Tuesday, May 22, 2018

For 10th Time, Floridians Join Hands Across the Sand to Say NO to Oil Rigs!

Floridians reached across the partisan divide for the 9th consecutive year Saturday to join Hands Across the Sand at their favorite local beach to say no to offshore oil drilling and yes to clean energy. While torrential rain forced the cancellation of some Hands events, the sun shone on Clearwater Beach, one of America’s most popular beaches. 

L-R: Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard of Largo, Clearwater Mayor
George Cretekos, Congressman Charlie Crist, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. 
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, considered by many to be America’s #1 champion of clean, thriving beach economies, joined Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos and other prominent local elected officials: County Commissioners Pat Gerard and Janet Long, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and U.S. Representative Charlie Crist. Crist, who now represents Clearwater, St. Pete and the Pinellas beaches in Congress, has been a long time participant, dating back to his time as Florida’s Republican Governor. 

Mayor Cretekos observed that two out of five jobs in Pinellas County come from beach tourism, a number found all along Florida’s shores.

Sierra Club and Environment Florida held a press conference before the Hands event, hosted by Jana Offner Wiggins of Sea Shepherd, with assistance from the Suncoast Rise Above Plastics Coalition, Suncoast Sierra Club, the Suncoast Surfrider Foundation, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Biological Diversity, Organize Tampa and Tampa Bay Waterkeeper.
Environment Florida State Director Jennifer Rubiello hosts Hands
Across the Sand press conference at Clearwater Beach. 

Hands Across the Sand started in February 2010 when state legislators considered opening Florida’s territorial waters to offshore drilling, which prompted a Panhandle restaurant owner to dream up this simple, yet powerful way for people to make a statement: Say NO to offshore drilling and dirty fuels; Say YES to clean energy for all. It grew to a worldwide event during the Deepwater Horizon gulf oil disaster that spring, and has continued as a way for people to express their support for clean beaches, clean technology and healthy oceans. 

Floridians in both parties now agree that new drilling would be a foolish risk to take with our state’s #1 industry – the folks who come from all over the world to visit our pristine beaches.

The gathering and show of support by hundreds of Floridians, thousands across the state, could not have been more timely. Two news reports since Saturday's event show how the current debate on new drilling in Florida's eastern gulf could easily go either way. 

On one hand: “Emboldened by a Defense Department report that expressed worries about unfettered offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, Florida’s House delegation is preparing to throw its weight around to win a multiyear extension of a moratorium off its coasts”, ” [Roll Call, 5/21/18]. 
The late Congressman C.W. Bill Young spoke at the 
very 1st Hands Across the Sand event back in 
Feb. 2010 at St. Pete Beach. For years Young 
kept Florida's Republican congressional delegation 
in line, opposing drilling. Clearwater Mayor 
Cretekos was Rep. Young's long time district director.

While at the same time, however, "House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) are leading talks with a group of lawmakers to find a path to opening the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling. The departments of Defense and the Interior briefed a group of lawmakers from the five Gulf Coast states — including Florida — on the issue last week, according to Scalise’s office. ‘Both departments agreed that with appropriate restrictions and proper coordination by the two departments, there are some areas in the federal waters of the eastern Gulf that could support both military and energy activities,’ a Scalise spokesperson said.” [E&E News,5/22/18].  

Senator Nelson has long pointed out how the eastern gulf, free of oil rigs that could be damaged and in turn damage the gulf, is of vital importance for military preparedness as the nation's only available site for practice bombing maneuvers. The eastern gulf is the only U.S. shoreline that is protected from drilling by federal law - the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) of 2006. It appears we could either lose this protection, if drilling advocates get their way, or extend it past its current expiration date of 2022. Florida's congressional delegation, led by Senator Nelson, is fighting right now for the latter. 
Even if there's never any drilling, seismic testing threatens the lives
of an estimated 187,000 whales and dolphins in the southern Atlantic
Ocean, thousands more in the Gulf of Mexico. 

