Thursday, September 20, 2018

Sierra Club Blasts Rick Scott's Red Tide Plan


For Immediate Release: September 20, 2018

More Studies Won't Cure State's Catastrophic Red Tide and Green Slime

St. Petersburg, FL – Sierra Club Florida responded to Florida Governor Rick Scott's letter today to the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission asking it to create a  Center for Red Tide Research.

Statement of Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director

“Rick Scott's call for the creation of a Center for Red Tide Research is nothing more than a self-serving publicity stunt. He is desperately diverting attention from his failure over his two terms as Governor to address the pollution problems which have fueled massive toxic red tide and green slime all across the State. 

"We're horrified that Scott is offering a half-baked, ineffective plan to Florida's ongoing water crisis at the end of his stint as Governor.  Where has he been for the last eight years as toxic algae blooms have repeatedly devastated the state's coastal waters, inland lakes, rivers and springs?  

"While 'Red Tide Rick' fiddled, Florida's waters burned with toxic algae. As a result, our coastal communities are plagued by the smell of millions of dead fish on their beaches and a devastated tourism industry.    

"Scott's proposal for more research won't cure red tide and green slime.  The only way to reduce the occurrence, size and severity of harmful algae blooms is to stop the pollution that is feeding it at its source.  We need  prevention, not more studies.

"Rick Scott is the person most responsible for Florida's growing, catastrophic toxic algae problem.  Over his two terms as Governor, Scott has put state enforcement of pollution laws in reverse by eliminating mandatory inspections of septic tanks and slashing enforcement of clean water regulations.  His plan for reducing dirty water releases to Florida's Gulf and Atlantic coasts has been to spend billions of dollars over the next decade to store more polluted water in Lake Okeechobee and to build a 23 foot high reservoir in the Everglades over the next 10 years and fill it with more dirty water.  His new plan today asking the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and the next Governor to do more research should make every Floridian mad as hell."   

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Contact:
Frank Jackalone:  727-804-1317
Cris Costello: 941-914-0421


About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters nationwide, including more than 230,000 in Florida. 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/florida.

Sierra Club Florida | 1990 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL 33712

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sierra Club, Miami Climate Alliance and 40+ Partner Organizations Host Miami Rising

Miami Rising Concert & Rally Draws 1,000+ for the People’s Climate Movement National Day of Action

On Saturday, September 8, Sierra Club Miami, Miami Climate Alliance and more than 40 partner
organizations hosted Miami Rising for Climate Jobs and Justice in solidarity with the People’s
Climate Movement National Day of Action.  Aimed at attracting new volunteers and advocates into the climate movement, the event drew over 1,000 attendees to Bayfront Park in downtown Miami.  The event marks the beginning of the Miami Climate Alliance Miami Rising campaign, which will promote climate advocacy actions in Miami-Dade County for the next six weeks, including events and petitions hosted by Sierra Club Miami.

Using art, music and poetry to create connections, Miami Rising focused on educating South Florida residents about people-centered solutions to climate change and extreme weather and on promoting a just transition to a new 100% clean and renewable energy future. At the event, Sierra Club volunteers organized a solar-powered cell phone charging station and a clean energy raffle wheel trivia game to educate attendees about 100% clean and renewable energy. Volunteers also collected 275 petition signatures asking the City of Miami to commit to a just transition to 100% renewable community-wide energy supply before 2050. Watch a video of the event here.  

Performers and creators helped tell the story of climate, jobs, and justice for our communities;
showing that to change everything, it takes everyone.  Performers included musical artists Soulpax, Remyz, Locos por Juana, and Ra Ra Roots Rasin, and spoken word artists included Dita Devi, Michealango 305, and Sebastian.  Visual artists created murals, paintings and works dedicated to the themes of climate, jobs and justice.  Interactive displays also helped participants connect to the issues, like a virtual reality Everglades canoe experience from Paradise Key Media. 

To generate excitement and drive attendance, partner organizations placed op-eds and hosted Miami Rising lead-up events, including four climate forums, a Battle of the Bands event, a live art competition and series of volunteer trainings.  Now until November 15, Miami Rising attendees and volunteers will be invited to participate in a series of actions and events, including Sierra Club gatherings and online petitions. Check out the campaign at MiamiRising.org.

Speakers at the event focused on the urgency to act on climate, jobs and justice, illustrating the issues with personal stories. Among the 14 speakers were Sierra Club Organizer and Miami Climate Alliance Steering Committee Chair Emily Gorman, SEIU 1199 Vice-President Dequasia Canales, WeCount member Sergio Maldonado, Executive Director of FANM Haitian Women of Miami Marleine Bastien, Founder of Make the Homeless Smile Valencia Gunder, and Valholly Roff Frank, the 15-year-old plaintiff in Our Children’s Trust lawsuit against Governor Rick Scott and State of Florida.

