Tuesday, February 24, 2015

RALLY CRY: Amendment 1 is not your slush fund!

What do we want?  Clean water!  How do we get it?  Buy the land!
“Amendment 1 is not your slush fund!”
“Buy the land!  Send water south!

These are some of the loudest chants heard on February 18, when 400 activists gathered together at the Floridians for Clean Water & Amendment 1 Rally on the Historic Front Steps of the Capitol Building in Tallahassee. The crowds delivered a resounding message to the Governor and the legislature:

1. Protecting conservation lands is essential to protecting our water resources – we must protect our waters at the source;
2. We must invest in our undeveloped natural areas before they are gone; and
3. We must stop pollution at its source rather than allowing it to enter our waterways.

The historic convergence was a collaboration between the 150 organization-strong Floridians'
Clean Water Declaration Campaign Coalition and the Florida's Water & Land Legacy
Coalition which succeeded in getting the “Amendment 1” land and water conservation constitutional
amendment passed by 75% of Florida voters last November.

Five buses stopped in ten cities across Florida to pick up close to two hundred activists for a trip to Tallahassee for the day (bus rides were between seven and three hours long one-way)!  Others came by carpool and air from as close as the Panhandle and as far as the Florida Keys.  Rally goers and speakers came from every region of the state and represented water quality, land conservation, and wildlife conservation organizations; twenty-six speakers and eight St. Lucie River Kidz filled the two-hour agenda.

After the rally the crowd spread out over the Capitol to talk water
and public lands with decision makers.

Photos can be accessed here and here.  The event received an enormous level of press attention - see here for 20 plus media  hits (that keep on coming).

Aliki Moncrief (Florida's Water & Land Legacy) - MODERATOR
Ryan Smart (1000 Friends of Florida) - MODERATOR
Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda - (Florida House of Representatives)
Estus Whitfield (Florida Conservation Coalition)
Bill McCollum (Florida Attorney General)
Rep. Mark Pafford (Minority Leader in the Florida House of Representatives)
Jim Stevenson (Wakulla Springs Alliance, Tallahassee)
Preston Robertson (Florida Wildlife Federation, Tallahassee)
Kevin McGorty (Tall Timbers Land Conservancy, Tallahassee)
Shannon Blankinship (St. Johns Riverkeeper and Duval County Soil and Water
Conservation Commission, Jacksonville)

Eric Rollings (Orange County Soil & Water Conservation District)
Laura Dailey (Spectrabusters, Fort White)

Bob Knight (Florida Springs Institute, Gainesville)
Gary Appelson (Sea Turtle Conservancy, Gainesville)
Chuck O’Neal (League of Women Voters of Florida, Orlando)
Dawn Shirreffs (Everglades Foundation, Palmetto Bay)
Katie Tripp (Save the Manatee Club, Maitland)
Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez (Florida House of Representatives)
Leesa Suoto (Marine Resources Council,
Palm Bay)
Cathy Harrelson (Sierra Club, St. Petersburg)
Andy Mele (Suncoast Waterkeeper, Sarasota)
Maggy Hurchalla (Martin County Conservation Alliance)
Mark Perry (Florida Oceanographic Society, Stuart)
Celeste De Palma (Tropical Audubon, Miami)
Millard McCleary (Reef Relief, Key West)
John Scott (Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association – Riverwatch, Ft. Myers)

-- Cris Costello, Senior Organizer, Sierra Club

Sierra Club statement on oil drilling & seismic blasting off the Atlantic Coast

Statement delivered on February 19, 2015 at Bureau of Ocean Energy Management hearing in Jacksonville, Florida