As St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said Saturday, "The threat doesn't ever seem to go away. It's like a vampire that keeps coming back." 

With a massive electrification of Florida’s cars and buses now possible with the state’s $166 million from the VW diesel scandal settlement, we’ll soon need less oil, not more. It’s time for Big Oil to finally go away and let kids play on our beaches. 

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 

Sierra Club, allies and residents speak out against proposed Dania Beach fracked gas power plant

Sierra Club members showed up in force at the Old Davie Schoolhouse on Tuesday, May 15, to protest Florida Power & Light’s plans to rebuild and expand a fracked gas plant in Dania Beach.

Wearing green, close to 50 Sierra Club members joined by New Florida Majority, Dania Beach residents, the Mayor of Tamarac, the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Broward County and members of the Miami Climate Alliance made their voices heard during the public portion of the site certification hearing.

Dania Beach residents called out FPL for its plans to elevate the new plant by 10.5 feet along with plans to elevate the roads leading up to the plant’s property.  FPL cites “sea level rise” in its application even though the plant’s methane emissions are exacerbating climate change for surrounding communities.

Sierra Club members and residents of Dania Beach demanded to know why FPL had not considered clean, renewable energy instead of building another fracked gas plant.

Tamarac Mayor Harry Dressler spoke about the ways in which local governments and therefore taxpayers are shouldering the climate change costs of FPL's addiction to fossil fuels. 

The final step in the approval process will be a vote of the Power Plant Siting Board which is made up of the Governor and Cabinet members.  The vote is expected to happen sometime in late August of 2018.

Sierra Club members and others concerned about FPL’s plans to build another fracked gas plant that will lead to more climate change impacts should call the Governor’s office at (850) 488-7146 or email him at:  rick.scott@eog.myflorida.com and demand that he vote NO on approval for the Dania Beach fracked gas plant!

-- Susannah Randolph, Senior Campaign Representative, Florida, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign

Inspiring Connections Outdoors in Action

Inspiring Connections Outdoors in Action
By Gonzalo Valdes

Earlier this month, Tampa Bay Group Sierra Club shared their love for enjoying, exploring and protecting the outdoors with the next generation of future protectors of the environment. Sierra Club’s Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO) program hosted a fun weekend of camping for 45 first-time campers from Academy Prep in Lake Wales, FL.

“Plants in action are lit.” While learning how to identify the local flora, the fourth and fifth-grade campers got a closer look at what makes Florida wetlands so special. The students marveled at the Mimosa Pudica leaves reacting to human touch. They received some pointers from our experts on tracking animals in the area. Some even got to enjoy their first taste of blackberries as ripe pickings could be found across the campgrounds. As one fifth-grader put it, "Plants in action are lit." “The ICO Camping Trip provided my students with the ability to experience something most had never experienced before - outdoor camping. The classes that the volunteers taught and the activities they led really allowed my students to stretch outside their comfort zone and build a sense of belonging and oneness with their natural home.“ -- Kathleen Riley, Teacher at Academy Prep, former Sierra Club volunteer and intern

Participants learned about wilderness safety from local ICO Captain Rocky Milburn. Sierra members shared their knowledge of the outdoors by teaching this new crop of outdoor enthusiasts how to kayak, canoe, rock-climb and rappel. Nature hikes, plenty of games and even a talent show where the students got to show off their talents were just some of the many activities enjoyed by the great kids from Academy Prep. And of course, what campout would be complete without a campfire and s’mores.

Hands-on experience camping out overnight reinforced lessons on how to stay safe in the outdoors. By the end of the trip, our once “green” campers had a new appreciation for our connection to the environment and all the fun to be experienced in nature.

The core concept of the ICO program is to show our children another aspect of the world we all share. ICO runs 20-25 trips a year which are fully staffed and organized by dedicated volunteers, including volunteer “certified leaders” who are also certified in basic First Aid and CPR. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Solutions To Pollution On Display During Florida’s Smoggy Week

Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news?

