Thursday, December 17, 2015

EPA says Sabal Trail pipeline is threat to Florida's drinking water, then recants

The Sierra Club strongly opposes any oil and gas pipelines proposed for Florida. Currently we are working in opposition to the Sabal Trail Pipeline, a joint venture of Spectra Energy, Duke Energy and Next Era, the parent company of Florida Power & Light Co.

Map of the Sabal Trail gas pipeline in Florida
The pipeline is slated to originate in Alabama, run through Georgia and run 266.8 miles through parts of north and central Florida, to end in Osceola County at the Southeast Connector Project. Three compressor stations are proposed for Suwannee, Marion and Osceola counties, with pipeline proposed to run through Alachua, Hamilton, Suwannee, Gilchrist, Levy, Marion, Sumter, Lake, Polk, Osceola, Orange and Citrus Counties.

The proposed path of the pipeline will run through environmentally sensitive areas including the Green Swamp, over Florida’s springs, drilled under rivers and will cross nearly 100 acres of state parks, state forests and state recreation trails, not to mention its potential to drastically impact the Floridan aquifer.

In April, 2015, Sierra Club Florida filed an emergency petition with the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking designation of the Floridan Aquifer as a Sole Source Aquifer (SSA) under the EPA’s Sole Source Aquifer Protection Program. The emergency petition would protect Florida’s drinking water and put a roadblock to building of the pipeline.

On November 21st, 2014 Sabal Trail filed an application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the lead agency reviewing the proposed project. On September 3, 2015, FERC issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement to assess the potential environmental effects of the pipeline (Update: Final EIS released 12/18/15. Sierra Club Florida, in partnership with the Alabama and Georgia Chapters, and represented by Green Law, submitted joint comments to FERC in opposition to the proposed pipeline. In October, EPA wrote a 30 page letter to FERC, stating it had “very significant concerns” about the proposed route of the Sabal Trail Pipeline and the impact it will have on wetlands. Further, EPA cited the Sierra Club petition for SSA in is comments and strongly recommended an alternative route for the pipeline to avoid impacts to the Floridan Aquifer. FERC must issue a permit before the Sabal Trail Pipeline can be built. They are expected to issue their final ruling in March, 2016.

On December 11th however, EPA reversed its course on the pipeline when a different division of EPA said the wetlands-related issue was addressed after it met with Sabal Trail Management officials. In response, Frank Jackalone, senior organizing manager, Sierra Club of Florida, questioned the “about face” in such a short time and said, “I smell a skunk.” Further, Jackalone stated “This was really bold. There was a very detailed analysis of why the pipeline was flawed in the 30-page letter by the EPA to FERC. Now suddenly in a five-page letter, James Giattina (an EPA administrator) throws it all out the window.”

Back in Florida, after the EPA issued its scathing report, the WWALS Watershed Coalition asked a Florida administrative law judge to take judicial notice of the EPA objections. But the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) joined Sabal Trail Transmission LLC, the company proposing the pipeline, and objected to the judicial notice. The Administrative Law Judge denied the Coalition’s request and on December 11th, the judge recommended that DEP should issue an environmental resource permit for the proposed pipeline.

Sabal Trail Transmission LLC must also acquire a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act before the pipeline can be built. Sierra Club Florida, working with the Gulf Restoration Network and Green Law recently submitted comments in opposition to the Sabal Trail Pipeline to the U.S Army Corps of Engineers.

We will continue to do everything we can to oppose the Sabal Trail Pipeline and will keep our Members posted about ways you can take action to oppose the Pipeline.

-- Stephanie Kunkel

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Final push for Floridians for Solar Choice petition


The Sunshine State is currently one of only four states that prohibits citizens from being able to purchase electricity from anyone other than a utility. Because of this prohibition, Floridians are unable to access clean, homegrown energy sources such as solar.

Floridians for Solar Choice launched a ballot initiative to allow consumers the option to power their homes or businesses with solar power. For more information on the Solar Choice initiative, please visit www.flsolarchoice.org.

For the past several months, the Sierra Club has been actively working to help Floridians for Solar Choice collect enough petition signatures to place the solar initiative on the ballot. Sierra Club members and volunteers across Florida have been working to collect petition signatures of Club members and their friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. Because of you, Floridians for Solar Choice is about 80% of the way towards the required number of verified petition signatures.

But the utilities have launched their own counter petition, called Consumers for Smart Solar in an effort to confuse voters. Utilities want to control the solar market and maintain the status quo when it comes to solar energy, and are using petition gatherers to confuse voters into signing their ballot initiative over the one we support.  

We have a short window to ensure the truly “smart” solar initiative makes the November ballot and we need your help in the final push to the finish line! Petition signatures must be verified by the Florida Division of Elections by February 1st, 2016 in order to make the November ballot. If you haven’t already, please visit http://www.flsolarchoice.org/sign-the-petition/ to download and sign the petition by December 31st. Once you’ve signed the petition ask five friends to sign it as well. Together, we can place this amendment on the ballot to expand renewable energy in the Sunshine State.


To download the petition, click here.

-- Stephanie Kunkel

Lakelanders deliver petitions for clean energy, not coal

Petitions delivered to city commission
On December 7, just over a dozen Lakelanders delivered petitions demanding clean energy and the closure of one of the last coal plants in the state. 

Activists delivered more than 720 petitions to the City Commission, which acts as the board of directors for the City's utility, Lakeland Electric.  McIntosh 3, the only coal burning plant in Lakeland, puts around two million tons of carbon pollution into the air every year in addition to all the other toxic chemicals the community intakes on a daily basis.

