Thursday, May 29, 2014

Tell Governor Rick Scott to support President Obama's climate action plan

Background
As the cornerstone of President’s Climate Action Plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday will issue a proposal to curb dangerous carbon pollution -- the source of record heat, superstorms and sea level rise -- from existing power plants for the first time ever. 

The new protections will also help reduce other life-threatening air pollution including mercury, soot, and smog and spur investments in clean energy-- like solar power and energy efficiency.

Governor Rick Scott could stand in the way of this important protection against unchecked carbon pollution. If we don’t make sure the Governor hears from us, we may end up with a state plan that doesn’t do enough to protect us and our future. 

Take Action!
Call Governor Rick Scott’s office at (850) 488-7146 and say:
I am a concerned Floridian who wants Governor Scott to stand up to big polluters and protect our families from industrial carbon pollution. I would like the Governor to support strong and just EPA safeguards against carbon pollution! 

Drop us an email to let us know you called to: jonathan.ullman@sierraclub.org

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sierra Club Florida Veto Request on Brownfields Bill, HB 325


Sierra Club Florida Asks Governor Scott to Veto Brownfields Bill

 
 
May 28, 2014

The Honorable Rick Scott, Governor
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Dear Governor Scott:

Sierra Club Florida urges you to veto HB 325, titled “Brownfields.”

Section 3 of HB 325 provides an exemption from liability for property damage related to brownfield rehabilitation caused by a person who has signed a Brownfield Site Rehabilitation Agreement (BSRA) even in situations where the Person Responsible for Site Rehabilitation (PRSR) may have caused the damage by acts of commission or omission.  The bill leaves a party injured by the presence of toxic contaminants without recourse to the courts and deprives them of any opportunity to be made whole; it is illogical in that it provides liability protection for property damage but not personal injury; and it extends liability protection to a class of persons that includes those who may have caused damage to others.

Specifically the bill would:

1) Grant broad immunity from property liability to a person responsible for a brownfield site rehabilitation by listing three specific actions that void the immunity and thereby extend that immunity to all other acts or failures to act.  The exclusion of anything of the same class that is not included in a list is commonly known by the phrase “expressio unius est exclusio alterius” (when one or more things of a class are expressly mentioned others of the same class are excluded.)  On lines 219-226 of the enrolled version of the bill three actions are listed that void liability protection:

  • discharge of contaminants on the site,
  • fraud in demonstrating site conditions or completing site rehabilitation of a property subject to a brownfield site rehabilitation agreement, or
  • exacerbating contamination on the site.
The listing of these three actions precludes any other acts or failures to act from exposing the site rehabilitator to liability.  In particular, by limiting the instances in which the person responsible for site rehabilitation is liable for damage to another party’s property, the bill excludes situations that are currently addressed in 376.82(3)(b)-(d) F.S.  These three paragraphs of the “reopeners” subsection (so called because they cause the Brownfield Site Rehabilitation Agreement to be reopened) comprise situations in which a person responsible for site rehabilitation could be the cause of the property damage:

  • 376.82 (3)(b): discovery of previously unknown contamination - The contamination could be due to migration from off site (in which case it would not be the site rehabilitator’s fault), or it could be due to a lack of due diligence on the part of the site rehabilitator or his agents during the initial assessment of the property (in which case he should be legally responsible for any damages.)
  • 376.82 (3)(c): failure of remediation efforts – Again, the contamination could be from off site or from a deeply buried drum that subsequently ruptures (in which case it would not be the site rehabilitator’s fault) or it could be due to incompetence, running out of money, insufficient supervision, or the like (in which case he should be legally responsible.)
  • 376.82 (3)(d): a change in land use – Different land uses must meet different standards for toxics per the Statutes.  Industrial sites are able to be rehabilitated to lower standards than residential sites.  If a site rehabilitator cleans up a site to industrial standards and then applies for and receives a residential land classification while failing to do the additional clean up to meet residential standards, he should be legally responsible for any damages.
Under current law, a party damaged in any of these reopener scenarios is able to sue.  The attorney’s fees provisions of 57.105 provide a significant disincentive to the filing of frivolous suits.  But under HB 325, reopener situations in which the site rehabilitator has been delinquent, incompetent, or irresponsible would not be actionable unless the plaintiff can show fraud (a high bar) or that the site rehabilitator is responsible for the presence or worsening of the contamination.