Sponsors and partner organizations included: Sierra Club, The Miami Climate Alliance, The CLEO Institute, FANM Haitian Women of Miami, 350 South Florida, New Florida Majority, 1199 SEIU, Peoples Climate Movement, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Demos, Life Is Art, and the Center for Climate Integrity, AFSCME, Blackbird Communications, Catalyst Miami, Engage Miami, Florida Student Power Network, Life Is Art, Miami Workers Center, MoveOn.org, National Latina Institute, NextGen America, Progressive Caucus of Miami Dade, Progressive Jewish Action, Rethink Energy, Sachamama, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, South Florida AFL-CIO, South Florida Resilience System, Unitarian Universalist Justice Florida, United Teachers of Dade, Unite Here, We Count!, Women's March Miami, and the  South Florida Workers Rise for Climate Justice Coalition

Friday, September 14, 2018

Dissecting Ron DeSantis’ Environmental Plan and Abysmal Voting Record

Sierra Club Dissects Ron DeSantis’ Environmental Plan and Abysmal Voting Record in Congress

Earlier this week, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis released his environmental plan for Florida. Below is a brief overview of DeSantis’ plan and votes he’s taken that are in stark contrast to what he now proposes.

Sierra Club Florida Director Frank Jackalone released the following response:

“Ron DeSantis’ environmental plan for Florida is filled with empty promises, few facts, and fewer details, and he omits any reference to climate change, clean energy, or the State’s desperate need to manage growth again.  DeSantis’ plan attempts to greenwash his abysmal record voting against the environment 98% of the time in his three terms as a Member of Congress.  Floridians won’t support someone with DeSantis’ record for governor, which is why he’s so desperately trying to change his tune.”

A Close Look at Ron DeSantis’ Environmental Plan for Florida:

NOT ADDRESSED:  Climate Change, Clean Energy, and Growth Management - Missing from Ron DeSantis’ “plan to protect Florida’s environment” is a goal to combat climate change and transition Florida from dirty coal, oil and gas to clean renewable energy, especially our unlimited supply of solar energy in the sunshine state.   Also missing is a goal to restore State growth management in Florida and to put an end to Rick Scott’s deadly plan to create several new growth corridors in Florida that would double Florida’s population, eliminate wildlife habitat, and threaten our water supply.   Those omissions tells us that DeSantis would continue Rick Scott’s policies over the last 8 years that ignored climate change, failed to tap the State’s solar energy potential, and set the stage for rampant development in the remaining rural areas of the State.

Southern Storage and Everglades Restoration – DeSantis embraces The EAA “Southern Storage” Reservoir plan as the centerpiece of Everglades Restoration and stopping the discharges of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee to the Indian River Lagoon and the Gulf of Mexico.  Yet DeSantis fails to point out that the Reservoir is poorly designed and, according to the South Water Management District, will take 10 years to build. That won’t provide quick relief to coastal communities like Fort Myers and Stuart!   He’s embracing the watered-down, expensive, and problematic version of the EAA Reservoir that Governor Scott and the Water Management District designed.  At 23 feet high, the Reservoir would be deeper than Lake Okeechobee and a potential engineering nightmare.  Also, the Reservoir won’t provide clean water to the Everglades unless the State commits to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on something needed but not in Rick Scott’s plan:  the purchase of tens of thousands of acres of sugar land to create additional wetlands to clean the dirty water stored in the reservoir before it is released to the Everglades.

Additional Bridging for Tamiami Trail -   DeSantis pays homage to Everglades restoration by endorsing additional bridging of Tamiami Trail.  However, he’s Johnny Come Lately on this one.  Every decision maker of importance in Florida supports additional bridging for Tamiami Trail.   DeSantis is making a campaign promise out of something that is already a done deal.

Enforcement of Water Quality Standards – DeSantis creates a bogus issue by saying that the limited powers on clean water standard regulation controlled by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) needs to be shifted to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  That diverts discussion away from the main problem:  Florida DEP isn’t doing enough to enforce the Clean Water Act in Florida.  DEP has the job of setting limits for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution of Florida’s waters, not DACS.  Why isn’t DeSantis talking about the need to restore DEP’s enforcement funds and powers that Rick Scott took away?

