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.


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

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:


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 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
Frank Jackalone

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

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.
Vice Chair: Senator Wilton Simpson
Other Committee Members:
Senator Thad Altman
Senator Greg Evers
Senator Alan Hays
Senator Travis Hutson
Senator David Simmons
Senator Christopher L. Smith
Senator Darren Soto

Copy here a list of all these email addresses:,,,,,,,,

Other ways to help:

-- Sign the online petition at 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 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, & 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

Rep. Bobby DuBose  (Broward)                   850-717-5094

Rep. Larry Lee           (St. Lucie)                  850-717-5084

Rep. Clovis Watson  (Alachua and Marion) 850-717-5020

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:  (scroll down to the Alert posted October 30, 2015.)

Find your legislator’s contact and address information here:

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:

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