Our kids with asthma need this. 
Who pays for it? VW's $$ could. School bus manufacturer 
Bluebird of GA showed their new electric bus to FL school 
officials at Friday's event in Lakeland. Bluebird joins 
Canadian manufacturer E-Lion in making these emission-
free buses available. FL's VW settlement funds could buy 
these to help our kids with asthma breathe easier. 
OK, here’s the good news: this past week, officials from Florida’s transit agencies and school boards learned about buses without tailpipes – clean, quiet zero emission buses that cost less to own that any other type, buses that will eliminate a major source of carbon emissions and smog.

The bad news? We needed those buses yesterday – literally. As the state celebrated May as "Clean Air Month", in the past week Floridians from Jacksonville to Sarasota suffered from harmful levels of smog – O3, or ground level ozone – that has made it really tough to breathe for folks with asthma and COPD and, on some days, for all of us.

Smog - An Unseen Health Threat

Unlike particulate pollution that we get from forest fires and really dirty diesel trucks, you can't see, taste or smell smog. Like a sunburn you don’t feel until you get home from the beach, smog burns the inside of your lungs. People with pulmonary issues suffer at lower levels than the rest of us. Kids with asthma have to interrupt their games on a playground to whip out inhalers as smog reaches just 60 parts per billion - 17% lower than EPA's current standard of 70 ppb.

Floridians this week in places like Jacksonville (115), Sarasota (133), Lakeland (115), and Tampa (166) all got the inside
of their lungs fried by ozone, making folks wonder why they were having trouble breathing. Sound like anyone you know?
Where does smog come from? FPL, Duke and the other utilities burning coal and “natural” (we call it fracked) gas, to be sure. But more than those guys, it’s you and me, driving our cars. Unless you drive an EV, that is.
Florida sunshine converts NOx and VOC into ozone. Sunny
spring days in weeks without rain results in harmful
levels that has won Hillsborough County an "F", year
after smoggy year, from the American Lung Association

AAA sees a strong future for electric vehicles, citing a new survey that shows that 1 in 5 Americans want one. Fifty million Americans, or 20%, will likely go electric with their next vehicle purchase, up from 15 percent last year.

Thanks to Florida's $166 million from Volkswagen, the solution to this pollution could be here soon, in large numbers statewide that make it possible for everyone to go electric and replace many of our dirty diesel buses. We could also have many more EV charging stations, thanks to VW and Sierra Club’s settlement agreement with Duke Energy that results in the utility spending $9 million on EV charging stations for places like multi-unit homes and interstate exits – places we need to be able to charge if more of us are going to drive cars without tailpipes. We especially need rapid charging stations at every exit on our highways for the new generations of EVs that go ~ 250 miles on a charge, so we'll all be able to take them across the state or on longer trips outside of Florida.

With VW potentially contributing $25 million for EV charging stations in Florida, not to mention installing their own network nationwide, we could very soon reach the tipping point to the switch to EVs that so many now desire.

Automated vehicles use "lidor"
sensors on bumpers that see by
emitting photons, creating a virtual
reality vision for on an board computer.
Another reason EVs are on their way: automated vehicles (AVs) are in the last stages of development, as we saw at a demonstration in Tampa on Wednesday. These cars can all be electric and will make roads safer. Furthermore, they’ll eliminate the need for many of the asphalt surface parking lots that make Florida hotter as they also prevent natural stormwater percolation into the aquifer. And when they do park when out of service to recharge, AVs will take up 50% less room, as they can park close together without needing to allow passengers to exit.

