Thursday, September 28, 2017

After 150 attend meeting, Union County says more workshops needed on controversial Phosphate mine threatening Santa Fe River

On Monday, September 18, about a 150 people crowded into Union County High School auditorium in Lake Butler to participate in the hearing regarding amendments to the county’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations.

HPS II Enterprises has proposed a Phosphate mine on 10,000 acres in Bradford and Union counties straddling the New River, a tributary of the Santa Fe. About 130 residents came out to oppose the mine in Bradford County in August.

The Union County Board of County Commissioners imposed a 1 year moratorium over a year ago on mining in order to revisit their Comprehensive Plan and revise their Land Development Regulations regarding mining. People from all walks of life testified before the Board of Commissioners; most spoke about water and air pollution, and the change to their rural lifestyle. Alachua County Commission Chair, Ken Cornell; Sierra Club Suwannee St. Johns Chair, Whitey Markle and several others suggested tabling the proposed amendments for further deliberation.  Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, speaking as a resident of the Santa Fe River, is concerned about loss of habitat for the Oval Pigtoe Mussel that resides in the New River system and is a Federally Endangered species that warrants protection by the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service.

A staunch advocate against phosphate mining, Louella Phillips, drove from Polk County, FL to explain the real life consequences of living with phosphate mining surrounding her home in Bartow and the Alafia River. 

The Commissioners took all sides into consideration and voted to hold workshops in the upcoming months to have more discussions on improving the regulations to protect its residents and water systems.

The citizens are well organized and stand their ground with facts.  Allowing mining in wetlands adjacent to the New River which flows directly into the upper Santa Fe River will be harmful to the downstream system.  Tabling the amendments will provide even more time to finalize the Land Development Regulations through a public workshop process.

Duke Energy to spend billions on solar, EV charging, grid modernization and smart meters

On August 29, Duke Energy Florida filed a settlement that includes a four year investment of almost $6 billion into 700 megawatts of solar power and a 50 megawatt battery storage program along with smart meters and grid modernization.  The investment also includes $8 million for an electric vehicle pilot program, language for which was provided by Sierra Club staff and accepted by Duke Energy.  Sierra Club chapter staff met with Duke this week to discuss the design of the electric vehicle pilot program and will be continuing discussions in order to design the best possible program.

On August 14, the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign (BCC) legal team filed a protest to Florida Power and Light's proposed Dania Beach fracked gas plant in order to stop a massive expansion of fracked gas in Broward County. 

Additionally, the BCC legal team filed testimony before the Public Service Commission (PSC) about Investor Owned Utilities (IOU's) practice of "financial hedging" related to the price of fracked gas.

From our press release:  "Financial hedging is just another way that burning gas for electricity is a bad deal for Florida’s energy customers. Over the past 10 years, as Florida’s utilities rushed to build one gas plant after the other, financial hedging by Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Florida, and Tampa Electric Company resulted in an extra $6.9 billion in fuel costs. 

That’s $6.9 billion out of the pockets of everyday Floridians, all to make gas look more stable than it actually is. In return, utility customers received only the insurance of knowing that their energy bills would be predictably higher than the market value."

This fall, the PSC will be holding a hearing on this issue.  Be on the lookout for a call to action on this topic!

On August 29, Sierra Club filed comments in response to the utilities Ten Year Site Plans that made the following points:  1. More gas-burning generation is not justified; 2. Continued reliance on old coal-burning generation is not justified; and 3. Renewables, storage, and demand-side resources are a bargain. Finally, the utilities must submit missing alternatives and analyses in future 10-
Year Site Plans in a transparent and timely manner. 