Oil Drilling Off Florida’s Coast – DeSantis says that he will use his “unique” relationship with President Trump to ensure that oil drilling never occurs off Florida’s coast.   We are troubled that DeSantis is being vague here. Where does “off Florida’s coast” begin?  5 miles out from the beach?  10 miles out? 100 miles out?  Right now, drilling is prohibited 225 miles from Florida’s Gulf beaches and the oil industry is seeking to move drilling 100 miles closer to them.   That would still be 125 miles away from Florida’s coast and it would put Florida’s beaches and tourism industry at grave risk from being covered with globs of oil and tar mats after another spill like the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster. Would DeSantis oppose any new drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico even if it’s not right “off Florida’s coast?”  He doesn’t say.

Red Tide – DeSantis says he’ll put together a blue ribbon panel and ask them to study the causes of red tide.   We think this is a waste of time and money because red Tide and other harmful algae blooms have been studied to death.  Scientists, government officials, and the public know that the best way to reduce the severity and size of red tide and other algae blooms is to end discharges from Lake Okeechobee, and stop the fertilizer, sewage, septic tank, and manure pollution that gets dumped into Florida’s waters all over the state.  Florida’s crippled coastal tourism industry can’t wait several years for more studies to be completed.

Beach Restoration – DeSantis says he will find innovative technologies and funding opportunities to combat beach erosion.  This is nonsense.   You can’t stop beach erosion without reversing the climate change which is causing sea level rise and more frequent and stronger hurricanes.  Of course, he could borrow a page from Donald Trump’s playbook and build a massive seawall around the whole state of Florida at an unspeakable cost; but nobody would want to live or visit here if DeSantis did that.  If he’s talking about beach renourishment, that’s a losing strategy. As seas rise and stronger hurricanes strike, the new sand will quickly wash away each year until rising seas overtake Florida’s barrier islands and coastal cities.

Rising Seas – Curiously, DeSantis promises to single out South Florida as the place he wants to make resilient from rising seas.   What about the rest of the state?  Rising Seas affect all of Florida, not just South Florida.  DeSantis would prioritize flood mitigation efforts, and stays silent in his new plan about taking State action to address the climate change that produces the sea level rise, increased heat, ocean acidification, and stronger hurricanes that threaten to make Florida unlivable.  However, just last month on a campaign stop in Englewood, “DeSantis argued climate change is not a problem state government can help mitigate…and seemed to question whether climate change and rising seas are caused by human activity,” according to the Sarasota Herald Tribune (http://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20180815/desantis-says-climate-change-not-issue-for-states-to-mitigate).  DeSantis sounds exactly like Rick Scott and Donald Trump, and that means continued inaction to save our coasts from rising seas.

Water Supply – DeSantis wants to protect Florida’s water supply from over-pumping, contamination, and salt water intrusion.  The goals are important, but his solutions don’t do enough to address those problems.  While using reclaimed water is a necessity, the bigger problem is increasing water withdrawals from urban sprawl.   We won’t stop over-pumping of our water resources unless the State restores growth management and limits new consumptive use water permits.  The main contamination problem is nutrient pollution and DeSantis fails to discuss what he would do to stop pollution at its source.  Finally, saltwater intrusion is caused by rising sea levels; it’s a losing battle in a few decades if we don’t convert to clean energy and combat climate change now.

Fracking Ban – We’re happy to see that DeSantis has joined Mayor Gillum and a majority of the Florida State Senate in supporting a ban of fracking in Florida.  We will note that he neglects to use the words “oil” and “gas” in his statement and we hope that his intention is to ban fracking for both.

Florida’s Springs – DeSantis wants to “continue the legacy of restoring and protecting Florida’s springs.”  We have to ask, what legacy?  Florida’s springs have been in continuous decline due to over-pumping, development, and nutrient pollution.  The “legacy” has been one of abuse and destruction of our springs.  He says he will work with all stakeholders to develop a comprehensive program to reduce nitrogen pollution of Florida’s Springs.   That’s great, but we would like to know what he would do beyond convening a few conference calls.

Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment (Amendment 1) - DeSantis says that he would use Amendment 1 dollars not just for purchasing and managing new conservation lands, but also for various existing projects including “…water quality, beach restoration, and conservation of state parks.”  It sounds like he’s siding with the Legislature in its appeal of the Florida Circuit Court ruling that said voters intent was to use Amendment 1 funds exclusively for new land conservation purchases and management of those lands.  If DeSantis sides with the Legislature in its attempt to overturn the Court decision, it would be bad news for future land conservation efforts in Florida.