Even UPS is starting to make the switch. On the transit front, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, PSTA, will take delivery of its 1st two zero emission electric buses this month, and they just ordered 2 more to serve low income neighborhoods in S. St. Pete, to help improve air quality there. The Broward County Commission is expected to order its first 15 electric buses at its 9 am meeting Tuesday morning, May 22 

Proterra is expected to soon add more
electric buses to the 4 that have
served Tallahassee for years, along 
with a new order from Broward Co. 
All the electric buses now being made in America were on display at the American Public Transit Association's convention in Tampa, where they were parked across the street from where the Tampa Bay Lightning are now contending in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (we thought that was fitting). Go Bolts! Go Electric! 

A Big Thanks To YOU: Our THANKS to all who took 
the FDEP survey on how best to use our $166 million
from the VW diesel scandal settlement to reduce smog
emissions from transportation.

Special thanks to Sierra volunteers in every Group in our Florida Chapter, all over the state, who asked thousands to have their say, from Earth Day to yesterday. We expect FDEP to release the results later this month, and for EVs to come out far ahead. 
We’ll share the results soon.
PSTA will soon have 2 BYD
electric buses serving St. Pete's
Downtown Looper. Next year, 2 more! 

Thanks again for helping Florida take a major step forward to clean up our smoggy skies, as we fight the climate change that threatens our future. Other states are, the rest of the world is 
why not us? 

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, May 10, 2018

“Busting Myths About Energy and Conservation” - Alachua Co. NAACP & Suwannee St. Johns Sierra Club Host Community Energy Forum

The Alachua County NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Committee hosted a Community Energy Forum entitled “Busting Myths About Energy and Conservation” at the Thelma Boltin Center, March 17, 2018, 11:00 am-2:00 pm.

The Forum was an effort to involve members of the east Gainesville community, predominantly African-American, in participating in reducing our energy, water, and utility bills, and in discussions of steps that can be taken by individuals, the community, and our government to reduce utility bills and to conserve water and energy. The intent was to conduct community mapping of Gainesville's frontline African-American community to inform the work of the Gainesville Ready for 100% Clean Energy for All Campaign in achieving a lasting commitment from the City of Gainesville to plan how the community will become free of all fossil fuel consumption in the years to come.

Organizing efforts: A core group of about 8 people - representatives from NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice, Suwannee St. Johns Sierra Club, Women's March, Community Weatherization Coalition, and Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and some individuals - worked together to create this event over a four month period: securing a venue, creating an event format, booking speakers, creating and distributing publicity materials, and getting donations. The day of the event required about 15 volunteers including setup, check-in/registration, keeping the event running on time, food prep and serve, and clean up.

Publicity: Event was publicized on social media and websites of participating organizations; local newspaper distributed in east Gainesville (The Guardian), and on local NAACP radio show; flyers were distributed to community organizations and public locations; Rechiert House students (after school program for at-risk young men) took flyers in individual houses in targeted neighborhoods, invitations including a letter from Gainesville Mayor Poe were mailed to east Gainesville neighborhood leaders and churches.

Expenses: NAACP, Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU), City of Gainesville, Sierra Club, and local businesses and individuals provided in-kind and/or monetary contributions totaling approximately $2,400 for venue rent, printing of publicity materials, food, door prizes, and videographer.

FormatThe Forum featured interactive and informational tables from 11am-12pm. Groups participating in this part included the Gainesville Bee Club, Suwannee St. Johns Sierra Club, Community Weatherization Coalition, GRU, Citizens’ Climate lobby, Central Florida Community Action Agency, We Are Neutral, Alachua County School Board, UF College of Journalism and Communications (Energy Burden Study), Zero Waste, and Hands on Gainesville. 

The keynote speaker for the forum was Ms. Jacqui Patterson, NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program National Director.  In her talk, Ms. Patterson shared experiences from other communities who are mobilizing to save energy, protect communities from toxic waste and climate change, and engage with efforts to promote renewable energy and reduce wastes and toxins.  Other speakers included Dr. Anthony Greene and Dr. Wendell Porter of the University of Florida.  