     The Sierra Club is strongly opposed to the commencement of oil drilling off the U.S. East Coast. While the latest proposal of the Administration excludes Florida from oil drilling, oil spills off the adjoining coasts, especially off the Georgia coast, would have devastating effects on the environment and economy of Florida.
     The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster very dramatically demonstrated how drilling can destroy tourism and fishing industries and cost jobs. This disaster, America’s worst oil spill, killed eleven people and gushed 210 million gallons of oil into the ocean, affecting 16,000 miles of coastline.
     Today, at least 14 species, including bird, fish and dolphins are still struggling to survive and the once thriving tourism, fishing and recreation economies of the Gulf still have not fully recovered. Additionally, the endangered Northern Right Whale regularly moves between northeastern coastal waters to the east coast of Florida for calving, and this species would also be seriously threatened by an oil spill.
     The Sierra Club notes that, since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Congress has yet to pass a single law which strengthens federal oversight of offshore oil and gas development, drilling safety or environmental safeguards in the event of a disaster. Further, current cleanup methods are still not capable of removing more than a small fraction of oil spilled in coastal waters. Each year routine U.S. drilling operations send an average of 880,000 gallons of oil into the ocean.
     The Sierra Club continues to oppose seismic blasting for the reasons expressed in our testimony at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management public hearing in Jacksonville on April 12, 2012, when we testified that there was overwhelming evidence that seismic blasting with the use of airguns causes death and severe injury to marine mammals such as whales and dolphins, and displaces and depresses the catch rates of various species of fish.
     In order to preserve the environment, economy and quality of life for Floridians we request that any and all authorizations for oil drilling and seismic blasting off the East Coast be denied and negated.
This statement was delivered 2/19/15 by the Sierra Club to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management at its "Open House Scoping Meeting for the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program" in Jacksonville, Florida.

Representatives of the Sierra Club, Oceana and the Surfriders Foundation assembled on the riverbank next to the meeting place and spoke with news reporters, and also met and talked extensively with BOEM representatives at their information stations in the meeting room. There was no opportunity for a customary open public hearing, but computers for Internet access were provided for written comments.

We urge interested people to provide comments still to BOEM via its information website at www.BOEMOceanInfo.com; a direct route to the comment portal is at this link.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sierra Club Florida Joins Floridians for Solar Choice Coalition

As part of our effort to free Florida’s energy grid from dirty fossil fuels, Sierra Club Florida has joined a wide-ranging coalition of conservatives and environmentalists in a campaign to put a solar energy constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot.
The “Floridians for Solar Choice” amendment will let homeowners and businesses get the benefits of solar power - no emissions, no water use, and lower power bills - without the upfront expense of buying and installing a solar system which is a significant obstacle to distributed generation in Florida.  The amendment will open the most popular method of accessing solar energy in the country to Floridians. 
The amendment provides that a company that installs a solar system on a homeowner’s roof and sells the homeowner the electricity it generates is not a “utility” and is not subject to regulation by the Public Service Commission (PSC).  Currently, it’s illegal for anyone except a “utility” to sell electricity by the kWh.  These contracts between homeowners or businesses and solar system providers are called Power Purchase Agreements or PPAs.
Floridians for Solar Choice has already gathered over 100,000 petitions and enough have been turned in to Supervisors of Elections around the state for the amendment language to be reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court.  Sierra Club Florida encourages its members to go to the coalition website http://www.flsolarchoice.org/ to download and sign the petition and mail it to:
Floridians for Solar Choice
120 E. Oakland Park Blvd. Suite 105
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33334
“Like” the coalition on FB and encourage your friends and families to sign the petition too.
It’s time to leave dirty fuels in the ground.  It’s dirty to extract them and their emissions dirty the air we breathe. Reducing carbon pollution is essential to mitigating the long-term effects of climate change, including sea level rise – an issue of major importance to a state with as much coastline as Florida.  This is an existential threat to communities of our state. It’s a bonus that transitioning to solar will lower monthly energy bills and create good paying jobs!
By Florida law it takes 8% of the total votes in the last presidential election to place an amendment on the ballot so the number for 2016 is 683,149 petitions.  And we’re already 1/7th of the way there! The deadline for getting all the signatures in is December of this year (2015) so all the petitions can be checked and verified by the February 2016 deadline for placing the amendment on the 2016 ballot.

The coalition includes the Tea Party Network, Libertarians, Republicans, and Democrats; environmental groups including (in addition to Sierra Club Florida) Greenpeace, Clean Water Action, Environment Florida, Ideas for Us, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and ReThink Energy; and business groups including the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), the Florida Retail Federation, and the Florid Solar Energy Industries Assoc. This is a common sense issue.  No one should be locked into getting their power from a monopoly.  Visit the coalition website http://www.flsolarchoice.org/ and send in those petitions!
David Cullen
Sierra Club Florida lobbyist

March For Ocean Justice Saturday March 7 in St. Augustine: Stopping the threat of seismic air gun blasting and offshore drilling off our Atlantic coast

The Northeast Florida Sierra Club Group will join others Saturday, March 7 in a March For Ocean Justice at 11:30 a.m. in St. Augustine. Have your signs and banners ready! The event includes a march from the east side of the Bridge of Lions to the press conference location in the front of the City of St. Augustine City Hall, 75 King Street, 32084.