 
2) Provides illogical protection from liability.  Lines 227-230 make it clear that the liability protection introduced in the bill is solely for property damage.  (Current law provides no liability protection for site rehabilitators from “damages to property or person”.)   In either case, property or personal injury, the cause would be the same – toxic contamination.  Yet the bill illogically makes a distinction between the two by providing that site rehabilitators are exempt from suits for property damage.  If they are liable for personal injury, they should be equally liable for property damage.

 
3) Unjustly extends liability protection to a class of persons who could be the cause of damage to others. Protecting a class of persons from liability should only be done for good reason: 1) the class of persons is legally incapable of being responsible, 2) the class of persons is categorically incapable of having caused the damages suffered by another, or 3) the class of persons may have caused the damages, but making them pay for them (and going through the trial process) would have a greater cost to the society than finding justice for the injured party.  An example of this second category would be instances where national security matters would have to be entered into evidence at the risk of exposing American agents to retribution. 

 In the case where a party could not have caused an injury, exempting them from liability does no harm to the injured party since the exempted party could not have caused the injury in the first place.  But in the case where the exempted party is exempted even though they may have caused the injury because the cost to society of exacting justice from them is deemed to result in a greater injustice elsewhere, the injured party suffers a second injury – loss of access to the court. 

 The backers of the Brownfields bill have claimed that site rehabilitators are categorically incapable of being the cause of property damage to others because the person who contaminates a site is ineligible to become a site rehabiliatator.  Hence, they claim they are entitled to liability protection.  Yet they continue to accept liability for personal injury - which can only be caused by the same contamination, and they attempt to brush away the reopener scenarios where there are clear examples of their potential responsibility for damages. 

 They also claim the potential for lawsuits is a disincentive sufficient to prevent companies from taking on brownfield site rehabilitation projects and therefore, the cost to society is too great to allow injured parties to sue them.   Yet, despite repeated requests, no list of illustrative unfair lawsuits was ever produced. 

 
We urge you to exercise your authority to veto this bill in order to ensure access to justice for all Floridians who may suffer damages related to toxic contaminants because of a site rehabilitator’s lack of due diligence in searching out the extent of the contamination or his incompetence or inability to successfully complete the rehabilitation, or in the case where the PRSR cleans a site to one set of standards and then requests a land use change that would require that a higher cleanup standard apply. 

 
Sincerely,

David J. Cullen
on behalf of the Sierra Club Florida Executive Committee

David J. Cullen
Sierra Club Florida Lobbyist

111 2nd Ave NE Ste 1001
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

941-323-2404

 

 

 

50 groups to Florida Attorney General Bondi: withdraw challenge to Chesapeake Bay cleanup



The Floridian's Clean Water Declaration Campaign is working to bring the voices of water quality advocates in the non-profit and business worlds together to send a loud and clear message to Florida's decision-makers and water mangers.  The first sign-on letter distributed and transmitted by the campaign is directed at Attorney General Pam Bondi, Governor Rick Scott, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio:

May 27, 2014

Office of Attorney General
State of Florida
The Capitol PL-01
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050

RE:  Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint Amicus Brief

Dear Attorney General Bondi:

When the leadership of six states joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in an historic plan to effectively manage under-treated sewage, industrial discharges and, most important, agricultural pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, water managers in our state recognized that such collaborative success in the Mid-Atlantic could lead to solutions to Florida’s fouled waters as well.

We understood why some regulated industries tied to outdated, unsustainable business practices would fight the cleanup of the Chesapeake, but were confounded and outraged as to why our Attorney General would join the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Pork Council, The Fertilizer Institute, and the National Beef Cattleman’s Association in a lawsuit against the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint.

This cannot be credibly portrayed as a state’s-rights issue, as the Chesapeake Bay states signed and supported the cleanup plan.  The legal challenge also cannot be portrayed as protecting Floridians’ interests; the demise of the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint would actually set a negative precedent for the development and implementation of effective cleanup plans for Florida’s waters.

The waters of Florida, and across the country, suffer from the same source of pollution as Chesapeake Bay – too much nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer, sewage and animal manure.  Algal blooms explode; toxic dead zones are created; and waters are rendered unfit for swimming, fishing or drinking.  There isn’t one region of Florida that has escaped the impacts of this pollution – we have the lost jobs, decreased property values, and diminished quality of life to show for it from the Panhandle to the Keys but nowhere has the extent of this water quality problem in Florida been more apparent than in the Everglades ecosystem in the last 12 months.