If you are interested in volunteering with the Beyond Coal Campaign in Florida, please email Susannah Randolph at

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Sierra Club Contends Federal Court’s Sabal Trail Ruling Bars FERC Short Cut on Pipeline Approvals

Sierra Club Contends Federal Court’s Sabal Trail Ruling Bars FERC Short Cut on Pipeline Approvals

Court Decision Means Fracked Gas Can’t be Fast-Tracked
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Jonathon Berman,
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Yesterday, the Sierra Club filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) a challenge to Florida Southeast Connection’s (FSC) request for fast-track authorization to extend  the fracked gas Sabal Trail Pipeline, in what is called the Okeechobee lateral project. The project would supply a massive new gas-burning power plant that FSC’s affiliate, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), wants to put into service in 2019. The Sierra Club contends that the D.C. Circuit’s decision in the momentus Sabal Trail case effectively bars the use of FERC’s fast-tracking procedures. The procedures only apply to extensions of pipelines with valid certificates. But the court invalidated the certificates for Sabal Trail and FSC’s connected pipelines, instructing FERC to evaluate the climate effects of burning the gas via pipelines when determining if they were necessary and appropriate projects. The Sierra Club therefore argues that FERC should consider together the greenhouse gas emissions and climate effects of FPL’s new gas plant, the Okeechobee lateral,Sabal Trail ,and other connected pipelines.
In response, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign Kelly Martin released the following statement:
"The courts have ruled that FERC’s days as a rubber stamp for the fracked gas pipeline industry are over and that means finally putting an end to the fast-track approval process. Now, the agency must fulfill it’s duty and evaluate these dirty and dangerous pipelines for what they are: a threat to our clean air and our communities. FERC’s responsibility is to protect people, not polluters, and ending fast-track approvals for fracked gas pipelines puts them one step closer to actually fulfilling their mission.”
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit

Monday, September 18, 2017

5 FL Transit Agencies Win $$ for ELECTRIC BUSES!

Tallahassee, where electric buses like this one have run for several years, will add more to its fleet. 
EXCITING News for Florida! Florida transit agencies just WON a $5 million in Federal grants ($1 million per agency) to buy zero-emission electric buses! Congratulations to GainesvilleTallahasseeBroward CountyJacksonville and Pinellas County! Friday Sept. 15, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) Low or No Emission (Low-No) Vehicle program, which funds the development of transit buses and infrastructure that use advanced fuel technologies, announced its 51 national winners for its annual Low-No grants, and 5 of them are here in Florida

Why is this such good news? We all just lived through a frightening event from a storm that climate change turned into a monster. Sierra Club's Ready for 100% campaign is working to get our cities to commit to a date certain Clean Energy for All status to end our state and nation's carbon emissions. To achieve this, we must do 3 things

  1. switch to 100% renewable energy
  2. save just as much energy by making our homes and buildings energy efficient, and 
  3. switch to electric vehicles: cars, trucks and buses, and make our streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians 

Public transit is key to achieving our goal of equitable access to transportation that provides a way to get around that's clean, quiet, safe and efficient. Our national Clean Transportation for All Campaign is working with Ready for 100 toward a vision in which all Americans have access to clean transportation choices to get to work, to school, to play, to the store, and to grandma’s. This includes bikes, feet and transit. For vehicles, we’re working toward a future in which every vehicle has a plug and is powered by the wind and sun

This goal is more challenging for Florida than any other state, as we have the nation's most dangerous streets for cyclists and pedestrians, and the most poorly funded transit agencies. This means that virtually everyone must own a car, whether they can afford to or not. 

With their low maintenance and fuel costs, zero emission electric buses will save transit agencies money that can be used to add more buses to their fleet so buses can run early, late and often - something Florida transit fails to do now. All our transit agencies now want to add electric buses to their fleets, but they find the higher capital cost daunting. 

Winning these funds to buy new electric buses will help these cities all over Florida experience the benefits of electric buses over diesel, diesel hybrid and compressed natural gas - all of which today emit 4-5 times more carbon than electric buses do, even considering today's largely fossil fuel sources of electricity. As we move to renewable energy, electric buses' overall carbon emissions will steadily decline towards zero, while all other types of buses stay just as dirty forever. 

Buses run for 12-15 years, which is why it's critical that as many new buses purchased today, buses that will serve our communities into the 2030's, run on increasingly clean electricity

Florida's Winners: 

JACKSONVILLE isn't waiting for that day to come: The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) will replace diesel buses with battery electric buses and chargers for an expansion route, which will serve a Park-n-Ride and a new logistics and distribution center that employs over 1,500 Jacksonville residents. Because charging stations will utilize Jacksonville Electric Authority’s Solar Smart Power program, Jacksonville's electric buses will truly have zero emissions as soon as they start running. 