For the final part of the event, participants were served lunch while they engaged in small group discussions about steps that can be taken by individuals, our community, and our government to conserve water and energy, save money on utility  bills, and develop policies to support these goals. Each table had at least one facilitator who kept the conversations focused, took notes on participants’ ideas. At the end, one person from each table shared ideas with the entire room. Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe wrapped up the event. The event was covered in the local press
Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe

Attendance: We had planned for 120, including tablers and speakers.  Our final count was 75 with 28 of those being people of color, so both the attendance and diversity was less than anticipated. However, Jacqui Patterson, who speaks all over the country at these types of events, was pleased with both. She mentioned that quite often she is the only person of color in the room at speaking engagements, so she was happy with the turnout.

Attendee Followup: We asked attendees for their names and contact information and will be following up with a Thank you letter reminding them to follow up on their energy conservation commitments, invite them to future NAACP ECJ committee meetings and events, and ask for contact information for additional community leaders they think might be interested in hearing from us.

What we could have done better: Publicity earlier with more personal and more frequent outreach to community leaders. Food donations need to start at least three months in advance. Plan on at least 5 people dedicated to food preparation and serving. Interactive tabling time of one hour was too long and some people left before speakers started.

Benefits of event: While community awareness and education was the main benefit, a huge bonus was the positive relationship built between members of the planning committee. We started as individuals representing our various groups, but bonded as a team committed to working together on future events and toward a shared goal of clean equitable energy.  We each brought resources - skills, community contacts, and tangibles - which others lacked and realized how much more we can accomplish together as a united front.  

Future Plans:
-          April 28th TreeFest Tabling
-          Video editing, upload to Youtube, link to social media
-          Fall 2018 Educational event on food & energy use
-          Creating an educational “comic book” on energy
-          Outreach - taking our message to the people instead of having them come to us, starting with churches

Final ThoughtsA few comments from participants:

From a young woman who was a pulled in as a facilitator at the last moment:  “I was more than happy to help out yesterday and was thrilled to see what a great turnout there was from such a diverse group of community members.  I would say that it was a major success and it seems as though people really stepped outside their normal framework of thinking to explore new ways that they might be able to be more efficient in their energy use.  I was really impressed by the small table discussions and the reporting out that went on at the end of the event.  I was also so happy to see the last few women who stood up to present... they were hesitant to get up there and talk to everyone at first, but once they got started sharing their group's message, they seemed to be empowered.  That was great!”

From an attendee: "I learned so much, I am glad I came Everything was perfect."

Another: “I thought the lunch and small groups were so very smooth. Whoever thought up the lunch part is a genius.”

One more: “YAY!!!!!! I look forward to seeing the video.”

Roberta GastmeyerSuwannee St. Johns Sierra Club, and Chair, Gainesville Ready for 100 Coalition
with Phil Compton, Sierra Club FL Ready for 100 staff

Friday, April 13, 2018

Don't Let Florida Use VW Diesel Settlement Funds On More Diesel - Tell Them You Want Electric!

It’s a scandal! Florida could put its $166 million share of the multi-billion dollar VW diesel scandal settlement back into - MORE DIESEL. 

That’s right. VW was caught rigging its dirty diesel cars to make customers think they were clean, and now has to give Florida $166M to clean up its air. But instead of using VW's money for clean transportation like electric vehicles, the State of Florida could pump it straight back into dirty diesel - unless you tell them we can do better

We need you to tell the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to instead use the money to pay for electric vehicle charging station infrastructure and zero-emission electric school and transit buses. Please take 5 minutes today to take the FDEP VW Survey, click on: bit.ly/fldepsurvey.

Here are Sierra Club's recommendations on how to reply to the survey's most important questions.

Page 1:  Question: Which of the following best describes you?
  •         Interested Individual
  •         Private Business Representative
  •         Government Representative
  •         Representative of an Environmental Organization
  •         Representative of other Public Interest Organization
Sierra Club recommends that you answer that you are an “Interested Individual”.