Clean Air – DeSantis claims that Florida has some of the cleanest air in the country and he would work to keep it that way.   He neglects to mention that Florida has several trouble spots that need help from the State.  EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee reports that several Florida communities such as Tampa Bay, Orlando, and Pensacola have many days a year of unhealthy air.  Hillsborough County this year got an “F” from the American Lung Association for dangerous ozone levels.  Additionally, for six months each year many communities in central and south Florida get blasted by smoke and ash that winds blow in following the massive daily burning of sugar cane fields.


Sierra Club’s Analysis of Ron DeSantis’ Environmental Record in Congress:

Environmental Record:
       LCV Score (Link):
      Lifetime: 2%
      2017: 3%

Key Votes and Issues:

       Protecting Beaches/Oceans:
      Voted Yes on H.R. 200: Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act (Link)
      Undermines successful fisheries management and the science-based conservation tools that prevent overfishing
       Attacks on EPA
      Voted Yes on H.R. 1431, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2017
      This bill would undermine the ability of the Science Advisory Board to provide independent, objective, and credible scientific advice to the EPA. All industries to prolong the scientific review process.
      Voted Yes on amendment to H.R. 3354, Dept. of Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2018
      This amendment would reduce the EPA’s budget by approximately $1.9 billion, weakening the agency’s ability to enforce clean air, clean water, and public health safeguards.
       Clean Water/Supply of Water:
      Voted Yes on H.R. 953, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2017.
      This bill would eliminate Clean Water Act safeguards that protect communities from toxic pesticide exposure that occurs when pesticides are discharged directly into bodies of water without any meaningful oversight or public transparency. While this legislation has been framed as a response to the Zika and West Nile viruses, it is simply a handout to pesticide manufacturers and other corporate interests, and it is unnecessary in addressing the Zika virus or other mosquito-borne health threats.
      Voted Yes on H.R. 1654: The Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act
      This bill would undercut the process to conduct and environmental review and public input on water projects in the West. This bill additionally undermines NEPA, and allows the fast-tracking of project proposals without extensive environmental impact assessments.
      Voted Yes on amendment to H.R. 4923: The Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015
      This amendment would repeal provisions in the Clean Water Act that establish limited exemptions for discharge from farming practices.
       Clean Air:
      Voted Yes H.R. 1119: Satisfying Energy Needs and Saving the Environment
      This bill would exempt waste coal burning power plants from meeting certain clean air standards, including undoing limits on hydrogen chloride and sulfur dioxide, causes of respiratory issues.
       Protecting State Lands, Parks, Springs, and Air:
      Voted No on amendment to H.R. 3354, Dept. of Interior, Environment, and other Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2018.
      This amendment would prevent  federal public lands from being transferred to private owners  in violation of existing laws
       Banning Fracking in the State of Florida:
      Voted Yes on H.R. 2728, the Protecting States' Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act.
      This bill would prohibit the federal government from setting baseline protections from fracking if a state has even minimal, unenforceable guidelines in place. The bill would place fracking oversight under a patchwork of inadequate state regulations and also delay the Environmental Protection Agency’s congressionally mandated study on the impacts of fracking on drinking water, keeping important information on contamination away from families living near oil and gas drilling operations.
      Voted Yes 2231 Offshore Energy and Jobs Act
      This bill would expand offshore drilling production off the coasts of South Carolina, Virginia, California, and Alaska’s Bristol Bay
      Voted No on amendment to H.R. 2231: Offshore Energy and Jobs Act.
      This amendment would have permitted states (including Florida) to prohibit  drilling within its boundaries. (Link)
       Climate Change:
      Voted Yes on H.Con.Res.119 which expresses a resolution stating Congress believes a carbon tax would be harmful to U.S. economy


Paid electioneering communication paid for by Sierra Club Florida Political Action Committee, 1990 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL 33712

Sierra Club Endorses Andrew Gillum for Governor


For Immediate Release: September 14, 2018

Sierra Club Endorses Andrew Gillum for Governor
Environmental Group Responds to DeSantis’ Plan for Florida


St. Petersburg, FL – The Sierra Club, America’s largest grassroots environmental organization with over 3.5 million members and supporters nationwide, including 230,000 in Florida, announced today its endorsement of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for Florida Governor.  It also released a response slamming his opponent's environmental plan.


Statement of Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director

The Sierra Club is extremely pleased to announce our endorsement of Andrew Gillum for Florida Governor.  Gillum established a strong track record of environmental protection while Mayor of Tallahassee.  He has a wonderful, refreshing vision for protecting Florida’s natural treasures, combatting the causes of climate change, and ensuring clean air and water for our families and our wildlife.