If the Everglades is to be restored, we must effectively deal with not only the storage and conveyance of water through the region but also the quality of that water.  Water quality in the Everglades will never be improved if regulated industries do not stop pollution at its source instead of sending it flowing into state waters.  The Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint should be used as a map for other states rather than be attacked because it might actually accomplish what it proposes to do.

The Everglades is the hallmark of Florida – a unique ecosystem found nowhere else on earth – that provides our state with clean drinking water, incredibly biodiversity, and countless recreational opportunities for Floridians and visitors alike that bolster our tourism economy.  We need to do everything possible to protect the waters of the Everglades, including supporting and encouraging fruitful collaboration between the state and the US EPA.  The State of Florida has been calling on the federal government to “do its part” with regard to the restoration of the Everglades ecosystem; any attempt to sabotage collaboration between the US EPA and another state or states does nothing but hurt our endeavors here to share the burden with Florida’s federal partners.

To show the citizens of Florida that you are committed to ensuring Florida's water bodies are clean and healthy, we, the 50 undersigned organizations and businesses, ask you to immediately withdraw the state's involvement in the American Farm Bureau Federation, et. al v. Environmental Protection Agency, (3d. Cir. 2014).



Sincerely,

Save the Manatee Club
Katie Tripp, Ph.D.
Director of Science and Conservation

St. Johns Riverkeeper
Lisa Rinaman
Riverkeeper

Putnam County Environmental Council
Tim Keyser
President

Reef Relief
Peter Anderson
Chair

IDEAS For Us
Chris Castro
Co-founder, Vice President

Sierra Club Florida
Debbie Matthews
Chair

Lobby For Animals
Thomas Ponce
Founder

Our Santa Fe River, Inc.
Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson
President

1000 Friends of Florida
Charles Pattison, FAICP
President

PRC Digital Media
Ray Hays
President

Paddle Florida, Inc.
Bill Richards
Executive Director

Ocean River Institute
Rob Moir Ph.D.
Director

Conservancy of Southwest Florida
Jennifer Hecker
Director of Natural Resource Policy

ECOSWF
Becky Ayech
President

Stone Crab Alliance
Karen Dwyer, Ph.D., John P. Dwyer, Ph.D.
Co-founders

Alliance for a Livable Pinellas
Bill Stokes
Founder

Adventure Kayak Tours
Stephen Cox
Owner

Center for Biological Diversity
Jaclyn Lopez
Staff Attorney

Intracoastal Eco-Systems LLC
Lee Shepard
President

Tropical Kayak Tours
Rhonda Good Cox
Owner

Santa Fe Lake Dwellers Association
Jill McGuire
President

Loxahatchee Group of the Sierra Club
Drew Martin
Conservation Chair

Suwannee St. Johns Group of the Sierra Club
Tamara Robbins
Chair

Miami Group of the Sierra Club
Jim Teas
Chair

Around the Bend Nature Tours LLC
Karen Fraley
Manager/Naturalist

Preserve Brevard
Vince Lamb
Chairman

Gulf Restoration Network
Cathy Harrelson
Florida Organizer

Suncoast Waterkeeper
Justin Bloom
Waterkeeper

Anglers for Conservation (AFC)
Rodney Smith
President

League of Women Voters of Florida
Rosalie Shaffer
President, LWV of Manatee County

Indian River Lagoon Coalition
Judy Orcutt
Secretary

Oklawaha Valley Audubon Society (OVAS)
Linda Bystrak
President

Matanzas Riverkeeper
Neil Armingeon
Riverkeeper

Central Florida Group of the Sierra Club
Marjorie Holt
Chair/Conservation Chair

Indian River Lagoon Paddle Adventure
John Kumiski
Founder

Agrarian Land and Pond, LLC
Zachary Marimon
President

Solutions To Avoid Red Tide (START)
Sandy Gilbert
Chairman

Marine Resources Council
Leesa Souto
Executive Director

Turtle Coast Group of the Sierra Club
Deborah Longman-Marien
Chair

Suncoast Group of the Sierra Club
Lisa Hinton
Executive Committee Chair

Friends of Warm Mineral Springs, Inc.
Juliette Jones
Secretary

Ichetucknee Alliance, Inc.
John Jopling
President

Clean Water Action
Kathy Aterno
National Managing Director and Florida Director

South Florida Audubon Society
Grant Campbell
Director of Wildlife Policy/Conservation Chair