Page 2: Question: As a percentage, how should Florida divide the total available funding …
____ % Government-Owned Vehicles and Equipment
____ % Business-Owned Vehicles and Equipment

Sierra Club recommends you answer: “100% Government-Owned Vehicles and Equipment. 
Question: There are several major project categories to which the state may direct funding. Please rate these categories from 1 (most preferred) to 7 (least preferred). Note: for the following table each column is restricted to a single answer across all rows.
Sierra Club recommends a rating for “School Buses, Shuttle Buses, and Transit Buses” as Priority 1, and “Electric Vehicle Charging Stations” as Priority 2.
Pages 3-4:  Question: There are many factors that may be useful in identifying and prioritizing mitigation projects. Please rate the following factors from 1 (most preferred) to 7 (least preferred). Sierra Club recommends Priority 1 be “Projects that replace diesel units with alternative fuels and/or electric vehicles and equipment.”
Page 4:  Question: Please provide any additional information that you think may be helpful in developing Florida's Beneficiary Mitigation Plan. Please also feel free to provide your contact information if you would like to be added to the Department's mailing list for future communications concerning Florida's Diesel Emissions Mitigation Program.

Sierra Club recommends that you write: “All buses should be electric.”

NOTEAll questions must be answered for your survey to be submitted as complete. Sierra Club does not have recommendations on the survey’s questions other than those listed above. You may answer them however you wish, but please do answer all questions.
Thank you for taking the time to take this survey. The Department will use responses obtained from the survey to develop Florida’s State Beneficiary Mitigation Plan. Please share the link (bit.ly/fldepsurvey) with your Florida friends and family to FDEP’s Diesel Emissions Mitigation Program Public Survey, along with Sierra Club’s above recommendations. Please ask your friends and family to take 5 minutes, just as you have, to complete this survey before the May 11 deadline. 

More info here from the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times and Charged EVs magazine. 

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 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Sierra Club asks Governor Scott to veto wetlands dredging bill - HB 7043

March 19, 2018

The Honorable Rick Scott, Governor
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Dear Governor Scott:

Sierra Club Florida urges you to veto HB 7043, titled State Assumption of Federal Section 404 Dredge and Fill Permitting Authority

HB 7043 abandons wetlands protections available in federal law, allows Florida to assume new responsibilities without commensurate new resources, and leaves virtually all important implementation questions unanswered.  Accordingly, the bill puts at risk a diminishing resource that provides water supply by routing water into the aquifers that provide 90% of our drinking water, filters pollutants from stormwater before they reach our aquifers, rivers, lakes, and springs, provides significant flood protection, and provides habitat for many of the state’s imperiled species from the Everglades snail kite to the Florida panther. Florida has lost ~44% of its wetlands since 1845.

Specifically the bill would:

1) Abandon the protections of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the checks and balances between the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers. 

HB 7043 will transform wetland permitting involving vast swaths of our landscape from “federal actions” to “state actions” with the result that interactions between agencies required under federal law will no longer apply.  Florida’s wetlands will lose the protection of two of the most important federal environmental laws: NEPA and the ESA. This means the Environmental Assessment and Environmental Impact Statements required under NEPA, as well as public input provisions will no longer be required.   

With respect to the ESA, Florida has many more federally listed species than New Jersey or Michigan, the two states that have assumed delegation from the EPA and the Corps.  In both of those states no formal Section 7 consultation occurs with the Fish and Wildlife Service and no formal biological opinion is prepared.  Instead, it appears the Service issues findings and recommendations to the EPA and the state.  It is unlikely that these findings and recommendations will be subject to judicial review in federal district court under the Administrative Procedures Act and the ESA.