Waiting to enter city chambers with petitions
Sierra Club was joined by the NAACP, Leaders from St. David's Episcopal Church, The Enactus at Florida Southern College, and other allies in the community.   The coalition held signs saying "You don't want coal in your stockings, so why would you want it in your lungs."  Also little stockings of "not coal" were given to the City Commissioners, asking them to find an alternative.
Fr. Robert Moses wants clean energy now

The press was out in force to cover the story, with camera crews from Bay News 9, ABC Action News, NBC- WFLA (Tampa), CBS Tampa, and Univision.  The Lakeland Ledger also ran a piece the following day.  It's clear that this is a critical issue to Lakeland, and the people demand leadership.




Florida Rallies for Paris Climate Agreement

St Petersburg Rally



On November 28 and 29, Floridians joined people from all around the world, in more than 200 countries, to rally in support of the Paris talks to fight climate change. The talks ended in an agreement last week, which Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune called "a turning point for humanity.

In the Tampa Bay area, hundreds of climate activists joined rallies in St. Petersburg and across the bay in Tampa. 

At the Tampa Rally, Andrew Rock, from the Tampa Bay Climate Action Network, asked that elected officials stop the partisanship and work together to solve the world's biggest crisis. 

Tampa Rally (photo credit WFLA)
Sierra Club's Tampa Bay Group Chair Kent Bailey said sea level rise is already affecting his boating experience on Tampa Bay.  Dr. Lynn Ringenberg, Florida president of the Physicians for Social Responsibility, urged Florida leaders to create a strong Clean Power Plan to cut our carbon.




French Consul Karine Aumon in Miami accepts a letter
urging strong global carbon reductions.
(Source: Jon Ullman)
In Miami, activists led by 350 South Florida marched over to the French Consulate on Brickell Avenue and presented a letter of support of the COP21 talks to Deputy Consul Karine Aumont.

Sierra Club's Jonathan Ullman was quoted by WLRN saying he hoped that COP21 will lead to meaningful action.  "We'd like to see a strong agreement...We'd like to see there be a set of commitments to reduce carbon, to achieve the levels scientists say are necessary to avoid a climate catastrophe."

Media
WFLA's coverage of the Tampa Rally.
WLRN's coverage of the Miami Rally.

Here's a video from the November 28 march in St. Petersburg:


Climate March, St. Petersburg, Florida from green thing on Vimeo.


And here's a video reading the letter to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius and coverage from all the Florida rallies:

Organizations and businesses demand water pollution fix in 2016


On December 9, at simultaneous press conferences, clean water activists representing Sierra Club and other Floridians’ Clean Water Declaration campaign coalition partners, delivered a letter signed by 106 organizations and businesses to Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, calling for real protection of the state’s imperiled waterways.  The letter urges all of Florida’s state legislators to amend the 2016 water bills, SB 552 and HB 7005.

These bills do not satisfy the needs of our waters and neglect many opportunities to create water policies that serve the public’s interest. Various regulated industries, agriculture, and their lobbyists are leading a retreat from protective policies and are instead relying on the same tools that have, for decades, failed Florida’s citizens and our waters.

The letter suggests twelve key areas of concern, which can be remedied by amendments.

“They are not done yet” said Maria Bolton-Joubert of the Central Florida Sierra Club, at the event in Orlando. “The legislature needs to roll up its sleeves and get to work fixing the problems in these bills.”

The Orlando crowd delivered a poster-sized copy of the letter, with all 106 signatures, to the senator’s aide and asked that Senate President Gardiner not only consider the list of concerns but also act to remedy them.

In addition to the office visits, dozens of activists gathered in front of Glen Springs in Gainesville. "We're not being careful, we're not conserving, we're not being efficient in our use of water and our use of fertilizer," said Bob Knight, Director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute.

“Some parts of this legislation work against, not toward, water conservation and protection of groundwater and surface water” said Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Senior Organizing Manager. "If we don't act as citizens right now, we're going to have a bill that controls the fate of our water supply and water quality for decades to come."


Signatories to the letter are calling for legislation that ensures conservation; long-term protection of Florida’s springs, rivers, estuaries and aquifers; and rapid restoration of imperiled waterways, because clean, plentiful water is the linchpin for Florida’s public, environmental, and economic health.

Press coverage of the events and the letter included stories by The Gainesville Sun, Florida Today, and the Palm Beach Post; TV news stations Channel 20 (Gainesville) and Channel 9 (Orlando); and post-event editorials in The Gainesville Sun and the Ocala Star Banner.

What can you do?

The Water Bills, SB 552 Environmental Resources by Sen. Dean and the companion bill, HB 7005 by Rep. Caldwell, are ready to go to the floor the first week of the legislative session that starts Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. Between now and then is our last chance to get these bills amended to do what they are supposed to do.  Your State Representative and Senator will be in the home district from now until Friday, Jan. 8 and they need to hear from you via phone calls, emails and personal visits about how to improve the bills. 

Familiarize your legislators and the members of your county’s legislative delegation with these amendments that address the deficiencies cited in the attached letter signed by 106 organizations and businesses (including Sierra Club Florida).  The amendments are drafted to SB 552 and are listed in the order in which they will appear in the bill. 

Individual voters can take action to send the same message to their own legislators: Please consider submitting a letter-to-the-editor to your local newspaper urging your state representative and senator to give Florida the holiday gift it really needs - an amended water bill.  Or urge legislators to make a New Year's resolution to amend the bill! Florida needs leadership on water issues and the choices our legislators make now will determine the future of our water resources – please add your voice to the call to get the water bills right!

Action Summary:

1. Call and email your state representative and senator. (For contact info click on the words and type in address or zip code.)
2. Set up an appointment to meet them in the district now until Jan. 8 (Their address is on their contact page. See above.)
3. Tell them to support these amendments to the bills. Print them out.
4. Write a letter to your local newspaper  asking for stronger water bills and urging your legislators to support the amendments. Read this letter for talking points. You can also talk about a local water body you care about that is threatened by pollution.

Click here for more photos and information on the Floridians’ Clean Water Declaration campaign.