GAINESVILLE RTS will purchase Gillig 40' battery electric buses and depot chargers to replace diesel buses. These buses will be Gainesville RTS's first zero emission buses, one of the first deployments of the Gillig battery electric bus. 

In PINELLAS, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will execute a second phase of its electric bus program to install charging infrastructure (on-route & charging bank for depot chargers) and buy electric buses. The charging infrastructure is an integral part of PSTA's long-term battery electric bus program. 

BROWARD County Transit (BCT) will replace diesel buses that have met their useful life with all-electric 45' over-the-road buses. Purchase of these buses will include associated depot charging infrastructure to support bus deployment. The buses will be operated on BCT's express bus routes servicing the Southeast Florida cities of Fort Lauderdale and Miami. 

And in TALLAHASSEE, the City's public transit service provider, StarMetro, will replace aging diesel buses with 35-foot Proterra Catalyst fast-charge battery electric buses. The project will add to the 4 battery electric buses that StarMetro's been running for several years - Florida's 1st electric buses. 

Miami-Dade Transit won Low-No funds for electric buses last year, and USF Tampa is using its Student Green Energy Fund to cover the difference in the price of 2 new electric vs. a new diesel buses for its Bull Runner campus fleet. As more Floridians get to ride in these clean, quiet buses, buses that we'll see, but won't hear or smell as we do today, more will demand that we buy more to do as Los Angeles now plans to by 2030: make our public transit fleets 100% electric! 

Phil Compton, Senior Organizing Representative
Sierra Club's FL Healthy Air & Ready for 100 Campaigns
1990 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, FL 33712
(o) 727-824-8813, ext. 303      (c) 813-841-3601 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Just and Equitable Hurricane Irma Recovery

Image Source: 
Another major hurricane is devastating the Caribbean and about to engulf communities from Florida up the eastern seaboard. Large numbers of Floridians are evacuating coastal areas. States of emergency have been issued from Florida to North Carolina.
Much of Puerto Rico is without electricity today -- parts are expected to be without power for many months to come. Tens of thousands are without safe water already, and the threat of poisonous chemicals -- particularly large amounts of toxic coal ash which Puerto Rico is burdened with -- is likely to emerge in the days to come.
Like in Texas and Louisiana after Hurricane Harvey, we know hundreds of thousands of people will be forced to abandon their homes due to catastrophic winds, storm surge, and flooding. While we hope and pray for everyone’s safety, we cannot ignore the fact that many may lose everything. The destruction and heartbreak caused by this hurricane will be found in the days, weeks, months, and years to come - and the recovery will take years.
And like Hurricane Harvey -- and everywhere we see the impacts of increasingly intense weather related disasters -- the most vulnerable communities are always hit the hardest. Those below the poverty line, many immigrant communities and communities of color, live next door to toxic facilities. Even before the storm, these communities often experienced polluted air and water. After a catastrophic event, their neighborhoods will be the most in need of resources and recovery efforts.
This is why we cannot wait.  We must respond with all the tools we have to provide immediate relief and begin the long road toward a just recovery. One that restores communities rather than scattering them to the winds. One that recognizes this as an intersection of social, economic, and environmental justice issues--and that if we don’t hold our principles of equity and justice at the center of this work, injustices will increase many times over.
This is why the Sierra Club has chosen to focus our efforts on behalf of those most impacted by this tragedy. And why we will ensure that 100% of all money donated will go directly back to these most affected communities.
The Sierra Club will provide support for relief and recovery -- both in donations and services -- to our local partners representing these front line communities. There are many deep-rooted community groups serving the neighborhoods and small towns who are and will bear the brunt of the hurricane and its aftermath. These are the people who will lead the recovery long after the waters have receded.
We will work with partners to establish a community-controlled fund to ensure that 100% of the money raised reaches communities directly impacted by the storm. By using the Jemez principles we have signed onto, and by partnering with other organizations and groups that adhere to the same principles, we seek to establish a just distribution of funds. We will also encourage other organizations use similar principles.
Please see our similar Hurricane Harvey response for more information on our transparency and distribution process.