Monday, April 28, 2014

Pass A Clean Springs Bill!

Sierra Club Florida Alert
Pass A Clean Springs Bill!
Springs bill up for vote on Senate floor this week

Please call your Senator and urge them to support SB 1576, and then call your Representative to urge them to take up the Springs bill (which will be amended onto a bill that is moving in the House) and pass it without any amendments.  This link will give you the contact information for your State Senator and State Representative.  Remember, phone calls are more effective than emails which can easily be deleted.

For a long time the environmental community has had to play nothing but defense.  This session was different because we had S 1576 Springs by Sen. Dean to work for.  We haven’t gotten everything we asked for in the bill, and we’ve had to compromise along the way, but the bill is a good product.  If we can get it passed without being weakened at the last minute, it will be an important step forward for Florida’s springs.

The situation:

Florida’s springs are in trouble.  Over pumping for power plants, lawn watering, agriculture, etc. combined with drought and a rapidly increasing population have caused springs to shrink or to disappear altogether.  And nutrient pollution from lawn fertilizer, agriculture fertilizer and manure, wastewater treatment facilities, septic tanks, and stormwater runoff has gotten into the aquifer that is the source of our springs and most of Florida’s drinking water supply.  It’s causing algae to foul our most important springs and damaging both our environment and economy.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Driving Green in Sarasota

Written by Danielle Troiano, Sarasota resident and member of the Suncoast Electric Vehicle Collaborative 

What do you ask prospective property management companies for when your business outgrows its space?  

Project Director Chris Sharek at Atkins presented a request property management companies didn’t expect:  that the property have an electric vehicle charging station.  Osprey Property Management won Atkins over by installing a charging station, making the Paramount Drive location in their new Sarasota office and the first commercial building in Sarasota County with such an amenity.

Chris Sharek charges his 2011 Chevy Volt at his Sarasota Office
As author of The Electric Vehicle rEVolution, and owner of a 2011 Chevy Volt, Sharek is one of a handful of innovators in the region rallying for greater electric vehicle (EV) adoption and infrastructure to support it.  Friend Ken Stokes and Sharek were instrumental in bringing the 1st and 2nd Annual National Plug-In Day events to Sarasota.  Stokes with his eV Edge enterprise, coupled with his planning and civil engineering background, has been responsible for helping numerous businesses install charging stations throughout the region.  Sarasota County Government jumped on board and provides workplace charging stations at ten (10) sites, as well as adding a plug-in electric vehicle to their fleet. 

Rising interest in EVs sparked the creation of the Suncoast Electric Vehicle Collaborative (SEVC); supported by Sierra Club’s Clean Air Campaign and Beyond Oil Campaign and comprised of local EV drivers, community, and government partners.  Encouraging businesses to install charging stations is just one of the goals of the SEVC.   Workplace charging incentivizes employees, complements sustainability efforts, signals corporate leadership as well as boosts patronage of businesses within the vicinity of charging stations.

The Suncoast Electric Vehicle Collaborative is partnering with Sarasota County Sustainability to present their findings and recommendations, including workplace charging,  to the Sarasota County Commission on Tuesday, May 6 at 9:00 am, at the Robert L. Anderson Administration, 4000 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice, FL 34293. RSVP here to attend the Commission meeting. 

For questions regarding the Sierra Club's Electric Vehicle campaign or the Suncoast Electric Vehicle Collaborative, contact Britten Cleveland, Sierra Club Conservation Organizer at

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sierra Club Stands with Government Officials as They Send a Message to Duke Energy

Gulfport City Council Member Yolanda Roman
The Florida Beyond Coal campaign celebrated Earth Day by standing with a group of elected officials outside Duke’s Florida headquarters and delivering a letter calling on Duke to prioritize clean energy options like solar and energy efficiency.

Signed by 25 federal, state, county and local elected officials, the letter ratchets up the pressure on Duke just as its regulatory body, the Florida Public Service Commission, begins hearings on the future of Florida’s energy portfolio.

The sign-on letter is a project of the Sierra Club-led Sunshine State Clean Energy Coalition. The Coalition is an alliance of business, faith, labor, consumer, public health, and environmental organizations in Florida who advocate for Florida’s utility companies to invest in clean, local solar energy.

St. Petersburg City Council Member Karl Nurse
The State of Florida, along with utility providers like Duke Energy, needs to embrace the accelerated inclusion of sustainable energy sources in their long-term portfolios,” said Sam Henderson, Mayor of Gulfport. “They have an obligation to take a leadership role in mitigating climate change by phasing out the use of coal in favor of non-fossil fuel alternatives." 

Duke’s energy efficiency program in Florida is roughly half the effort that it performs in its home state of North Carolina,” said Karl Nurse, City Councilman for St. Petersburg’s’ District 6.” The result is that Floridian’s bills are higher, energy use is higher and our air is dirtier. Duke should step up and provide its Florida customers with the same energy efficiency programs as it does in North Carolina."

Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson

Speaking for Duke’s customers, the elected officials made clear that they want the Sunshine State to live up to its name.  In sending this letter, these officials are signaling that they want to Duke to get serious about growing jobs, saving customers money, and ensuring that Florida is a leader in clean energy production for years to come.

To read the Tampa Bay Times report about the event:

Elected officials letter to Duke Florida President Alex Glenn:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Everglades Victory

Source: NPS
Last week the Sierra Club and its allies scored a major victory when state water managers decided to move forward on a plan to restore water flow across Florida’s state-owned Everglades. The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board unanimously voted to share the cost of the Federal Government’s plan to remove two key canals and degrade a third that block water flow leading to Everglades National Park.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan known as the Central Everglades Planning Project (or CEPP) is a suite of critical, but never-authorized, projects in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (or CERP) of 2000.

Sierra Club members and supporters submitted more than 200 emails to Governing Board members and 10 spoke at the public hearing. In all, more than 30 speakers supported CEPP. None opposed.

But the fight is not over. Congress still needs to include CEPP in the Corps’ latest funding bill, and still not settled are important water quality issues between the Federal Government and the State of Florida. The Courts are closely eyeing the amount of Phosphorus from sugar, cattle and municipal waste allowed in various parts of the Everglades. Who will be forced to clean it up and to what extent is where the next battle lies.

-- Jonathan Ullman, Sierra Club South Florida/Everglades Senior Organizer

Read more:

Legislative Update, April 15, 2014

As you read this we are in week seven of the nine week legislative session.  While very little is definite until session is over on May 2nd, this update will give you an idea of what’s happening with environmental bills so far this year.

First of all, the legislature is not meeting this week!  Since Passover was on Monday and Good Friday ends the week, there are no committee meetings or floor sessions scheduled.  That means almost all committees have had their last meeting and starting next week we’ll be in the “end-game” of the session.  Any bill that hasn’t been heard in at least one of its committees of reference is basically dead for the year.

For Florida Legislative alerts, join our FLORIDA REPORT. Go to (have your membership number available). Or contact the owner of the list at  FL-FLORIDA-REPORT-Request@LISTS.SIERRACLUB.ORG.

Issues in this update: budget, fracking, springs bill, bad environmental regulation bill, DRI bills, renewable energy issues and bad energy memorials, land application of septage, plastic bags, chemicals of high concern, coastal management permitting and aquatic preserves, flood insurance, brownfields, green transportation funding, and reclaimed water.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

5,500 Floridians Tell Duke Energy to Choose Clean Energy Now

Crowd Rallies at Duke Energy’s Florida Headquarters 
Calling for Solar Power and Clean Energy Jobs

ST. PETERSBURG, FL – A crowd of 140 clean air advocates rallied outside Duke Energy’s Florida headquarters on April 2, 2014 and delivered nearly 6,000 signatures of St. Pete and Tampa Bay area residents calling on the region’s largest utility company to move beyond coal to clean energy. The Sunshine State Clean Energy Coalition, led by the Sierra Club, launched in November of 2013 and has already grown to encompass more than two dozen member groups, representing faith, labor, business and health advocates in Florida. The rally took place the day after Duke Energy told state regulators that its ten year plan does not include provisions for new or expanded energy efficiency or clean energy projects.

“Hundreds of concerned residents turned out today to send a strong message to Duke Energy: it’s time to invest in Florida’s economy and people by choosing our homegrown energy resources over obsolete, expensive and dirty imported fuels,” said Julia Hathaway, organizer with Sierra Club in Florida. “We know that Duke, the nation’s largest utility, is building solar power and investing in energy savings in other states. But here in Florida, Duke is stalling, and wants to keep sending our energy dollars out of state. It’s time for the Sunshine State to see real investment in solar energy and energy efficiency solutions that will create jobs and clean up our air.”

Members of the coalition collected more than 5,500 petition signatures by talking primarily with Duke Energy customers in Pinellas County and the Tampa Bay area. The coalition believes it’s important for Duke, now the nation’s largest utility company, to hear directly from customers about the company’s inadequate solar and energy savings programs. Duke Energy’s Ohio and North Carolina operations are significantly outperforming its Florida arm, leaving its customers in the Sunshine State with higher energy bills and fewer opportunities. In fact, in Ohio Duke is among the nation’s best performing utilities, saving more than four times more energy than Duke in Florida, letting customers in Ohio reap the benefits.

“Civic engagement signifies the presence of an informed electorate and is critical to a thriving democracy. Civic engagement can be seen as a nuisance to corporations, but Duke should consider this demonstration as a favor. These 5,500-plus petitions serve to let Duke Energy know that there is consumer demand for energy efficiency and solar power in Florida,” said Kofi Hunt, project coordinator with Awake Pinellas.