-- Cris Costello and Dave Cullen

Saturday, December 5, 2015

PRESS ADVISORY: December 9 press events to ask Senate President Gardiner, House Speaker Crisafulli for clean water fix

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Cris Costello, Sierra Club, 941-914-0421 (cell)

PRESS ADVISORY

100 plus organizations and businesses from Panhandle to the Keys ask Senate President Gardiner, House Speaker Crisafulli for clean water fix

Simultaneous press conferences to be held at legislative leadership offices and at Glen Springs/Ring Park in Gainesville.

Orlando
When: Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Press conference: 11:00 am; delivery at 11:20 am

Where:  Office of Senate President Andy Gardiner
1013 East Michigan Street, Orlando, FL 32806

Local contact:  Katie Tripp, Save the Manatee Club, 407-539-0990

Merritt Island
When:  Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Press conference: 11:00 am; delivery at 11:20 am

Where:  Office of House Speaker Steve Crisafulli
2460 North Courtenay Parkway, Merritt Island, FL 32953-4193

Local contact:  Phil Stasik, Space Coast Progressive Alliance, 321-455-2221

Gainesville
Where:  Ring Park, 1801 NW 23rd Blvd. Gainesville, FL 32601

Local contact:  Maryvonne Devensky, Sierra Club, 352-871-1606; Whitey Markle, Sierra Club, 352-595-5131

What:  Dozens of civic groups and businesses will simultaneously gather in front of the district offices of Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Crisafulli and Glen Springs to ask for leadership to strengthen water legislation that fails to protect state’s water bodies and endangers human health.  Delivery of the letter to Senate President Gardiner and House Speaker Crisafulli offices will immediately follow the press conference.

Why:  Florida’s world-class lakes, rivers, and springs and estuaries are in declining health. Our state’s shimmering waters have turned green and many are making us sick. This has had a severe impact on our environment, local businesses and property values.

New House and Senate water bills (HB 7005 and SB 552) fall far short of what is needed to reverse this trend and local businesses and residents can no longer afford to wait.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Gardner have the power to change that. They can allow amendments to the bills when the new session begins in January that would strengthen the bills to do the job.

**VISUALS** Signs, photos, posters, and delivery of letter in Merritt Island and Orlando.

###

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sierra Club Florida Unveils 2016 Legislative Platform

Sierra Club Florida has unveiled its 2016 Legislative Platform.  The document is an important resource for groups and volunteers to use in their visits with legislators when explaining where Sierra Club Florida stands on issues. The full document can be seen and downloaded here. Your legislators will be in the district from December 5 through the first week of January.  Make your appointments now!

Changes in the 2016 Platform

Changes in the 2016 Platform include urging that the intent of the voters who voted for Amendment 1 be faithfully implemented, support for completing the Florida Trail, appropriate regulation of the disposal of cigarette waste on our beaches, and revamping the Clean Energy section to include references to the state’s statutory energy goals in § 187.201 F.S.

Florida shall reduce its energy requirements through enhanced conservation and efficiency measures in all end-use sectors and shall reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide by promoting an increased use of renewable energy resources and low-carbon-emitting electric power plants.”

Clean Energy

Sierra continues to advocate strongly for a comprehensive transition to a clean energy economy that abandons fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy sources and the implementation of energy efficiency.

The platform forms the foundation for our lobbying in opposition to the anti-Clean Power Plan bills filed by Sen. Evers (SB 838) and Rep. Manny Diaz (HB 639) Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Existing Stationary Sources which would prohibit Florida from submitting a State Implementation Plan (SIP) to the Environmental Protection Agency or acceding to any rules to reduce CO2 required under the CPP until either Congress specifically enacts the provisions or a federal court issues a final judgment stating the rules are legal.

It is also the basis for our support of a proposed Constitutional amendment and a linked implementing bill to extend the current exemption from ad valorem taxation for residential properties to non-residential properties as well (SJR 170 and SB 172 by Sen. Brandes and HJR 193 and HB 195 by Rep. Ray Rodrigues, Renewable Energy Source Device.)   The passage of the implementing bill means the exemption from real estate taxes on the value of solar panels would go into effect immediately on the adoption of the constitutional amendment by the voters instead of having to wait for the legislature to pass an implementing bill as happened with the residential exemption which was adopted by the voters in 2008 but not implemented until 2013.

Anti-Fracking 

The new platform also adds ‘acid fracturing’ and ‘acid matrix stimulations’ to fracking as procedures the Club supports banning.  The Club supports HB 19 by Rep. Jenne and SB 166 by Sen. Soto which call for a statutory ban on all fracking techniques in Florida.  We also support SJR 358 by Sen. Ring and HJR 453 by Rep. Javier Rodriguez that propose a Constitutional amendment to ban the practice.  Finally, we support Sen. Sobel’s Senate resolution expressing the support of the Florida Senate for a state ban on fracking.

The Club opposes this year’s HB 191 by Rep. Ray Rodrigues and SB 318 by Sen. Richter which exclude acid treatments from the definition of “high-pressure well stimulation” and thereby exclude them from any new regulation under the bill even though they are the treatments most likely to be used in Florida’s limestone and dolomite geology.  Worse, 191 and 318 preempt local control of all well stimulation treatments (including acidization - as well as anything to do with oil and gas development) and will prevent cities and counties from protecting their residents from the injection of toxic chemicals into the ground beneath their feet.)  The bills also provide that the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (Chapter 688 F.S.) will apply to any disclosure of the chemicals used to prevent citizens from finding out exactly what chemicals they and their families may be exposed to.

Electric Vehicles

This year’s platform also emphasizes issues surrounding Electric Vehicles that we hope to have legislative success with this session: enforcement of civil penalties for non-electric vehicles that park in EV charging stations, sales tax exemption for plug-in EVs, EV charging stations at multi-unit dwellings, rapid charging stations across Florida’s public roads, and increasing statewide electric vehicle fleets.