Conradina Chapter of the Native Plant Society
Suzanne Valencia
President

River Kidz of St. Lucie County/Indian River County
Katy Lewey
Head Organizer

Pax Christi Florida
Carol Ann Breyer

Indian Riverkeeper
Marty Baum

Florida Defenders of the Environment
Karen Ahlers
Ocklawaha River Restoration Coordinator

Pelican Island Audubon Society
Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
President

cc:        Governor Rick Scott
            Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam
            Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater
            U.S. Senator Bill Nelson
            U.S. Senator Marco Rubio



Saturday, May 24, 2014

Florida Sierrans Join Hands, Lead National Day of Action Against Dirty Fuels

Angeles Chapter at Wilmington, CA (Los Angeles)

Saturday May 17: 5000 Americans gathered in numbers large & small across America in 100 communities and 43 states, to say No to KXLNo to ALL dirty fuels. 20 events were in FL, part of the 5th annual Hands Across the Sand

Rocky Mountain Chapter on steps of CO State Capitol

As 5000 had rallied in Washington D.C. 3 weeks earlier to urge the president to reject the Keystone XL, last Saturday people turned out in their own communities. Stands were taken against their local threat from Big Oil’s unprecedented assault on America: offshore drilling, seismic testing, dangerous tar sands pipelines, fracking, exporting liquid natural gas, or shipping crude by rail through our hometowns.

This National Day of Action against dirty fuels was organized with help from Surfriders, Gulf Restoration Network, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Oceana, Center for Biological Diversity, Bold Nebraska and 350.org local activists. But it was Sierra Club staff and volunteers that led the way, doing the lion’s share of organizing on the national and local level, with Our Wild America staff engaged wherever they could.
Missouri Chapter Draws the Line On Tar Sands In Kansas City
Nationally our small but determined team of National Online Organizer Brian Dockstader, FL Senior Organizing Manager Frank Jackalone, FL Regional Organizing Representative Phil Compton, Sierra Club Foundation Board member Marc WeissOur Wild America Communications staff Virginia Cramer and D.C. Beyond Oil interns Alison Bressler, Furman University and Zabrina Arnovitz, Kent State University.  

We reached out to every chapter leader and staff, sent convios to all recent activists, and merged with Hands Across the SandHands is an annual grassroots stand against offshore drilling that started in 2010 when the nation joined gulf coast residents as the impact was being felt of the world’s biggest environmental disaster, the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout. Since then, as utilities have begun to move beyond coal, Big Oil has used new extraction technology to expand from drilling in the gulf to an unprecedented assault on every region of America
Our goal:  keep up the drumbeat of opposition to KXL that has succeeded in delaying approval, as well as stand against the myriad of Big Oil's local and regional threats now confronting Americans everywhere.
Chapters/Groups who led in organizing events with local allies:
*Wilmington (Los Angeles), CA: Angeles Chapter; Ventura (San Diego), CA: Los Padres Chapter; *Denver, CO: Rocky Mountain Chapter & Staff Matt Reed; Glenwood Springs, CO: Roaring Fork Group, Rocky Mountain Chapter; Milford, CT: Connecticut Chapter; Wilmington DE: Delaware Chapter & Chapter staff Stephanie Herron; *St. Pete Beach, FL: Florida Chapter, Suncoast Group; Wichita KS: Kansas & Oklahoma Chapters; Des Moines IA and Council Bluffs, IA / Omaha, NE: Iowa Chapter; *East Chicago, IN: Illinois Chapter, Chicago Group & Hoosier Chapter, NW IN Group; *Portland, ME: Maine Chapter; *Minneapolis – St. Paul, MN: North Star Chapter; Kansas City, MO: Missouri Chapter; Fargo, ND: Dacotah Chapter; Albuquerque & Santa Fe, NM: Rio Grande Chapter; Greenville, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, and Charleston, SC: South Carolina Chapter; Memphis, TN: Tennessee Chapter, Chickasaw Group; Houston, TX: Lone Star Chapter, Houston Group
Illinois & Hoosier Chapter stand at site of tar sands refinery that spilled oil into Lake Michigan recently
Events led by Our Wild America staff:  
Anchorage, Alaska: Lindsey Hejduk; Santa Barbara, CA: Michael Thornton; Naples, FL: Alexis MeyerKailua, Hawaii: Caitlin Pomerantz; Trenton, NJ: Nicole Dallara; Virginia Beach, VA: Eileen Levandoski; *Seattle, WA: Graham Taylor
*=Flagship events with especially high turnout and regional significance. 
Several events, such as East Chicago and Wilmington (LA), CA, had a strong Environmental Justice angle, as they were held on low income minority communities that are now the site of drilling and tar sands refineries that ravage local air and water quality. Houston’s event was held at Texas Southern University as part of a regional EJ conference attended by many local Sierrans, and the ranchers and tribes of the Cowboy Indian Alliance joined Bold Nebraska at events centered on the threat of the Keystone XL pipeline to the nation’s heartland. 
A few highlights:
Hands were joined across the sands of 20 Florida beaches, and 7 in California, with turnouts of 200 or more at St. Pete Beach and Indian Rocks Beach in Tampa Bay, Miami Beach, and Kailua, Hawaii. Other coastal states focused on the imminent threat of seismic testing to hundreds of thousands of whales and dolphins, a sacrifice to discover new sites for drilling off the Atlantic coast, were Georgia, South & North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, joined by gulf states Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Suncoast Group, FL Chapter Join Hands on St. Pete Beach against oil and for green transit choices. 
Inland events focused more upon the central theme of rejecting the KXL pipeline. America’s largest event was in Omaha, where 231 faced the Missouri River to join hands across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge between Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa. North Star Chapter members joined hands across the Mississippi River on a bridge linking Minneapolis and St. Paul with allies 350 MN & OFA Climate Change to stand against the Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline.  Illinois Chapter activists and 350 allies joined  our NW IN Group to rally at the site of the BP tar sands refinery that a few weeks earlier had dumped oil into Chicago’s water supply, Lake Michigan. And Rocky Mountain Chapter leaders stood on the steps of the Colorado State House to stand for local control of fracking and drilling in their state.
Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa Chapters stand against KXL 