Florida is ranked in the bottom half of states by the American Coalition for an Energy Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE) annual ranking, specifically because of utilities’ under-investment in energy savings programs

“I live in Brooksville and when I drive to the beach at Pine Island, I can see the Crystal River Power Plantsaid DeeVon Quirolo, marine conservationist and founder of Reef Relief, and a Hernando County activist. “It's time for Duke to retire obsolete its coal units #1 and #2 at Crystal River.  It's time for clean energy here in the Sunshine State and Duke should be promoting energy conservation so our power bills go down.”
off in the distance near the shoreline.  I am concerned that this is the largest source of mercury pollution in the state and that it is polluting the air we breathe, the land where we grow our food and coastal waters where we fish,”

Duke Energy operates four coal-burning units at its Crystal River power plant in Citrus County, FL. In recent filings to state regulators, the company has committed to phasing out coal burning at two of the units by 2018, but currently plans to increase natural gas use at the plant instead. By delaying its plans to phase out burning coal at the Crystal River plant, Duke Energy is choosing to produce four more years of air pollution, including toxic mercury pollution, which will impact children, seniors and people living with asthma and other respiratory illness.

“By shutting down the dirtiest power plants, like Crystal River, using energy more efficiently, and by generating more power from clean, renewable sources like the sun, we could be delivering a one-two punch in the fight against climate change, and ensuring the health and safety of our communities for years to come,” said Jennifer Rubiello, field associate with Environment Florida, based in Tallahassee.

Nationwide, 162 coal-fired power plants have been locked in for retirement since 2010 as coal generation declined by nearly one-fifth in two years. At the same time, clean energy production has skyrocketed, with wind providing more than 20% of Iowa and South Dakota’s power, and more than 10% of Texas and Oklahoma’s power. In 2013, more than 13,000 megawatts of solar power are now connected to the grid, powering homes and businesses. To learn more, visit

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Committee Votes to Deny DEP Oil Drilling Permit

After several hours of deliberation yesterday, the Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Committee voted 4:1 to recommend denial of the Department of Environmental Protection Agency's (DEP) permit to allow an exploratory oil well in Golden Gate Estates.

The committee convened the meeting in Naples, Florida after an administrative challenge was filed in response to the DEP issuing intent of approval of the permit. They are an extension of the DEP, which ensures compliance of permits within the Big Cypress region.

The decision to recommend denial came as a surprise to those in attendance, as the meeting began with a 4:1 vote to recommend approval of the permit. But as numerous residents and environmental representatives finally had the chance to speak, the committee had a change of heart.

Issued raised by the committee included the need for a cumulative effects analysis on the environment (the Dan A Hughes Company has been granted a lease of 115,000 acres for drilling), accident preparedness, concerns with traffic, and increasing the bond the oil company is required to post.

The Sierra Club's concerns with the well include impacts to Florida panthers ranging from incidental take of the species, a lack of peer-reviewed science to back up official's statements, increased traffic, the destruction of panther primary habitat, and the cumulative impacts from oil drilling.

There have been no studies conducted analyzing the impacts to wildlife behavior and life history from oil drilling. Increased traffic in an area where panthers are found increases the likelihood that panthers could be hit by cars – the number one killer of the species. Behavioral studies on panthers are few and far between, so making statements that drilling will not impact behavioral patterns has not been verified.
Saying that "panthers and oil wells can coexist" is unacceptable without peer-reviewed studies to support the claim.

Telemetry data clearly identifies a tremendous amount of panther activity in the area, including telemetry points on top of the proposed well site. Previous statements by the Dan A Hughes Company, that no panthers have been found on the property is a blatant lie.

Given the knowledge of cumulative impacts, increased traffic, and destruction of primary panther habitat, a "take" (harm, harass, kill, etc.) for the species will be hard to avoid. No reasonable and prudent measures, the actions believed necessary and appropriate to minimize impacts, and mandated by the Endangered Species Act, have been proposed. This permit cannot be approved without the proper scientific review of a biological opinion under the ESA.

A video of Sierra's statements can be found here.

Jon Arthur, a geologist with the DEP and chairman of the committee, stated of the committee's decision, "I get a feeling that approving this permit is pulling our finger out of the dike."

The public sway on the committee's vote shows just how powerful a concerned group of citizens can be. Without our voices being heard, this victory would never have taken place. Inspiring work by all the groups and citizens involved!

The Committee first met on March 11th, in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) public hearing at the Golden Gate Civic Association. After a public outcry for the EPA to hold a hearing in Naples, more than 300 activists came out to have their voices heard. Issues ranged from public safety and watershed impacts to concerns for increased traffic and panther habitat destruction.

The EPA made the decision at that meeting to extend their public comment period to March 31st. And as of yesterday, the deadline for public comments to the EPA, the Sierra Club had gathered over 115,000 signatures in a petition against the oil well!

The EPA now will address all public comments submitted and return with a decision on whether or not to deny or approve the underground injection well permit. Given the amount of comments received, there is no time frame for their decision - it could be months.

These small victories could not have taken place without the numerous concerned citizens of Florida! Thank you to everyone involved!