersburg Chambers of Commerce that the Greenlight Pinellas plan will remove the region’s primary barrier to the kind of sustainable economic growth, development and land use that we all want to see. In doing so, Sierra Club has emerged as a respected and responsible partner in this effort, demonstrated recently as Suncoast Chair Lisa Hinton stood as 1 of 4 key supporters speaking at a press conference at St. Petersburg City Hall, along with the president of the St. Pete Chamber, Chair of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, the St. Pete City Council and the Chair of the Pinellas County Commission. 

Suncoast Sierra Club Chair Lisa Hinton speaks at Dec. 5 press conference at St. Petersburg City Hall
We look forward to playing a key role in 2014 in helping build public understanding of “what’s in it for me” for Pinellas voters learning about the Greenlight Pinellas plan, as we also continue to organize support for green transit services across the bay in Tampa. A total transformation of transportation in America’s region most in need of green transit options is now within our reach, due to the organized support consistently expressed by our members and diverse allies.
Phil Compton, Regional Representative:
Sierra Club Florida Healthy Air Campaign - a partner of Greenlight Pinellas
1990 Central Avenue    St. Petersburg, FL 33712  727-824-8813, ext. 303


St. Pete Tribune coverage of County Commission approval of transit ballot referendum

WMNF radio: Greenlight Pinellas approved with outpouring of support

Sierra Club Helps Assemble Plug In-Electric Vehicle Advocacy Powerhouse

Forty leaders from across the state convened in Orlando for
the first Plug-In Electric Vehicle Summit
On Monday December 9, the Sierra Club, Orange County Environmental Protection Division and Florida Power & Light brought together forty of the top leaders in electric vehicle (EV) advocacy. The first Florida Plug-In Electric Vehicle Summit was held in Orlando to level-set on regional electric vehicle initiatives and build a framework for moving forward as a cohesive leadership group to advance EV-friendly programs at the state level. 

During the Summit, leaders from around the state shared their EV-related successes, challenges, and priorities. The group heard from all four of the state’s Clean Cities Coalitions, as these regional stakeholder groups have been the primary drivers of electrification in Florida.  The groups reported on various research initiatives, like the Drive Electric Florida report, which was made possible by a grant awarded by the Department of Energy to stimulate infrastructure planning and policy development in Southeast Florida.

We also heard from the Electrification Coalition’s Drive Electric Orlando program, an initiative linking the city’s leading rental car agencies, top hotels and major attractions who are working together to get tourist and business travelers behind the wheel of a zero emission vehicle while in town.

Gina Coplon-Newfield, Sierra Club's Director of Fleets &
Electric Vehicle Initiatives, shares her perspective on
what is driving EV adoption across the country. 
We were joined by national representatives from Sierra Club’s Beyond Oil campaign, Proterra Inc. (electric bus manufacturer), General Motors, and Ford Motor Company who shared their perspectives on what is driving EV sales across the nation.  These lessons provided a solid foundation for meeting the primary objective of the Summit: establishing state-level priorities for 2014 and beyond. During this roundtable style discussion facilitated by Florida Sierra Club Staff Director Frank Jackalone, an open brainstorm session resulted in a long list of programs and policies that will help to promote the adoption of zero emission electric vehicles, including:

  • Consumer incentives
  •  Building code mandates
  •  Public education initiatives
  • Public fleet mandates
  •  Zero emission vehicle goals and mandates

When facing any large challenge or formidable opponent, i.e. Big Oil, the best thing you can bring to playing field is a solid team.  So what makes a good team? Common goals, trust, wielding of resources, and mutual respect are a few of the things that come to mind. That’s why the Sierra Club and Florida Power & Light joined forces. Two groups that don’t always see eye-to-eye share a common goal: increase the adoption of zero emission electric vehicles. Electricity is the only transportation fuel that has the potential to be 100% net zero emission and as we bring cleaner sources of power on-line, the environmental and economic benefits of electric vehicles will only keep getting better.