Andrew Gillum is the right person for Florida’s most important job.   We are convinced that he will clean up the environmental mess that Governor Scott is leaving us with.  Gillum will stop the releases of polluted water that fuels Florida’s devastating toxic algae water crisis; he will stand firm against plans to drill for oil and gas in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean off Florida’s coasts; he will manage the state’s growth and fully fund the state’s conservation land acquisition program to protect Florida’s natural areas, wildlife, and water resources; and he will convert Florida into a leader for clean, renewable energy.  He will tackle climate change as the cause of rising seas, hotter weather, and stronger hurricanes, unlike Governor Scott, President Trump and his opponent who bury their heads in the sand and refuse to even talk about climate change.

By contrast, Mayor Gillum’s opponent Ron DeSantis has a terrible track record in Congress, scoring just 2 percent on the League of Conservation Voters environmental scorecard for his three terms in Congress.  That means that DeSantis voted against the environment 98% percent of the time!  DeSantis’ “environmental plan for Florida” released just this week is filled with empty promises, few facts, and fewer details, and he omits any reference to climate change, clean energy, or the State’s desperate need to manage growth again.  His plan to address the State’s water crisis by forming a Commission to study red tide is irresponsible; immediate action is needed by the next governor to protect Florida’s coastal tourism economy that has been crippled by killer red tide and other types of toxic algae.

The Sierra Club is pleased by Mayor Gillum’s choice of Chris King as his running mate.  Chris King is a business leader with good values and principles, and he is dedicated to restoring Florida’s Everglades and protecting our coastal estuaries from red tide and other algae blooms.  We are impressed by his commitment, knowledge, and energy, and are convinced that he will make a terrific Lieutenant Governor.

The contrast between Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis couldn’t be greater.  Gillum is an environmental champion with a proven track record who has the foresight and leadership skills to protect Florida’s people and natural resources, while DeSantis, a former Member of Congress with a terrible environmental voting record, merely echoes the failed policies of Rick Scott and Donald Trump.

Contact:
Frank Jackalone:  727-804-1317
Dave Harbeitner: 443-538-6535
Jonathan Berman: 202-297-7533

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Paid electioneering communication paid for by Sierra Club Florida Political Action Committee, 1990 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL 33712

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

It doesn't matter what you call them, they still stink!

Have you heard that the South Florida Water Management District is now calling "Deep Injection Wells" something new?  It is almost too ridiculous to believe, but the new name is "Emergency Estuary Protection Wells."

Shakespeare wrote:  
"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."  In this case it is the reverse; call them what you will, they still stink. 

It would be better to call them Parched Everglades Wells (PEW).

Other more accurate names are:

Deep Everglades Destroyers (DED)

Dehydrated Everglades Features (DEFEAT)

Everglades Extermination Wells (EEW)

It doesn't matter what Rick Scott's SFWMD Governing Board calls Deep Injection Wells, these Water Wasting Wells (WWW) will not protect our estuaries.  Everglades restoration is the answer, sending clean water south is the answer, and wasting precious freshwater is not!


Friday, September 7, 2018

Court Requires Florida to Protect Rights of Puerto Rican Voters

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:Friday, September 7, 2018

Contact: Jonathon Berman, jonathon.berman@sierraclub.org

Court Requires Florida to Protect Spanish-Speaking Voters
Florida District Court Orders Spanish-Language Sample Ballots to be Provided

Source:  https://crispinc.org

Pensacola, FL -- Today, the district court in the Northern District of Florida ordered the Secretary of State to require 32 counties in the state to provide Spanish-language sample ballots at polling places, on county websites and by mail to aid voters. The ruling, made under Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act, is needed as Floridian ballots are still in English-only. The order protects the voting rights of thousands of Puerto Ricans who fled Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria struck last year and resettled in Florida.


As Chief United States District Judge Mark Walker stated in his ruling, "Puerto Ricans are American citizens. Unique among Americans, they are not educated primarily in English—and do not need to be. But, like all American citizens, they possess the fundamental right to vote. The issue in this case is whether Florida officials, consistent with longstanding federal law, must provide assistance to Puerto Rican voters who wish to vote. Under the plain language of the Voting Rights Act, they must."

In response, Florida Sierra Club Chapter Director Frank Jackalone released the following statement:

“Our elections are about giving everyone a voice and allowing them to be heard in our government. This requires us to tear down barriers that may prevent or scare people from voting. Thankfully, the court rightfully ruled in favor of Spanish-speaking Floridians and our democracy.