Sen. Soto has filed SB 364, which the Sierra Club and Drive Electric Florida has worked with the senator to amend. The bill will provide a sales tax exemption for the purchase of plug-in electric vehicles and hydrogen cars, capped at the first $40,000 of the sales price of each vehicle. The bill defines plug-in electric vehicles to include both electric vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Model S, as well as extended range electric vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt. The Sierra Club supports this good bill.

We continue to support a ban on plastic bags such as Sen. Bullard’s SB 306 and Rep. Richardson’s HB 143 that would permit a pilot program allowing coastal communities with a population of fewer than 100,000 to regulate or ban disposable bags.  The bills provide that the localities must collect data on the results of the regulation or ban and report to DEP.

To read the full Sierra Club 2016 Legislative Platform, click here.

###

Conservation Groups File Action to Curb Pollution from Burning Sugar Cane Fields

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 19, 2015

Conservation Groups File Action to Curb Pollution from Burning Sugar Cane Fields

South Florida cane burning emits over 2,800 tons of hazardous air pollutants annually

Burning sugarcane fields in Clewiston, Florida
TALLAHASSEE - On behalf of the Sierra Club, Earthjustice filed a legal action today asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate smoke pollution coming from thousands of acres of sugar cane that U.S. Sugar Corp. burns in South Florida each year. Burning the cane causes hazardous air pollution that poses a health risk to people.

The petition asks the EPA to veto a permit that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued to U.S. Sugar. The permit should be vetoed because it only regulates the smokestacks at a sugar refinery industrial plant, but doesn’t regulate the clouds of billowing black smoke coming off 150,000 acres of burning sugar cane each year.

 “People living in these communities have to breathe hazardous, black smoke. There’s a foul odor in the air and ash raining down. It’s not right, and that’s why we are challenging the permit,” said Frank Jackalone, Florida Organizing Manager for the Sierra Club. “Burning sugar cane fields is an outdated practice that should be stopped. People living in South Florida have the right to breathe clean air, and allowing this company to conduct open burning on thousands of acres without Clean Air Act regulation is both unfair and unsafe.”

Records show that sugar cane burning in Glades, Hendry, and Palm Beach counties emits over 2,800 tons of hazardous air pollutants per year. The burning accounts for 86 percent of Palm Beach County’s emissions of formaldehyde, a probable carcinogen, and 69 percent of emissions of toxic acenaphthylene, a pollutant linked to genetic mutations and cancer.
Sugar growers burn fields to remove excess leaves around cane stalks before harvesting. In some parts of Brazil and Australia, sugar growers have shifted to a greener approach; they cut away the leafy parts of sugar cane and use it to mulch fields. Sugar growers could also use the leafy cuttings as biofuel in processing plants that (unlike the open fields) have pollution control equipment.

“We believe that allowing these powerful multi-national corporations to do open burning, forcing people to breathe their toxic smoke, is a throwback to the past. We know more about this air pollution now, and what we know is alarming,” said Earthjustice Florida Managing Attorney David Guest.  “The pollution spreads east and west to both Florida coasts, but the heaviest impacts fall on the low-income sugar-farming communities around Lake Okeechobee.”

Online link to the petition:  http://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/US-Sugar-Petition.pdf

###

Read news stories: 

Organizations, businesses join forces to improve faulty water bills

After years of inaction, new legislation to stem declining water quality in springs, rivers, estuaries and aquifers has fallen short.

The 2016 water bills, SB 552 and HB 7005, rely on failed methods that have produced decades of polluted water.

In response, the Floridians' Clean Water Declaration (FCWD) has drafted a sign-on letter to urge the Florida Senate and House of Representatives to enact legislation that ensures conservation, rapid restoration and long-term protection of our waterways and aquifers.

The FCWD, led by representatives from 17 different water advocacy organizations, is an ad-hoc coalition to protect water quality and quantity in Florida. It organized large clean water rallies in Tallahassee in 2014 and 2015.

Help us expand the list of organizations and businesses (52) that have already signed the letter.

We will send the letter to the Senate President, House Speaker, and every other Florida Senator and Representative. We will also use it to engage a wider public in the fight to win clean water for Florida.

These faulty water bills are on on a fast-track to be debated on the Senate and House floors in the first week of the session starting January 12, 2016. We need to put pressure on lawmakers to amend these bills.

Read these stories (Miami Herald and The Gainesville Sun) about the proposed legislation, which point out the mad dash it is taking.

Please email cris.costello@sierraclub.org the following information to sign on to the letter by Monday, November 30, 2015:

Organization or business name
Organization/business representative’s title and name


United we can protect Florida's water.

-- Cris Costello, Senior Organizing Representative, Sierra Club

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sierra Club Urges Florida Senate to Reject Jon Steverson for DEP Secretary

Statement of Sierra Club Florida Executive Committee to Florida Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee  - November 18, 2015

DEP Secretary Jon Steverson
Many Sierra Club members consider State Parks to be the centerpiece of DEP's responsibilities.

The mission of the Florida Park Service, a key part of the Department of Environment Protection and the responsibility of its Secretary, foremost is to protect and manage our 171 state parks and trails for the recreational enjoyment of Florida's residents and our children.

Sadly, Jon Steverson has a much different mission.  He would subvert the fundamental purpose of managing our state parks for the enjoyment of all citizens to one of economic development for the few.  Floridians do not want hunting, cattle grazing or timber harvesting in their state parks. They want parks to be managed as parks.

The Senate should reject Governor Scott's nomination of Jon Steverson.  We urge you to ask the Governor to conduct a new search, and then send you a nominee who promises to serve Florida as a champion for the state parks and the wildlife they contain.

Note: The Committee voted to confirm Steverson. Sierra Club Florida will continue to oppose the nomination as it moves to a Senate Floor vote.

For More Information, Contact:
Tom Larson  tom.larson@florida.sierraclub.org
Frank Jackalone frank.jackalone@sierraclub.org

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Stop our State Parks' Destruction. Contact these Florida Senators now!

We need your calls and emails now to stop imminent threats to Florida’s award-winning State Parks: including cattle leases, timbering, well fields, and hunting. Contact the State Senators listed below before Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 2 p.m.

An Unprecedented Threat

Our parks are threatened by proposals for unprecedented new uses that put "The Real Florida” at risk, endanger visitors, impact ecological resources and violate the sensibilities most of us have for a bucolic and wholesome experience in the outdoors.

The Parks' overseer, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), seems intent on squeezing more money out of them, while the State Senate seeks to waive park entrance fees for a year. With funding for state park services cut severely over the past several years, why is a waiver of already-modest park entry fees being proposed? Why does the DEP need our parks to generate more revenue from non-compatible private enterprises when they already cover most of their costs?

A Radical Agenda

Unconfirmed DEP Secretary Jonathan Steverson has an agenda to radically change our State Parks from the traditional goals of conservation and recreation to a “multiple use” approach based on exploiting public resources. His pecuniary vision includes enterprising schemes, including cattle leases, timbering, well fields, and hunting. Several specific threats to the future of our state parks have emerged under DEP’s direction by Mr. Steverson.
Florida State Parks are for recreation, not cattle grazing, logging or hunting
Source: www.floridastateparks.org

Myakka State Cattle Park?

Mayakka State Park is not a place to run cattle, but that is exactly what DEP has proposed on the park's lands adjoining the Myakka River north of the Charlotte Harbor estuary.

Myakka is the second most popular inland state park in Florida, with more visitors each year than the famous Ringling Museums. DEP mandated that Myakka was to accommodate a cattle lease and staff were directed to prepare a draft 30-page request for proposal while being instructed to not let the public know. Neither the Friends of Myakka Community Service Organization nor the Myakka River Management Coordinating Council was told about this elaborate plan. It took an official public records request to break the silence and expose this folly.

Take Action!

The Florida Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee (EPC) meets Wednesday, November 18th at 2 p.m., to consider new bills:

     SB 400 - Organizational Structure of the Department of Environmental Protection
     SB 570 - State Park Entrance Fee Holiday

Please contact the EPC committee members and tell them to maintain state entrance fees and say NO to extraction and privatization schemes in our parks.

(phone and emails)
Chair: Senator Charles S. "Charlie" Dean, Sr.
850-487-5005 dean.charles.web@flsenate.gov
Vice Chair: Senator Wilton Simpson
850-487-5018 simpson.wilton.web@flsenate.gov
Other Committee Members:
Senator Thad Altman
850-487-5016 altman.thad.web@flsenate.gov
Senator Greg Evers
850-487-5002 evers.greg.web@flsenate.gov
Senator Alan Hays
850-487-5011 hays.alan.web@flsenate.gov
Senator Travis Hutson
850-487-5006 hutson.travis.web@flsenate.gov
Senator David Simmons
850-487-5010 simmons.david.web@flsenate.gov
Senator Christopher L. Smith
850-487-5031 smith.chris.web@flsenate.gov
Senator Darren Soto
850-487-5014 soto.darren.web@flsenate.gov

Copy here a list of all these email addresses:

dean.charles.web@flsenate.gov,simpson.wilton.web@flsenate.gov,altman.thad.web@flsenate.gov,evers.greg.web@flsenate.gov,hays.alan.web@flsenate.gov,hutson.travis.web@flsenate.gov,simmons.david.web@flsenate.gov,smith.chris.web@flsenate.gov,soto.darren.web@flsenate.gov

Other ways to help:

-- Sign the online petition at Change.org to challenge placing cattle in Myakka River State Park. This will enable us to contact you when DEP sets a date for a public meeting. If you lose the link, just go to Change.org and search for “Myakka”.

-- Write a letter to your local newspaper.  We need stories and letters to appear statewide.

-- Read a position paper presented at the 2015 Florida Audubon Assembly on “Standing for the Future of Florida State Parks.”

-- Stay informed! Consider: Florida Parks in Peril website and its Facebook public group, ProtectPaynesPrairie.org & its Facebook organization page, and DEP’s report on how State Parks make money for Florida: Florida State Parks Economic Impact Assessment 2014.

Sierra Club Florida will campaign in favor of protection of our fabulous state parks until this assault is over.

-- Jono Miller & Tom Larson, Sierra Club Florida

Friday, November 6, 2015

Fracking Bill Passed by House Subcommittee on Party Line Vote

A bill that would pave the way for fracking in Florida passed a House Subcommittee last week.

HB 191 Regulation of Oil and Gas by Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) passed the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee 9-4 on Tuesday, Nov. 3, despite 39 speakers representing at least 15 organizations opposing the bill.  Organizations against the bill included the Florida AFL-CIO, Sierra Club Florida, ReThink Energy, the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The only supporters of the bill were the Florida Petroleum Council, the Chamber of Commerce, and Associated Industries of Florida.

These members (all Democrats) voted NO on the bill and deserve a thank you call!  Please contact them and let them know you appreciate their standing up for you.



Rep. Katie Edwards   (Broward)                  850-717-5098  katie.edwards@myfloridahouse.gov

Rep. Bobby DuBose  (Broward)                   850-717-5094  bobby.dubose@myfloridahouse.gov

Rep. Larry Lee           (St. Lucie)                  850-717-5084  larry.lee@myfloridahouse.gov

Rep. Clovis Watson  (Alachua and Marion) 850-717-5020  clovis.watson@myfloridahouse.gov

All nine Republicans on the committee voted for the bill.

Your Representative and Senator will be in the home district this week.  It’s a great time to let them know that you - a constituent - are very concerned about these bad fracking bills.  For a full set of talking points and more details please see the Action Alert here: http://www.sierraclubfloridanews.org/  (scroll down to the Alert posted October 30, 2015.)

Find your legislator’s contact and address information here: http://myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/myrepresentative.aspx

HB 191 next goes to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and Natural Resources followed by the State Affairs Committee.  Watch for alerts to know when to contact the members of those committees.

The Senate companion, SB 318 by Sen. Richter (Collier and Lee) has not been heard in committee yet but we expect it to come up soon, so please watch for alerts on that bill too.

Why the bill is so bad:

The breadth of opposition to the bill reflects how bad it is.  Not only does it preempt local communities from adopting or enforcing regulations - including zoning - that interfere with anything to do with oil and gas (not just fracking), it also uses a definition that excludes acid fracking techniques which are most likely to be used in Florida because of our limestone and dolomite geology.  Therefore, the bill exempts acid treatments from any new regulation - there’s none in the bill and none will be allowed by local governments.

Also, citizens will not be able to find out what toxic chemicals are being injected into the ground because they can be hidden from them by way of the Trade Secrets Act (Chapter 688 of the Florida Statutes.)  First responders and medical personnel will not have the information either.  (At the federal level, first responders and medical personnel can get trade secret information when dealing with employees injured on the job but there is no provision for that in HB 191 or in Chapter 688.)

Sponsor Rodrigues claims fracking won’t be permitted until a study called for in the bill is complete and any impacts on aquifers are addressed in rulemaking.  But the bill does not link permitting to the study.  Also, the study is limited to the same very narrow definition of “high-pressure well stimulation” that excludes acid treatments.

Click here for a News Service of Florida article about the fracking vote.

Electric/Solar Boat Completes Voyage of Hope for Breast Cancer Awareness up Florida's Atlantic Coast

On Wednesday, November 4, the owner of a St. Petersburg-based electric boat company, Nancy Frainetti, and her sister Paula Frainetti completed a nine-day, 360-mile trip in an all-electric, solar powered boat up the length of Florida’s Atlantic Coast in a "Voyage of Hope." The purpose was to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer support services of The Donna Foundation, which serves the critical needs of First Coast women living with breast cancer within a 16-county area of Jacksonville.

Nancy Frainetti sells electric, solar powered boats at the Electric Marina in St. Petersburg. Her company was a sponsor of and exhibitor at St. Pete Drive Electric Day, and her electric boat served as the float for the Suncoast Sierra Club's entry in last June's Pride Parade on Central Ave., the location of Sierra Club's state office. 

Sierra Club hits the streets for People's Climate March in Florida

Sierra Club Florida members took to the streets for People's Climate marches and events in Tampa, Miami, Orlando, Gainesville and St. Augustine, joining 200 cities across the country on October 14. The marches were a follow-up to the People's Climate March in New York City, which attracted hundreds of thousands last year. This year's marches served as an important springboard to the Paris Climate talks later this year.

The Tampa March

Senator Marco Rubio’s Tampa office is just barely above sea level, which is why Sierra Club members, along with several dozen other allies, showed up to his office.

More than 100 people donned life jackets in keeping with the theme "the Rising Tide," both in the rising sea due to climate change, but also in the demand for action on climate by our leaders. Speakers from labor, public health professionals and the Sierra Club called out Rubio on being a climate denier and demanded action.


Working with allies like Physicians for Social Responsibility, Environment Florida, Service Employees International Union and AFL-CIO, the crowd and speakers represented the diversity of the Tampa Bay area and the concerns we all share in action on climate change.


Afterwards, marchers came together at SEIU 1199’s office for an ice cream social, hosted by Ben and Jerry’s. More than 40 people came to get their free scoop of ice cream and to support Ben and Jerry’s climate tour.

The Miami March


Dozens of Sierra Club members across South Florida took part in the Miami Climate March attended by 1,200 people. Members came from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, wearing Sierra Club t-shirts and carrying banners about the Everglades. They held a giant globe and signs as the march wound through downtown during rush hour from County Hall to to the Torch of Friendship monument a mile away.



Watch Orlando March: click here.

Polar Shift to Electric Buses from Diesel Coming in Pinellas County

It’s the beginning of the end of the era of dirty diesel as Pinellas County's transit board recognizes that the future of transit is electric.

With 35 Pinellas residents wearing bright green stickers that read: Zero Emission Buses NOW! We Can’t Afford NOT To!”, a polar shift from diesel to zero emission electric buses took place Wednesday, October 28, at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s (PSTA) board meeting. Although the board voted 8-7 to buy seven new diesel hybrid buses, it also voted unanimously for a six-month study of electric buses. Several board members stated that a shift to electric buses is the future of transit in Pinellas County, a densely populated coastal community that is at risk for more economic damage from climate change than any other in Florida.

The polar shift from diesel to electric that occurred in the past two months was a result of Sierra Club’s intensive public engagement campaign. Sierra Club staff and activists met with the majority of board members prior to the board meeting. As a direct result of Sierra Club advocacy, the new plan to purchase diesel-only buses has been scrapped.

Instead, the board voted to fully study all electric bus options during the next six months. Even Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, who voted to buy diesel hybrid buses instead of zero emission ones, called electric buses “inevitable … this is the future.”

The PSTA board also directed staff to begin work with Proterra, the nation’s leading bus manufacturer, to develop a “Lo-No” federal grant application to buy 6-10 electric buses. The grant application, which will face stiff competition from numerous transit agencies across the U.S., is due November 23. Sierra Club pledged to work to build support in the community that would be served by the Proterra buses.

Electric bus interest peaking across Florida

Pinellas County’s new interest in electric buses is not unique. Tallahassee’s StarMetro agency has been operating 5 of Proterra’s electric buses for the past 3 years, and now other Florida transit agencies are  also looking into how these new buses can help any agency meet its goals to reduce expenses and emissions. BYD, a global leader in electric buses based in China, demonstrated its bus for PSTA on September 14 after appearing at Sierra Club’s St. Pete Drive Electric Day EVent.  While PSTA declined BYD’s’s offer to let the agency test its bus on routes for a week, that offer was accepted last month by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Here’s Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez speaking on October 9th about his belief that the future of transit in Miami-Dade County is electric: http://tinyurl.com/ohxekuw

In addition to Pinellas and Miami-Dade, Orange and Alachua counties are now also seriously considering adding zero emission buses to their fleets. Florida State University, whose students have been riding electric buses for years across Tallahassee, is considering buying its own for campus transport. Orlando theme parks Disney and Universal are also in the market for electric buses to whisk their visitors between attractions. The electric buses would replace diesel buses that, while they provide a convenient service that allows tourists to park their cars for days during their stay, create an unhealthy situation for families with children with asthma forced to breathe diesel fumes as they wait to catch a bus.

-- Phil Compton, Florida Healthy Air Campaign, Sierra Club


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Bear Hunt Rallies Sierrans Across Florida

Opposition to the first black bear hunt in 21 years sparks protests across the state.

A rally outside of the offices of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission in downtown St. Petersburg made local and national news.
Despite a widely supported legal battle, statewide protests, and condemnation by editorial boards and community leaders, the first sanctioned Florida Black Bear hunt in 21 years ended after two days with the deaths of 298 reported bears. The number of unreported killings is unknown.

 After months of hearings and debate, the one-week hunt was approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in an attempt to cull what the FWC considered an overpopulation of the black bear in certain areas of the state. A legal filing by Speak Up Wekiva which was supported by Sierra Club Florida aimed to stop the hunt but failed.

The Florida black bear was removed from the threatened species list in 2012.  An increase in reportings of “nuisance” bears and an unscientific guesstimate of current population (around 3,000) led the FWC to call for a hunt. The state sold 3,778 bear hunting permits, more than one hunter per bear in the state.
Sierra activism began earlier this year when the FWC held public workshops in Tallahassee, Sarasota and Fort Lauderdale.  Members and supporters packed the hearings to voice stern opposition to the scientific need for a hunt, instead urging the commission to address the human behaviors (waste management)  that are leading bears to trash cans and backyards.

Days prior to the hunt, Sierra Club groups unified with other supporters in a dozen rallies across the state to protest the hunt.  Members joined forces  in Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Sarasota, Gainesville, Orlando, Miami,  Tampa and Petersburg, among other cities.

The FWC says it plans to hold the hunt annually.
The Florida black bear made a silent statement
during an FWC public hearing before the vote.

Frank Jackalone, Staff Director of Florida Sierra Club, expressed outrage in several media stories on behalf of the club and millions of bear hunt opponents.  “We are doubling our efforts to get this bear hunt canceled permanently,” he told the Tampa Tribune. “We will go to the courts. We will go back to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. We will go back to the governor and we will go to the people of  Florida.”

In a guest column  in the Tampa Bay Times, conservation photojournalist Carlton Ward Jr., a leader in the Florida Wildlife Corridor Project,  expressed concern for the long-term survival of the Florida black bear if unrelenting development continues. He calls for the immediate use of $500 million in Amendment 1 funds to go toward land conservation, targeting wildlife corridors for bear subpopulations and easements for working farms and ranches.
“I hope that the bears that died  … will capture our attention and send us down a path to connect a statewide network of conservation lands for the future of their species and ours,” he said in his commentary.


 A petition to FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley to Stop Killing the Black Bear can be found at www.change.org/p/nick-wiley-executive-director-fwc-stop-killing-black-bears
 

Friday, October 30, 2015

ACTION ALERT: Fracking Bill up in Committee Next Tuesday

CALLS NEEDED NOW!

A Texas gas drilling rig
By Loadmaster (David R. Tribble)

HB 191 - Regulation of Oil and Gas  by Rep. Ray Rodrigues, will be heard in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee next Tuesday, November 3 at noon.  Please contact the members of the committee to urge them to vote NO on this bill.  Also, contact your personal Representative and Senator and urge them to stop the bills permitting fracking.   Committee member contact information is below. 

There are currently six fracking bills filed this year.  A brief explanation of each is included at the bottom of this alert.  Please take a minute to go through it so you’ll know which are good, which are bad, and which legislators are behind them.  (The sponsor of the bad bill HB 191 - the subject of this alert, is Rep. Rodrigues (with an ‘s’) who could easily be confused with Rep.Javier Rodriguez (with a ‘z’) the sponsor of a good Constitutional amendment to ban fracking, e.g.)

     House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee 2016

Rep. Tom Goodson, Chair  850-717-5050     tom.goodson@myfloridahouse.gov

Rep. Jake Raburn, V Chair  850-717-5057     jake.raburn@myfloridahouse.gov

Rep. Jim Boyd                     850-717-5071     jim.boyd@myfloridahouse.gov

Rep. Neil Combee              850-717-5039     neil.combee@myfloridahouse.gov

Rep. Brad Drake                 850-717-5005     brad.drake@myfloridahouse.gov

Rep. Bobby DuBose            850-717-5094     bobby.dubose@myfloridahouse.gov

Rep. Katie Edwards            850-717-5098     katie.edwards@myfloridahouse.gov

Rep. Larry Lee                    850-717-5084     larry.lee@myfloridahouse.gov

Rep. Ray Pilon                    850-717-5072     ray.pilon@myfloridahouse.gov

Rep. Jimmie Smith             850-717-5034     jimmie.smith@myfloridahouse.gov

Rep. Cyndi Stevenson         850-717-5017     cyndi.stevenson@myfloridahouse.gov

Rep. Jennifer Sullivan         850-717-5031     jennifer.sullivan@myfloridahouse.gov

Rep. Clovis Watson             850-717-5020     clovis.watson@myfloridahouse.gov

Emails to copy and paste:

jim.boyd@myfloridahouse.gov, neil.combee@myfloridahouse.gov, brad.drake@myfloridahouse.gov, bobby.dubose@myfloridahouse.gov, katie.edwards@myfloridahouse.gov, tom.goodson@myfloridahouse.gov, larry.lee@myfloridahouse.gov, ray.pilon@myfloridahouse.gov, jake.raburn@myfloridahouse.gov, jimmie.smith@myfloridahouse.gov, cyndi.stevenson@myfloridahouse.gov, jennifer.sullivan@myfloridahouse.gov, clovis.watson@myfloridahouse.gov,




Talking Points

Fracking imposes unnecessary and unacceptable risks on the residents of Florida.  The tremendous use of water that is forever lost due to contamination, the risk of contaminating our aquifers, and the continuing contribution of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere posed by fracking and burning natural gas is unconscionable when energy efficiency and renewable energy offer a clean and safe alternative. 



HB 191:

  • Completely preempts anything to do with oil or gas to the state, including: exploration, development, production, processing, storage, or transportation.  The preemption would apply to existing ordinances as well as prohibiting the adoption of new ones.
  • Uses a definition for “high-pressure well stimulation” that exempts the fracking activities most likely to be used in Florida from any regulation because those techniques, acid fracturing and acid matrix stimulation, are performed at lower pressure and are thereby excluded from the definition in the bill.  These are the techniques most often used in limestone and dolomite geological areas like Florida
  • Exposes municipalities to all oil and gas exploration and production activities inside city limits, (not just fracking) regardless of local government’s wishes by eliminating a provision in current law that permits can only be issued if the governing body of the city passes a resolution in favor of the oil/gas activity,
  • Provides that permits will be issued as soon as rulemaking is complete regardless of what a study required by the bill may reveal,
  • Designates FracFocus as the official chemical disclosure registry while preventing citizens from knowing what is being injected into the ground beneath their feet by use of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

Backers of the bill tout it as being a moratorium (a delay before fracking permits are issued.)  Permits won’t be issued right away, but they will be issued as soon as the rulemaking process is complete. And all of the other bad policy in the bill will be effective immediately. The preemption, the vulnerability of cities that oil/gas operators may want to drill in, and of course, the definition of “high-pressure well stimulation” that excludes the most likely methods of fracking for Florida from new regulation will all take effect on Day One.  No new regulations or permitting will be put in place for acid fracturing or acid matrix stimulation and the potential for contamination will occur regardless of whether or not “high-pressure well stimulations” permits are being issued.  The broad preemption language will prevent localities from doing anything about it, and the Trade Secrets provision will prevent residents from finding out what toxic chemicals they may be exposed to.

The bill calls for a study, but only of “high-pressure well stimulation.”  And there is no provision for delay or a change in direction if the study turns up a threat to public health - fracking permits get issued when rulemaking is complete.

Water Use:


Contaminants:

  • Oil and gas service companies used hydraulic fracturing products containing 29 chemicals that are (1) known or possible human carcinogens, (2) regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act for their risks to human health, or (3) listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. These 29 chemicals were components of 652 different products used hydraulic fracturing. Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Commerce and Energy, Minority Staff Report, 2011
  • Flowback from fracking wells can contain radioactive materials from deep under the earth. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3915249/
  • The National Academy of Sciences discovered that homes within 1 kilometer (2/3 mile) were six times more likely to have six times more methane in their drinking water than those farther away.  Ethane levels were 23 times higher

Trade Secrets:

  • HB 191 lets well operators claim the chemicals they use are “trade secrets” which means residents, first responders, and medical personnel cannot find out what they are dealing with.  All that is necessary to claim “trade secret” protection is to say the secret is valuable to the well operator and that the well operator is trying to keep it a secret.  688.002 (4) Florida Statutes

    Health Impacts:

The New York State Department of Health report states under ‘Health outcomes near HVHF (high volume hydraulic fracturing)Activity:

  • One peer-reviewed study and one university report have presented data indicating statistical associations between some birth outcomes (low birth weight and some congenital defects) and residential proximity of the mother to well pads during pregnancy (Hill, 2012; McKenzie, 2014). Proximity to higher-density HVHF well pad development was associated with increased incidence of congenital heart defects and neural-tube defects in one of the studies (McKenzie, 2014).

Fracking legislation filed for 2016 session:

Good Anti-fracking bills:

There are two bills to ban fracking by statute:

SB 0166 Oil and Natural Gas Production or Recovery  by Sen. Soto has been referred to Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Commerce and Tourism; Community Affairs; Fiscal Policy

HB 0019 Well Stimulation Treatments by Rep. Jenne has been referred to Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee; Energy and Utilities Subcommittee; Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee; State Affairs Committee


There are also two good Joint Resolutions to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to ban fracking in the state:


SJR 0358 Hydraulic Fracturing  by Sen. Ring has been referred to Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Judiciary; Rules.

A similar Joint Resolution has been filed by Rep. Javier Rodriguez (with a ‘z’) -

HJR 0453 Well Stimulation by Rep. Rodriguez (with a ‘z’) but has not yet been referred to  committees.


The legislature can place proposed amendments to the state constitution without getting any petitions signed.  The only requirement is that the Resolution proposing the amendment get a 3/5ths vote in each chamber.  (It would also need the approval of 60% of the voters to be adopted.)


Bad Pro-fracking bills:

HB 0191 Regulation of Oil and Gas Resources by Rep. Rodrigues (with an ‘s’) has been referred to to Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee; Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee; State Affairs Committee.  (It is the bill up in Agriculture and Natural Resources on Tuesday, November 3.)


SB 0318 Regulation of Oil and Gas Resources by Sen. Richter has been referred to Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government; Appropriations.


This year the pro-fracking sponsors have not filed separate ‘trade secrets’ bills and are relying on the process already in statute in Chapter 688 to protect them from having to disclose what toxic chemicals they are injecting into the ground.