For more information on the Florida PEV Summit or on Sierra Club’s efforts to promote the adoption of EVs, contact Britten Cleveland at

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller

Tampa Bay Times: Sunshine State -- But Not For Energy

We couldn't have said it better ourselves. Today's Tampa Bay Times editorializes on Florida's lack of leadership in solar power development:




Friday, December 13, 2013

Clean Water Advocates from Panhandle to Keys Launch Floridians’ Clean Water Declaration Campaign

Clean water advocates representing every corner of the state came together on Thursday to announce the launch of the Floridians' Clean Water Declaration Campaign.  The Declaration, signed by 50 organizations as of today , is a positive vision to inspire people to work together to find solutions to Florida’s water quality and quantity problems and to send a clear message to the state’s water managers that the people of Florida demand clean water:


In recognition that:
Clean water is essential for healthy people and a healthy economy.
Florida water quality and quantity are inseparably linked.
Florida waters are held in public trust by the State of Florida for the benefit of its people and the maintenance of natural ecosystems.
We the undersigned hereby declare:

The people of Florida have an inalienable right to:
1.      Clean drinking water whether that water is drawn from public sources or private wells.
2.      Safe lakes, streams, springs, rivers, canals and coastal waters for swimming and fishing.
3.      Protection from water pollution and its effects.
4.      Know the sources of pollution that threaten Florida’s waters.
5.      Protection from water privatization and its effects.
6.      Abundant water for drinking, fishing and recreation.

The people of Florida, the state government, and the industries that benefit from Florida’s natural resources have the responsibility to:

1.      Stop pollution at its source rather than allowing it to enter our waters.
2.      Protect Florida’s waters, as well as the people who depend on them, from overconsumption and privatization.
3.      Protect the natural environment which is critical to the health of Florida's people, wildlife and economy.
4.      Provide clean water for future generations.

By signing this declaration, we agree to its principles and resolve to work together in good faith to ensure that the future of our waters will be driven by the concepts contained within this FLORIDIANS’ CLEAN WATER DECLARATION.

The Campaign launches with a website and Facebook Page to reach out to Floridians of all stripes; individuals, businesses, organizations, and elected officials are asked to sign the declaration.

The activists were joined by FL Representative Linda Stewart (Orlando) who signed the declaration along with the 50 others at the announcement. 

The crowd displayed signs representing the participating organizations, photos of an array of slime-choked waterways all over the state, banners reading “Stop Pollution at its Source” and “I signed the Floridians’ Clean Water Declaration” stickers.

The declaration campaign is the result of the Citizens’ Clean Water Summit held last November 16 where 253 activists representing 121 organizations and businesses came together to find a way to work together more closely.  A collaborative planning committee of 19 organizations drafted the declaration to reflect the state’s clean water advocates’ collective “bottom line” for protecting Florida’s waters, wildlife and the health and livelihoods of the people who depend on them. 

"The sad fact is that Florida's polluters don't see clean water as their responsibility, and our State Government lets them get away with it.  Florida needs to use the Clean Water Act to stop pollution at its source, instead of waiting for toxic algae blooms to grow so large that they kill our rivers, lakes and coastal estuaries.   If Rick Scott's DEP were to embrace and follow the principles in the Citizens Clean Water Declaration, it would save taxpayers millions of dollars spent now to clean up red tide and green slime when it becomes a crisis." said Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Senior Staff Manager.

Chuck O’Neal, Natural Resources Chair of the league of Women Voters of Florida stated:  “Our supply of fresh water is in jeopardy.  Our waterways are polluted with wastewater and fertilizers. Our spring water is no longer healthy to drink.  Our population has doubled since 1980 and yet our water standards have not kept pace with the growth.  We need to protect our springs and our aquifer before we lose this paradise for all of eternity.  The goal of this campaign is to mobilize enough citizens to let those who control water policy in this state know that we demand protection of our waterways and our aquifer.  Our voices are growing stronger and our numbers are growing larger.”