"The Scott Administration failed Puerto Rican citizens living in Florida by refusing to enforce the Voting Rights Act. Under the Court order, they have to require counties to provide Spanish language support to these American voters who fled the devastation of Hurricane Maria. It is time for Governor Scott and his Secretary of State Kenneth Detzner to accept the court's ruling and to immediately require county supervisors of elections to give full voting access to Florida's refugees from Puerto Rico."

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(Spanish)

Para Distribución Inmediata
7 de Septiembre, 2018
 
Contacto: Javier Sierra, javier.sierra@sierraclub.org, 703.927.4750

Corte de Florida Exige Protección de Votantes de Habla Hispana

La Corte de Distrito Ordena Que Se Ofrezcan Boletas en Español


Source:  https://crispinc.org
Pensacola, FLLa Corte Federal del Distrito Norte de Florida ordenó al Secretario de Estado que exija que 32 condados del estado ofrezcan boletas en español en los lugares de votación, en las páginas web de los condados y en materiales por correo para asistir a los votantes. La decisión, en virtud de la Sección 4(e) de la Ley de Derechos del Votante, es necesaria en Florida ya que las boletas del estado están solo en inglés.



La orden protege los derechos de miles de puertorriqueños que salieron de la isla tras el Huracán María y se asentaron en la Florida. Como el Magistrado Federal Jefe de Distrito Mark Walker declaró en su decisión, “Los puertorriqueños son ciudadanos de Estados Unidos. Unicos entre nuestros compatriotas, ya que no están educados principalmente en inglés y no tienen por qué estarlo. Pero, como todos los ciudadanos de Estados Unidos, poseen el derecho fundamental a votar. El tema en este caso es si los funcionarios de Florida, de manera consistente con la ley federal, tienen que ofrecer asistencia a los votantes puertorriqueños que deseen votar. Y en virtud del texto claro de la Ley de Derechos del Votante, así tienen que cumplirlo”.

Como respuesta, el director del Capítulo del Sierra Club de la Florida, Frank Jackalone, emitió la siguiente declaración:

“Nuestras elecciones se basan en dar a todos una voz y permitirles expresarla en nuestro gobierno. Esto requiere derribar barreras que puedan impedir o intimidar al público a la hora de votar. Por fortuna, la corte dictaminó correctamente a favor de los floridanos de habla hispana y de la democracia.

“La administración Scott le falló a los ciudadanos de Puerto Rico que viven en la Florida al rechazar poner en práctica la Ley de Derechos del Votante. En virtud de la orden de la corte, la administración tiene que exigir a los condados que ofrezcan asistencia en español para estos estadounidenses que escaparon de la devastación del Huracán María. Ya es hora de que el Gobernador Scott y su Secretario de Estado Kenneth Detzner acepten la orden de la corte y que requieran inmediatamente de los supervisores de elecciones de condados que den acceso completo a los refugiados puertorriqueños en la Florida”.

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Monday, August 27, 2018

Sierra Club Comments on the draft plan for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project

On August 20, 2018, Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity submitted comments to the US Army Corps of Engineers on the Draft Integrated Project Implementation Report (PIR) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (LOWRP). Our goal is to drastically improve the plan for water storage and treatment north of the lake. Click here for a pdf of our comment letter to USACE. See pasted below.

Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) bloom on Lake Okeechobee as seen July 2, 2016 by Landsat 8 satellite.
Photo credit: NASA Earth Observatory

August 20, 2018

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Jacksonville District

RE:  Comments on the Draft PIR and EIS for Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project

On behalf of Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, we submit the following comments on the Draft Integrated Project Implementation Report (PIR) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (LOWRP).

Our organizations believe that ecosystem restoration projects in the Lake Okeechobee Watershed are important components of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). They are important: (1) for the health of the Lake Okeechobee ecosystem and its watershed; (2) to improve the quality, timing, and quantity of freshwater flows to the northern estuaries; and (3) for the redirection of freshwater from the lake to where it is most needed, south towards to the Everglades and Florida Bay. To that end, we offer the comments below with the goal of seeing the LOWRP Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP) improved.

1. We support the wetland restoration of the Paradise Run and Kissimmee River Center sites (in Option B), which would restore about 5,300 acres to wetlands. However, there is an opportunity that should not be missed within the LOWRP to restore more wetlands. As stated in the Draft PIR/EIS, “about 330,000 acres of wetlands have been lost in the LOWRP area” and “more wetland acres restored would generally be better” (Draft PIR/ EIS, Appendix E, Attachment B). As described in the Draft PIR/EIS, the Lake Okeechobee West site (included in Option C) has a high restoration potential because it is primarily improved and unimproved pasture, with scattered freshwater marsh and wet prairie wetlands.  The costs per acre for wetland restoration between Options B and C are similar. We do not agree with leaving out this excellent restoration site from further consideration just because it is not in “better ecological quality.” We ask SFWMD and USACE to modify the TSP to include Option C, which would restore 2,800 additional acres of high value wetland habitat for a total of 8,100 acres (a small figure in comparison to the 300,000 acres of lost natural wetlands). The restoration of more wetlands will also provide additional opportunity for water quality improvements.

2. The goals of the CERP component referred to as "Lake Okeechobee Watershed Water Quality Treatment Facilities (OPE)" included not only wetland restoration, but also stormwater treatment areas to "retain phosphorus before flowing into Lake Okeechobee" (CERP Yellow Book, p. 9-4). The CERP Yellow Book makes it clear that an essential aspect of Everglades restoration is the inclusion of water quality features.  We strongly disagree with the assumption stated in the draft PIR/ EIS that "the water flowing into CERP features will be, at a minimum, in compliance with applicable standards" (Draft PIR/EIS, section 3.4.1). This will not be the case unless water quality features are added to the LOWRP. Therefore, we request that USACE reconsider and include water quality features that are essential to Everglades restoration and improve the health of Lake Okeechobee.

3. We have concerns about the proposed Wetland Attenuation Feature (WAF), a type of feature not proposed before in CERP.  While we support shallower surface water storage over deeper storage for any component of CERP, we oppose the use of Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) wells to operate this feature as it is contrary to the restoration of the Everglades. According to the Draft PIR/EIS, while the WAF is primarily intended to attenuate peak flows into Lake Okeechobee, it also states that it "will create emergent wetland habitat…more natural hydrologic conditions, and improved habitat for fish and wildlife resources" (Draft PIR/EIS, pg. ES-7). However, Figure C-88 in Appendix C (see below) suggests that water in the WAF will be 3 to 3.5 ft. deep about 45% of the time and about 0.5 ft. another 45% of the time. This would mean that the change in water stage would be very drastic during the other 10% of the year, rapidly filling or emptying.  This kind of hydroperiod transition does not provide for healthy wetland ecological function, even within an emergent wetland environment. The forty ASRs proposed to assist the operation of this feature would be like a form of permanent artificial “life support,” creating a wetland stuck in an Intensive Care Unit.


4. Instead of the proposed WAF, we strongly recommend that this feature be modified and modeled as a water quality feature, such as a Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) and/or a Flow Equalization Basin (FEB). This will help in significantly reducing nutrient loading to Lake Okeechobee and will also reduce the level of nutrients discharged to the northern estuaries. Reducing the level of nutrients into Lake Okeechobee is essential to Everglades restoration and should not be omitted from this important CERP project. Nutrient loads to Lake Okeechobee must be reduced and LOWRP can be designed to provide such a reduction.  The USACE’s stated current policy of not cost sharing on water quality features should be reconsidered and modified; CERP goals make it clear these features are essential to Everglades restoration.  Even if the federal government does not cost-share, whether because of administrative policy or legislation, it is still incumbent on the state to provide a locally preferred alternative that includes water quality features. Therefore, we urge USACE and SFWMD to modify this feature so it provides what the ecosystem needs, clean water for the heart of the Everglades.

5. We oppose the use of ASRs in CERP as contrary to the goals of Everglades restoration. ASRs waste public funding that is needed for actual ecosystem restoration. It is particularly troubling that half of the eighty ASR wells proposed in the TSP will inject water into the Avon Park Permeable Zone (APPZ) where water recovery is estimated at only 30%.  We cannot support the wasting of freshwater via ASR wells when we have an urgent need to increase the flows of clean freshwater to the Everglades and Florida Bay, to replenish the Biscayne Aquifer in South Florida and to hold back saltwater intrusion.

6. We applaud the USACE for rejecting the use of deep injection wells; deep injection wells are inconsistent with the goals of Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). In fact, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2000, which authorized CERP, included a provision that CERP shall be implemented to ensure “the reduction of the loss of fresh water” from the South Florida ecosystem. Most recently, SFWMD stated in a June 1, 2018 letter to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works that the "Water wasted to tide in the Northern Estuaries is THE water needed to restore the Quantity, Quality, Timing and Distribution of water within the Everglades system."

7. The Draft PIR/EIS does not clearly articulate how much each component in the TSP contributes to the reduction of harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee and to keeping lake stages within the ecologically-preferred stage envelope. We hereby request the percentage of the benefit for the wetland restoration sites, WAF, Upper Floridan Aquifer ASRs, APPZ ASRs, and lake operational changes.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide these comments. The above list is not a comprehensive coverage of our concerns. For instance, with regard to ASRs, it is unclear what exactly is meant by the storage volume of approximately 448,000 ac-ft. per year from ASRs, what portion of the injected water is recoverable for the natural system, and how fast water can be recovered during a drought.  In as much, we look forward to providing additional input on an ongoing basis as the process proceeds.

Sincerely,

Diana Umpierre, AICP
Organizing Representative, Sierra Club

Jaclyn Lopez
Florida Director, Center for Biological Diversity

Friday, August 24, 2018

Sierra Club Belle Glade Office Grand Opening!

New front door!
On Saturday, August 11, 2018, we celebrated a new and exciting phase of Sierra’s work in South Florida with the grand opening of our Belle Glade office in western Palm Beach County. Sierra Club is the first environmental non-profit to open an office in the Glades, within the Everglades Agricultural Area and by the shores of the water heart of South Florida and the Everglades - Lake Okeechobee.  

The office was packed with sixty-six  partners, local activists, and new friends from across Florida. Attendees shared stories, ate food prepared by a local activist Kina Phillips, and heard presentations from Belle Glade and South Bay activists and Sierra Club organizing staff.  After the program many took a guided tour of the surrounding community and the southern shore of Lake Okeechobee.

Patrick welcomes all 
Stop Sugar Field Burning Campaign Organizer Patrick Ferguson kicked off the presentations with an introduction encouraging attendees to explore how the office can be used as a collaborative space for individuals and organizations seeking to have a positive impact on the Glades. Then the real heart of the program began with words of wisdom, encouragement and solidarity from three local leaders of the Stop Sugar Field Burning Campaign:

Jam-packed with organizers, activists leaders, and new friends!
Kina Phillips, a local community organizer and small business owner, gave a powerful presentation on how pre-harvest sugar field burning has negatively impacted the people of the Glades and what drove her to fight for environmental justice in western Palm Beach County. She described how her grandson's need to use a breathing machine during the burning season inspired her to speak out against the practice which threatens the health of so many of her neighbors. Kina finished by entreating all to join the fight for clean water here in the water heart of the Everglades.

Steve Messam in action.
Steve Messam, a local entrepreneur and minister, echoed a similar story about how his family's health, especially his young son's health, suffers during the burning season. Steve described the negative economic impacts pre-harvest sugar field burning brings, including the costs residents shoulder during burning season to clean up the “black snow” (ash) and soot off of their property. He introduced many in the crowd to the alternative to burning called “green harvesting” which can bring new economic opportunity to the Glades.  He explained that if sugarcane “trash” (the leaves and tops) wasn’t sent up in smoke, it could be used to make electricity and products such as biochar, mulch, tree-free paper products, ethanol, and more.  He called on sugar growers to use this currently wasted “trash” to create jobs instead of pollution.

Shanique Scott, former Mayor of the City of South Bay and local business owner, railed against the injustice of pre-harvest sugar field burning.  She shared how many Glades residents are faced with having to move away from the community they love because of the health impacts and how this campaign is a fight over what is right and what is wrong. She described how she witnesses first hand how her dance students’ respiratory health is impacted during the burning season.  She spoke of how responsible she feels for the well being of the young people she teaches and her hope for a smoke-free future in her beloved hometown. 

Sierra Club Everglades Restoration Campaign Organizer Diana Umpierre drew everyone in to imagine a new “Nearby Nature in the Glades” initiative that will be based at the new office and will work with parents, teachers, and community activists to give kids and their families the opportunity to explore, enjoy and protect the natural environment in and around the Glades.  She finished by reminding all of the starry night sky in the Glades - a treasure urban South Floridians do not get at home - and encouraged all to wait until dark and look up into the heavens to catch the Perseid meteor shower.

After the tour!
The highlight of the event might have been the tour of the surrounding community led by local activists. A caravan of vans and cars drove by the homes, schools, and businesses that are so directly affected by pre-harvest sugar field burning and passed by many sites key to the current and potential future socioeconomic status of the Glades:  migrant worker housing, a sugar mill, Glades Central High School, Herbert Hoover Dike, Torry Island on the southern shore of Lake Okeechobee, and more.

Sweet!
All our guests were invited to leave a message on our wall - we hope you can come make your mark too! We welcome existing and new partners to join us.  The Grand Opening was a great start for what is sure to be a collaborative space and hub for the growing grassroots movement for environmental justice. What are we fighting for?  Clean water to drink and play in, safe and healthy places to live, equity, justice, and economically and environmentally sustainable                        jobs for all!  
                       
                                      All Photos By Lomiekia Messam