The Environmental Youth Council, Mayor Nancy Shaver and the City of St. Augustine have invited U. S. Senator Bill Nelson, 30+ elected officials and other municipalities, environmental and citizen groups, commercial fishermen, and others to a "March for Ocean Justice and Press Conference", on Saturday, March 7 at noon, in downtown St. Augustine

The event will raise awareness of the opposition to plans for seismic testing and drilling in waters off the coast of Florida and other states (GA, SC, NC, etc.) , and to consolidate and motivate that opposition. We will be taking to the streets to urge the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and President Obama to reverse the decision to open the Atlantic Basin to seismic testing using sonic cannons, the first step toward offshore dirty fuel development. Learn more about the Obama decision to move forward with seismic testing.

The city of Neptune Beach has passed a resolution opposing air gun blasting and offshore drilling in the Atlantic. Thanks to Mayor Harriett Pruett for her leadership on this issue. 

Location: Meet on the east side of the Bridge of Lions at the small park at 11:30 a.m.

Event schedule:
11:30 - rally attendees meet at the east side of the Bridge of Lions
12:00 - rally attendees march from Bridge of Lions to City Hall
12:30 - Press conference begins at city hall
1:00 - Press interviews with elected officials and environmental leaders

For more info on the event, contact Brian Paradise of the NE FL Sierra Club Group at bgpardaise@comcast.net, and Check out the Facebook event, join and invite your friends.

Learn more about the threat of seismic testing to marine mammals.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Hundreds of conservation activists will gather in Tallahassee tomorrow



Where:    Historic Front Steps of the Capitol Building
                 400 S. Monroe St, Tallahassee, FL 32399

When:     Wednesday, February 18, 2015, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Who:       Amendment 1 (http://floridawaterlandlegacy.org/) and Floridians’ Clean Water Declaration Campaign (www.wewantcleanwater.com) activists from every corner of the state. 
Speakers include:  State Representative Michelle Rehwinkle-Vasilinda, State Representative Mark Pafford,  Bill McCollum (36th Attorney General of Florida), Estus Whitfield (Florida Conservation Coalition), Maggy Hurchalla (Martin County Conservation Alliance), Jim Stevenson (Wakulla Springs Alliance), Orange County Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Eric Rollings, Kevin McGorty (Tall Timbers Land Conservancy), Gary Appelson (Sea Turtle Conservancy), Andy Mele (Suncoast Waterkeeper), Dawn Shirreffs (Everglades Foundation), Katie Tripp (Save the Manatee Club), Leesa Souto (Marine Resources Council), Mark Perry (Florida Oceanographic Society), Millard McCleary (Reef Relief), Chuck O’Neal (League of Women Voters), Cathy Harrelson (Sierra Club), Zach Forsburg (Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition), Celeste De Palma (Tropical Audubon Society), Preston Robertson (Florida Wildlife Federation), John Scott (Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association), Laura Dailey (Spectrabusters), Shannon Blankinship (St. Johns Riverkeeper/Duval Soil and Water Conservation District), Ryan Smart (1000 Friends of Florida) and Aliki Moncrief (Florida’s Water & Land Legacy). 
What:      Hundreds of conservationists will travel by chartered buses (http://yes1fl.org/2015rallytix) and car pools from across Florida to rally on the front steps of the Historic Capitol Building to deliver a resounding message to Florida lawmakers that:   
1.      Protecting conservation lands is essential to protecting our water resources – we must protect our waters at the source;
2.      We must invest in our undeveloped natural areas before they are gone; and
3.      We must stop pollution at its source rather than allowing it to enter our waterways.

Contact:  Cris Costello (Sierra Club), cris.costello@sierraclub.org 941-914-0421
Aliki Moncrief (Florida’s Water & Land Legacy) aliki@floridawaterlandlegacy.org 850-629-4656
Ryan Smart (1000 Friends of Florida), smarts421@gmail.com, 561-358-7191

*There will be demonstrators and visuals*


Friday, February 13, 2015

Sierra Club to Water Managers: Act Now to Buy U.S. Sugar Land

Sierra Club members and supporters helped pack the auditorium at the South Florida Water Management District (District) to protest the Governing Board’s failure to act on the contract to purchase 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar land south of Lake Okeechobee. The deal, which expires in October, would provide land to build a reservoir – a critical part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan -- to clean and send water south. A total of forty-five individuals gave public comment, at times highly confrontational, and to robust applause from the audience.
Families and businesses on the coasts can’t endure a repeat of the harmful 2013 discharges from Lake Okeechobee when water levels were too high. Inexplicably, however, acquiring this land in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) that could provide a permanent solution was left off the Governing Board’s agenda.
Sierra Club Regional Organizer Julia Hathaway called on the District to schedule a special meeting to address the issue, saying, “The health of the Indian River and Caloosahatchee River estuaries is at stake. Everglades restoration is at stake. South Florida’s economy is at stake. We have Amendment 1 money. Time is running out.”
In response, the Governing Board defended their inaction by pointing out multiple considerations that they must incorporate into any effort to send water south.
Several board members agreed with James Moran’s characterization that the public just doesn’t understand the constraints that complicate their decision making. Moran also characterized the environmental community as "duplicitous" in indicating otherwise, and advised the crowd to "learn the truth."
Everglades restoration is complicated. It has always been complicated, and it will always be complicated. What is simple is this: we have a once in a lifetime chance to secure vital lands in the EAA that expires in October. This land will never be cheaper than it is now to provide a permanent solution. We already have a contract on the table. We have the money. And actions speak louder than words.
Add your voice by calling the District at 561-686-8800. Tell them that buying the U.S. Sugar land is the most important thing they can do this year: don’t let it slip away while our children pay the price with more lost summers. (To leave a comment after hours, press #4.) You can also send an email via the District’s Contact Form.
For press coverage of the District meeting, please see:

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sierra Club Applauds Gulf Power’s New Wind Proposal

For Immediate Release
February 11, 2015

windmill farmTampa -- Today, Gulf Power announced it will seek the Florida Public Service Commission’s approval to purchase power from a 180 megawatt wind project in Oklahoma.  If approved, the site, called Kingfisher Wind, would provide enough electricity to power 50,700 homes. Today’s announcement comes just a few weeks after Southern Company owned Gulf Power announced new solar power projects totaling 120 megawatts on three military installations in Northwest Florida and just days after Gulf Power announced that the Lansing Smith plant would stop burning coal.

In response to today’s announcement Beyond Coal Senior Campaign Representative Kelly Martin issued the following statement:

“We applaud Gulf Power’s commitment to bring cost-effective, clean power to the people of Florida. Wind energy is not only affordable and available but it’s a far healthier alternative than new coal or gas plants. The series of recent clean energy projects announced by Gulf Power provides a strong example to other energy producers in the state that now is the time to invest in clean energy sources like wind, solar and energy efficiency.

With the plummeting price of wind and solar making these clean, reliable solutions more affordable than ever, Florida stands ready to be a leader in the clean energy economy. But, Florida’s homeowners and businesses need a strong commitment from power companies and the Scott administration to ensure that we seize this opportunity without delay  in order to ensure wind, solar power and energy efficiency make up a significant portion of our energy mix in the years to come.”

Contact: Sean Sarah, Sierra Club 330-338-3740 sean.sarah@sierraclub.org.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Only 1 week left! Floridians for Clean Water & Amendment 1 Rally on Feb 18

Unless dedicated Floridians like you speak up for clean water as a human right, the natural lands needed to protect our water quality in Florida will remain unprotected. Florida's life-giving waters provide ecological, financial, tourist and wildlife benefits for all Floridians, and without clean water, we can not sustain our ways of life.  

Thousands of people have signed the Floridians' Clean Water Declaration and millions of Florida voters said yes to Amendment 1 this past November, now it's time to take our message directly to Tallahassee!

Please join us Wednesday, February 18 on the front steps of the historic Old Capitol in Tallahassee! Fight for the life that clean water provides!

There are even buses from 10 locations across the state to help get you there! Find the list of available pickup cities and online reservations here. Act now, buses will fill up fast!
We hope to see you out there with us next Wednesday, and as always, thank you for all you do for the environment.

Sierra Club Action Alert

Join us in Tallahassee to protect Florida's precious lands and precious clean water! RSVP today!
Florida Clean Water Rally, Kids
On February 18, Floridians' Clean Water Declaration and Amendment 1 activists will join forces for a rally on the front steps of the historic Old Capitol. After the rally, we'll spread out over the Capitol for the unique opportunity to bring our water stories directly to public officials and the state's highest water managers!

Buses from 10 locations across the state will help get you there! Find the list of available pickup cities and online reservations here. 

Here are the details:
WHO: Floridians' Clean Water Declaration and Amendment 1 activists from all across the state!
WHAT: Floridians for Clean Water & Amendment 1 Rally
WHEN: Wednesday, February 18 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: On the front steps of the Old Capitol, 400 S. Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399 [Map]RSVP: http://action.sierraclub.org/FloridaCleanWater
Questions?: Contact Cris Costello at cris.costello@sierraclub.org

Hundreds of civic, water, land and environmental groups will be represented in Tallahassee on February 18. We'll also be joined by public officials who have signed the Floridians' Clean Water Declaration and who are committed to working together to make water quality a top priority in Florida. Only together will we be able to turn the tide from green and red to beautiful blue!

Time is running out for our algae-choked springs, dying Indian River Lagoon, red tide plagued Gulf Coast, slimed St. Johns River, long-suffering Everglades, disappearing coral reefs and dwindling Apalachicola River.  The natural lands needed to protect our water quality remain unprotected, and will be unless dedicated Floridians like you speak up for clean water as a human right in Florida.

RSVP today and join thousands of other dedicated activists on February 18! Join the fight to protect Florida's precious lands and precious clean water!

Thanks for taking action to protect our waterways!

P.S. After you take action, be sure to forward this alert to your friends and colleagues!

Want more info on the Floridians' Clean Water Declaration Campaign and the rally?  Go to wewantcleanwater.com

For list of participating organizations go to https://www.facebook.com/notes/floridians-clean-water-declaration-campaign/supporting-organizations-businesses/1426115674287043

Friday, February 6, 2015


Friday, February 6, 2015

plant_smith_smPanama City, FL-- Today, Gulf Power, operating under Southern Company, announced its plans to cease burning coal at the 357 MW Lansing Smith coal-fired plant by March 2016, marking a huge victory for Florida residents who will soon breathe cleaner air. 

Sierra Club and hundreds of local citizens have urged Gulf Power to phase out coal in Florida’s panhandle to protect clean air and public health.

Gulf Power will work with the 60 impacted workers to transition into other company positions and there will be no mandatory layoffs.

“We applaud Gulf Power for recognizing the risks and costs associated with the continued reliance on dirty coal. We’ve seen time and time again, that toxic air pollution from coal-fired plants causes premature heart attacks, stroke, asthma attacks, and even death,” said Kelly Martin, Senior Representative for Florida’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “Gulf Power’s decision to retire Plant Smith is a positive step for Florida residents, one that that will leave our families and children breathing easier.”

Until now, the Lansing Smith coal-fired plant has been one of the largest local sources of hazardous mercury air pollution. Not only does Gulf Power’s decision improve public health, but it significantly reduces the amount of climate-disrupting carbon pollution the region contributes.

Last month, the Sierra Club applauded Gulf Power for its announcement to install three new solar plants at naval and air force bases in Northwest Florida. Sites at Eglin Air Force Base, Holly Field in Navarre and Sautly Field in Pensacola are slated for solar power projects totaling 120 megawatts, or enough power to keep the lights on at 18,000 homes each year. Combined, these projects increase in the state’s solar generation by 60% which currently stands at 218 megawatts. With these clean energy solutions, Gulf Power is taking beneficial steps towards promoting a healthy community and environment.

This is the second coal plant retirement in Florida that Gulf Power has announced in the last two years. With today’s announcement, 185 coal-fired power plants across the country have been slated for retirement.

UPDATE: On February 11, Gulf Power announced it will seek the Florida Public Service Commission’s approval to purchase power from a 180 megawatt wind project in Oklahoma providing enough power to 50,700 homes. Read Sierra Club's statement on the wind announcement here.

Rudhdi Karnik, Rudhdi.Karnik@sierraclub.org, 202-495-3055
Kelly Martin, Kelly.Martin@sierraclub.org, 828-423-7845