Patrick Rose, an aquatic biologist and the Executive Director of the Save the Manatee Club stated: “With this year’s catastrophic loss of manatee lives the already difficult job to ensure the survival of the gentle and defenseless manatees has been made all the more challenging, and it’s not over yet.  What we put into our waters, how much we pump from our aquifer and draw from our springs and rivers, together with how we use our waterways, all has an impact on our own lives and the lives of every aquatic species.  We must be better stewards of our waters and waterways or suffer even more severe consequences going forward.”

The event was covered by the Orlando Sentinel, Univision, News 96.5, NPR affiliates, and The Ledger.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Legal Challenge Filed Over Massive Mine That Threatens Imperiled Species


Legal challenge filed over massive mine that threatens Florida panther, other imperiled species, and Camp Keais Strand 

NAPLES, Fla. (12/11/13) –Conservation groups, including Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Center for Biological Diversity Group and the Sierra Club, filed a lawsuit  against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today  seeking to halt a 970-acre limerock and sand mine in Collier County. The Hogan Island  Quarry would be adjacent to the Camp Keais Strand, a significant wetland flowway that feeds downstream public wetland preserves and is a major wildlife corridor. Building the mine would have significant impacts on the Florida panther, wood stork, crested caracara, and eastern indigo snake.

The entire Hogan Island Quarry site is comprised of lands identified as essential to the survival of the Florida panther, with about half the site designated as “primary zone” habitat for the panther, making it a top priority for protection. The mining operation would destroy the habitat value of these lands forever and impair the use of the adjacent wildlife corridor. It would also add more than 1,000 vehicle trips a day onto rural roads that are already deadly for panthers and other wildlife.

“These Florida species have nowhere else to go,” said Jaclyn Lopez, a Florida-based attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “As good stewards, we can’t degrade our beautiful, irreplaceable Florida environment any further.”

In addition to allowing the project to move forward despite serious impacts to the panther, the federal agencies failed to consider how the project would affect the threatened crested caracara and eastern indigo snake during their reviews. “Much of the site should be protected as an agricultural buffer and listed species habitat,” said Alexis Meyer of the Sierra Club. “Protection of the existing habitat and restoration of agricultural lands back to natural lands, as has been identified by the scientific community for portions of this site, is needed, not this intensification to mining.”

Of added concern, the mine is but just one of several mine and residential developments in southwest Florida, including several in the same watersheds. In approving the mine, the Army Corps did not consider the cumulative effects of all of the projects on the panther, other wildlife, and water resources depended on by Floridians.

“Hogan Island Quarry is the first mining project we are aware of to go forward without regional cumulative review by the Corps,” said Jennifer Hecker, Director of Natural Resource Policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “The agency needs to analyze the impact of this mine in concert with existing and future mining, including the more than 13,000 acres of proposed mining projects within just eight miles of the Hogan site. Without it, the panther will die a death by a thousand cuts.”

“The project is clearly not within the public’s interest,” said attorney Robert Hartsell, “and my clients are petitioning that the permit be invalidated in order for the Corps and Service to further evaluate the effects of the mine on the natural environment and require further avoidance and minimization of the project’s direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts.”

The three groups in the suit, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club, are represented by Robert N. Hartsell, P.A., Davis & Whitlock, P.C., and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Conservancy of Southwest Florida is a nonprofit grassroots organization focused on the critical environmental issues of the Southwest Florida region with a mission to protect the region’s water, land and wildlife. Visit for more information.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Sierra Club is a national nonprofit organization of approximately 600,000 members dedicated to exploring, enjoying, and protecting the wild places of the earth. The Sierra Club webpage is located at

Media Contacts:
Jennifer Hecker, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, (239) 262-0304 x250,

Jaclyn Lopez, Center for Biological Diversity, (727) 490-9190,

Alexis Meyer, Sierra Club, (727) 490-8215,

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Florida Falls Below Six More States in Solar Rankings, Including Georgia

Ivan Penn, business writer for the Tampa Bay Times, continues his exemplary work reporting on Florida energy issues.  Today, he discusses a Solar Energy Industries Association report showing Florida fell from 12th in solar installations to 18th in the third quarter of the year.