Days after an oil pipeline rupture put a Los Angeles neighborhood waist deep in oil, the Angeles Chapter worked with other members of the SoCal Climate Action Coalition 350.org. to organize a bi-lingual community workshop in a largely Hispanic community already beset by poor air quality from drilling and fracking, now facing a new threat of tar sand oil being shipped out of the port at Wilmington via a new pipeline through this community under siege by Big Oil. A similar threat up the coast in the San Francisco Bay area, where the Valero Benicia Refinery has proposed to begin transporting crude oil by rail tanker cars, was met by a Refinery Corridor Healing Walk at the port town of Martinez, the 2nd in a series of such events.  Across the nation in Portland, Maine, the threat of tar sands oil being shipped out through this harbor turned out 100 on a rainy day to speak up for protecting Maine’s pristine lakes, rivers and bays.

Down in Florida where anti-drilling activists held their 5th annual Hands Across the Sand events, the focus expanded from offshore drilling to a call for moving America’s most oil dependent state beyond oil through investing in the cleaner transit options it so sorely lacks. 200 gathered on America’s most popular beach destination, St. Pete Beach, to link dirty fuels to a call for support of America’s biggest transit referendum this year, Greenlight Pinellas, the most powerful thing that can be done to reduce the region’s demand for the oil that continues to threaten the state’s beach tourism based economy.
All over America, in practically every state, Sierrans rallied with their neighbors to call for freedom from the tyranny of fossil fuels that now threaten our lakes, rivers and beaches, our water and air, and to protect the world from rising sea levels and the impact of rising temperatures.  The momentum against Big Oil has turned in our favor, at the same time Oil’s reach widens to attack us all. Saturday, Sierra Club members stood up to Big Oil. Let’s keep up the fight!

Sample of the local media nationwide:
Omaha, NE:
Lake Worth Beach, FL:
East Chicago, IL:
MARTINEZ (San Francisco Bay), CA: Martinez News-Gazette: Healing Walk to ‘Connect the Dots’ through Martinez
Hermosa Beach, CAEasyReaderNews: Hermosa Beach residents promotes green agenda

Portland, ME:
Ocean Springs, MS:
Miami Beach, FL:
CultureDesigners.com: It's High Noon in Miami, Baby!
Miami Herald: Hands Across the Sand
Pensacola Beach, FL:
Tampa Bay, FL:
Tampa Bay Times: Video: Hands Across the Sand
Naples, FL:
Denver, CO:
Derby, CT: