Tuesday, March 28, 2017

New Report: Florida Solar Jobs on the Rise in Florida

For Immediate Release
March 28, 2016

Media Contacts: 
Phil Compton, Sierra Club (FL), phil.compton@sierraclub.org
Shane Levy, Sierra Club (CA), shane.levy@sierraclub.org

Solar Jobs on the Rise in Florida

The Sunshine State is providing thousands of solar jobs and that number is growing
Achieving 100 percent clean energy will transform Florida’s economy

Tampa, Florida –Florida created more than 1,700 new jobs in the state’s growing solar industry last year, according to a report released today by The Solar Foundation. Florida is now home to 8,260 solar jobs, an increase of 26% from 2015 figures. The findings highlight the enormous jobs potential for a transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy in Florida as well as the opportunity for local leaders to create more family-sustaining, union jobs in a growing industry across the region. Here is a sample of Florida Metropolitan Statistical Areas:

Metropolitan areas
2016 jobs
2015 jobs
% increase or decrease
number of jobs gained or lost
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach

Click here for national interactive Solar Census
Click here for Florida interactive Solar Census.

25 U.S. cities have now committed to transition entirely to clean and renewable energy between 2030 and 2035. Cities including cities like St. Petersburg, San Diego and Salt Lake City, and smaller towns like Georgetown, Texas and Abita Springs, Louisiana, are among the places that have made the commitment.

Solar panels on South Beach
“Solar jobs are on the rise and clean energy is putting people to work in cities across our state. We can and must go further in creating more opportunity and expanding prosperity for Floridians by doubling down on clean and renewable energy like solar. Now is the time for action and for the mayors of Florida cities to stand on the side of more jobs by supporting the goal of 100 percent clean energy,” said Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director.

“While the Trump Administration turns its back on fighting pollution from fossil fuels, we can step up by protecting our communities' health and boosting our economy here in Florida. Transitioning to clean energy like solar will spur innovation, launch new businesses, create good-paying jobs, and drive economic growth that benefits all Americans. With more and more jobs being created in the growing solar industry today, now is the time for Florida Mayors to go all-in on clean energy in our state,” said Phil Compton, Sierra Club Senior Organizing Representative Sierra Club Ready for 100 Campaign.

Solar jobs listed in the report include both installation and construction jobs and non-installation jobs, including manufacturing, sales and distribution, project development, and other occupations that support the solar industry.

“State-by-state and city-by-city, our nation is moving away from polluting fossil fuels toward an economy where solar is powering our homes and putting people to work. As we transition towards more clean energy, we must ensure that the benefits of a new 100 percent clean energy economy are equitably shared and that the jobs and opportunities created by clean energy provide living wages, healthcare benefits, and union representation for workers,” said Compton.

In February, The Solar Foundation released its 2016 National Solar Jobs Census, which found that the U.S. solar industry employed 260,077 workers. This figure includes the addition of over 51,000 solar workers over the previous year, representing a 25 percent growth in employment from 2015.  Over the next 12 months, employers surveyed expect to see total solar industry employment increase by 10 percent to 286,335 solar workers.

About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.9 million members and supporters nationwide. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation. For more information, visit http://www.sierraclub.org.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Sierra Club Florida Applauds Senator Bill Nelson's Opposition to Gorsuch

March 27, 2017 Contact Jonathan Ullman, jonathan.ullman@sierraclub.org

Sierra Club Florida Applauds Senator Bill Nelson's Opposition to Neil Gorsuch

Today, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson announced he will vote "no" on the motion to invoke cloture and, if that succeeds, will vote "no" on the confirmation of President Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch. 

In response Sierra Club Florida Staff Director Frank Jackalone issued the following statement:
Senator Bill Nelson stood by Floridians today by opposing an extreme nominee who would prioritize polluters over people. Judge Gorsuch would be a rubber stamp for the Trump Administration's agenda, which is to unravel long-standing protections for our air, drinking water and climate. 
Judge Gorsuch was hand-picked by the ultra-conservative Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, both funded by the oil billionaire Koch brothers. Gorsuch’s judicial philosophy would limit the access of everyday Americans to the courts and prevent agencies like the EPA from fulfilling their mission and doing their job.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, also supported by the Koch brothers, has already backed Gorsuch. Rubio's climate denial and antagonism to EPA protections are well-established. With threats to our air, water and climate, our state needs strong protections now more than ever. Rubio calls Gorsuch "mainstream," but residents of the most at-risk state to sea level rise can't afford a justice willing to turn a blind eye.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Miami Leaders Denounce SCOTUS Nominee Neil Gorsuch’s Extreme Legal Record Days Before Confirmation Hearing Begins

March 15, 2017
Blake Williams, FLPress@ForOurFutureFund.org

Miami Leaders Denounce SCOTUS Nominee Neil Gorsuch’s Extreme Legal Record Days Before Confirmation Hearing Begins

Miami, FL - Today in Miami, ahead of Monday's Senate hearings on his nomination, Miami leaders gathered to denounce Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch has made clear that he’ll put the interests of the wealthy and powerful above the rights of ordinary Americans. For Our Future joined representatives from Emerge USA, Sierra Club, SEIU 32BJ and New Florida Majority to discuss how, on the nation's highest Court, Gorsuch would prioritize the interests of corporations at the expense of everyday Americans and threaten the safety, stability and rights of Muslim, immigrant, black, and middle class communities.

Fmr. State Senator Dwight Bullard, Political Director of New Florida Majority
“We’re speaking out today because we have a serious and deep concern in regards to Gorsuch’s nomination. When we think of the Supreme Court we think of things like Brown v. Board, we think of things like ending the scourge of denying individuals the right to marry whom they love regardless of sexual orientation, we think about things like ending racial discrimination. One of my greatest concerns of Judge Gorsuch sits in the realm of criminal justice. Judge Gorsuch has been scored as too conservative in his previous role in the court of appeals and it’s a serious concern of mine as a black male that someone who has such a checkered past as it relates to racial justice would be sitting on the Supreme Court.”

Jonathan Ullman, Sierra Club
“If you care about environmental issues in Florida, you should be very concerned about Neil Gorsuch. The Sierra Club is urging all of our members to contact their Senators right now and say ‘reject Neil Gorsuch.’ Why is he bad for Florida? He has consistently pushed polluter rights over public rights. There’s a particular rule called the Chevron rule which is a common-sense rule that says courts should defer to the technical and scientific expertise of agencies charged with administering our laws. This Chevron doctrine came out of a Clean Air Act case in which the Supreme Court unanimously recognized that agencies like the EPA have the expertise to set standards for things like clean drinking water, air quality, and climate change - which is of particular importance to Florida - and if the laws are ambiguous, the court should defer to the agency's expertise. The Chevron doctrine is crucial to the ability of federal regulatory agencies to do their jobs to protect public health and safety, but Judge Gorsuch wants to do away with it because he believes it intrudes on the role of the Court. Removing the widely accepted Chevron doctrine would weaken the EPA's ability to carry out its mission and embolden polluters to constantly challenge our environmental safeguards.”

Khurrum Wahid, Criminal Rights Attorney & National Board Co-Chair of EmergeUSA
“Our Supreme Court is our last line of defense against the tyranny of the majority and against elected officials who rely on that tyranny to create bad policy just because it’s popular. Popular law is not always right law, and we have to make sure that we have a backstop in place. That backstop is our judiciary. We have seen over the last several months how lawyers and judges have been able to uphold the constitution against an executive order or orders that our bad for the country and are unconstitutional. If we do not hold fast and make that sure our Supreme Court nominee is similarly someone who will uphold the constitution and uphold the values of America, then we have collectively lost what we value as Americans.”

Angela Stanley, 32BJ SEIU member
“My concern today is that Donald Trump’s nominee Neil Gorsuch would be a repeat of Scalia. Gorsuch says he is an admirer of Scalia and my eyebrow raises, and as a union member I am concerned that Trump’s court would be a threat to unions and working people. Republicans are attacking our rights and trying to make it difficult for unions to collect dues. Gorsuch’s record shows that he’s sided with employers over workers time and again, including when Gorsuch sided with employers that refused to pay a woman paid leave benefits after she got cancer. We want someone who puts our needs before wealthy corporate interests.”

Juan Carlos Carabantes, Immigration activist
“I have a few questions for Gorsuch, will he promise to make sure immigrants aren’t exploited? Will he allow extreme labor conditions without fair pay? Will he favor a million-dollar farm company over a farmer who lost a limb? Will he stand up for immigrants who are afraid to avoid abusive jobs and abusive supervisors? Or will the money and power speak louder to him? If Gorsuch is nominated, there’s no nice way of saying this: he is just not welcoming to the immigrant community. ”

BACKGROUND: Gorsuch’s Extreme Legal Record Is Out-Of-Step 
Judge Gorsuch has a troubling record of consistently favoring the wealthy and powerful whether the power lies with wealthy corporations, the police, a supervisor, or those trying to perpetuate religious and racial discrimination. Gorsuch was part of the original Hobby Lobby ruling that said corporations are people and can refuse birth control coverage to their employees on religious grounds. He ruled that it wasn’t excessive force when a police officer killed a young man with stun gun for fleeing although the man hadn’t committed a violent crime and has argued that it should be harder for regular people to band together in order to hold Wall Street and huge corporations accountable for fraud and other wrongdoing.

At a time when the President is openly attacking the independence of our judiciary and implementing unlawful and un-American immigration policies via executive order, now more than ever we need independent judges who will be a check on President Trump when he violates the law or the Constitution.  Unfortunately, Gorsuch’s troubling history of deference to executive power shows that he will not be that independent voice. Trump outsourced his nominee search to right-wing organizations with a political agenda out-of-step with the values of most Americans. These groups hand-picked Gorsuch, calling into question his independence and commitment to fairness and an open mind. Gorsuch is not helping ease those concerns with his refusal to answer fair and direct questions from Senators about his legal philosophy, deliberately keeping the American people in the dark about his judicial approach and what kind of justice he would be.

 # # #

Friday, March 3, 2017

Dunnellon rallies for threatened Rainbow River

Nearly 150 people rallied before a hearing at Dunnellon City Hall last week to protest a state plan to weaken protections for the Rainbow River, a north-central Florida treasure. The crowd waved signs such as "Over My Dead Body," against the plan to allow an additional 5% loss of water flow from the already suffering Outstanding Florida Waterway. 

At an outdoor pavilion near the protestDr. Robert Knight, President of the Florida Springs Institute, said Rainbow River has been stretched beyond its limit by over-pumping and nitrate pollution and cannot be further tapped. He critiqued the Southwest Florida Water Management District recent scientific draft Minimum Flow and Levels (MFLs) as insufficient.

Only 98 individuals were allowed seating for a panel discussion on the draft rule at City Hall. Fifty more people had to stand at the front door, straining to hear a presentation from a Southwest Florida Water Management District staffer.

Legislation dictates that the MFL for Rainbow River be approved at July 2017, but a critical peer review by University of Florida scientist Dr. Matthew Cohen, Geologist and environmental scientist Lee Wilson, Ph.D and retired USGS groundwater specialist Dann Yobbi said the document called for more guidance and study. It said the draft showed conflicting results and recommended capping future withdrawals until water quality issues are effectively addressed.
The flow rate on the Rainbow River has dropped 40% since 2000 despite the state recognizing this majestic 5.7 mile stretch as an Outstanding Florida Water (OFW), an Aquatic Preserve, and a Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) priority. At the federal level, Rainbow Springs is a designated National Natural Landmark. And still, we learned at this meeting that the SWFWMD staff's recommendation allows 5% of the historical flow which on average amounts to 22 million more gallons per day extracted!
No new excessive water use permits are what the science really shows to a water body which is already in harm's way. 

The Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board is expected to vote on the proposed Rainbow River MFL on March 28, 2017. 

Location of meeting: SWFWMD Headquarters2379 Broad Street, Brooksville, FL 34604-6899. 

These meetings are open to the public.  

The final draft of the proposed Rainbow River MFL can be found here: 

Comments on the Rainbow River MFL can be made here:  
Doug Leeper, Chief Environmental Scientist, Minimum Flows and Levels Project Manager, 
Resource Evaluation Section
(352) 796-7211, ext. 4272 
or email: doug.leeper@watermatters.org 
please cc: Florida Springs Council, FloridaSpringsCouncil@gmail.com

Media coverge:


Check out our photo album:

--- Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, Organizing Representative, Sierra Club

Thursday, March 2, 2017

"Reclaim Florida's Future for All," a clean energy and environment lobby day in Tallahassee on Wed., March 22 - Save the Date!

Activists from across the State will urge Florida Legislators to support important energy and environment bills in Tallahassee on Wednesday, March 22 at "Reclaim Florida's Future for All!"
The Florida Capitol
The lobbying event is being hosted by Rethink Energy Florida, Sierra Club Florida, Environment Florida, Food and Water Watch Florida, Floridians Against Fracking, Organize Florida, Florida Conservation Voters, Physicians for Social Responsibility Florida, Urban Paradise Guild and other groups. This is a great opportunity for Floridians to make their voices heard by speaking directly with their elected officials on key energy and water issues facing Florida. 
Each sponsoring organization is working on critical issues facing our state. This is the perfect opportunity for us to come together and fight to protect clean water and clean energy.  
We will provide bus transportation from several cities on March 21 (the day before) or March 22, the morning of the event. We will also provide advocacy training on the evening before (or on buses coming in that morning.)
Also on March 21, Florida Conservation Voters invites attendees to attend the second showing of “Catching the Sun” for a special price: free!
On March 22, a rally/press conference will kick off the morning, followed by meetings with our legislators

We will be talking with our legislators about these critical issues:

Banning Fracking in Florida: This extreme extraction method poses risks to our environment and does not benefit the people of Florida. We don't want to see what happened in Naples happen anywhere in Florida again!
Supporting Renewable Energy: Florida is the sunshine state, and through the Constitutional Amendment process we’ve made great strides toward owning that name! Now we need the Legislature to follow suit, through legislative action, including implementing Amendment 4 (the exemption from property tax on solar and other renewable energy source devices.)
Protection of Florida’s Waters:  From the Panhandle to the Keys, Floridians demand clean water. Our springs, rivers, estuaries, lakes, bays and Everglades will continue to degrade, and threaten our health, quality of life, and economy, until decision-makers buy the land needed to restore and protect our watersheds.
And please spread the word! Don't miss this special event!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Northwest Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz faces fury over EPA elimination bill

More than two dozen Sierra Club members and supporters turned out to confront Congressman Matt Gaetz at at his Town Hall meeting in a Pensacola, Florida, bowling alley last Thursday for drafting a bill to abolish the EPA . They were part of a boisterous, infuriated crowd of 500 squeezed in between pool tables at Oops! Bowling Alley.

Speaker after speaker asked Gaetz to withdraw his EPA elimination bill and questioned why someone who represents Pensacola and Emerald Coast beaches, some of the country's most pristine, would seek to dissolve the very agency that protects them.

One constituent, Professor Charlie Schuler,  gave a particularly eloquent , rousing speech:

Mr. Gaetz said if the EPA was abolished, its $8 billion budget would be "repatriated" to the Departments of Justice, Defense, and Agriculture triggering a chorus of boos from the audience.

"As long as I'm your member of Congress, I'm going to fight for the environment and against the EPA," he said to another deafening round of boos.

Constituents held signs that read "Protect People not Polluters," and "#SaveTheEPA." and at times chanted, "E-P-A, E-P-A, E-P-A..."

The meeting, for which Gaetz arrived half-an-hour late, was terminated by the Congressman early.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/lwvpba/videos/1337889046267386/

Gaetz had threatened to pull out these sign before the Bowling Alley Town Hall.
They were never used. Photo source CNN
Those who hunt and fish were not happy with Gaetz's bill.

CNNE&E Greenwire and local print and TV covered Mr. Gaetz's day's worth of events:

Fla. lawmaker's assault on agency sparks fury back home

One Republican congressman's plan to deal with town hall disrupters

'Open Gaetz Day' concludes on thunderous note

Gaetz meets with protesters during Santa Rosa County town hall tour

Two Protests, One Place: Critics Draw In NW Florida Over Congressman Matt Gaetz

Gaetz draws cheers, jeers at town hall meeting

Residents protested against Gaetz's bill to eliminate the EPA throughout the Day:

Photo:  Gregg Pachkowski/gregg@pnj.com
Pensacola News-Journal
Photo:  Gregg Pachkowski/gregg@pnj.com Pensacola News-Journal
Source: WUWF

Photo:  Gregg Pachkowski/gregg@pnj.com Pensacola News-Journal