Under the Clean Water Act, the Army Corps issues section 404 wetland dredge and fill permits under a set of mandatory guidelines developed by EPA, and the Corps’ permitting authority is subject to an EPA veto.   This bifurcation of authority provides an important check and balance that serves to promote protection of a resource that is important to all Americans. Clean water and related wetland values are essential to both Florida and the nation. The balance between private property and development with our most biologically productive and most rapidly diminishing resource must not succumb to a short-sighted race to the bottom.  It is unrealistic to expect that DEP will be able to act as a check and balance on its own permitting activities.

2) Assume new responsibilities without commensurate new resources.  

DEP has stated that it has sufficient resources and trained personnel to take on the new responsibilities inherent in assuming delegation.  Further, they have said they do not intend to require permit applicants to pay the costs of processing permits.  DEP has repeatedly stated that there is 80-85% overlap between their current responsibility to issue ERPs and their new duties under 404 dredge and fill permitting requirements. That is a tacit admission that their workforce will face a 15-20% increased workload caused by their new responsibilities when delegation is assumed. 

In addition, taking on 404 permitting entails potential litigation which costs money and requires either staff or additional funding for outsourced legal work, not to mention possible settlements.

3) Leaves virtually all important implementation questions unanswered.

HB 7043 leaves the determination of important policy issues to future Memoranda of Agreement between DEP and both EPA and the Corps, effectively granting the Department of Environmental Protection unbridled discretion.  At the time HB 7043 was passed by both chambers no legislator knew how 404 delegation will affect wetland permitting in Florida.  It was then, and remains now, impossible to know because the details will all be incorporated in Memoranda of Agreement that have yet to be negotiated and finalized.

During committee hearings much was made of the requirement under federal law that DEP’s standards will have to match all current federal standards in order to receive delegation.  However, having the same standards is not a guarantee they will be interpreted and enforced as EPA and the Corps do now.  It is not encouraging that in Michigan after being alerted by environmental groups, EPA found problems in Michigan's program, but even 34 years after assuming delegation, not all the problems have been resolved as far as we can tell.

We urge you to exercise your authority to veto HB 7043 in order to preserve the current stewardship afforded Florida’s wetlands under EPA’s and the Corps’ administration of the Clean Water Act Section 404 Dredge and Fill permitting program.


David J. Cullen
on behalf of the Sierra Club Florida Executive Committee

David J. Cullen
Sierra Club Florida Lobbyist
1990 Central Avenue
St. Petersburg, FL 33712

Friday, March 9, 2018

Florida Legislature Passes Bill that will Harm Drinking Water Quality -- Senate Leaders Kill Fracking Ban

By a vote of 27 to 10, the Florida Senate today approved House Bill 1149, a bill that encourages the injection of reclaimed water into Florida aquifers.   Amendments filed by Senator Gary Farmer to ban fracking and protect water quality were inexplicably withdrawn by Senator Farmer yesterday evening.  The bill was previously passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 86 to 21 and now moves to Governor Rick Scott's desk for his signature or veto.

Statement by Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director:

Floridians need to hold the Florida Legislature accountable for passing a bill (HB 1149) that will harm Florida's aquifers.  It allows millions of gallons of reclaimed water to be pumped daily into the aquifers we all depend on for our drinking water.  Sierra Club thanks the 10 Senators who today voted against this bad bill.  

Senate leaders will need to explain to Florida voters why they wouldn't allow a vote on a fracking ban in Florida.  Fracking for gas and oil poses an extreme danger to Florida's drinking water, and it releases harmful methane gas that harms our health and accelerates global warming.   We are convinced that a majority of the Senate would have voted approval for a fracking ban if Senate President Joe Negron and Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley had allowed Senators to vote on the bill.  

We also regret that Senator Farmer withdrew three amendments to HB 1149 that would have banned fracking in Florida and ensured higher water quality standards in this bill.

Call Your Senators - Ask them to vote NO on House Bill 1149. Amendments were withdrawn to ban fracking and protect Florida's aquifers!

Dear Supporters of Clean Air, Water, and Energy:

We regret to inform you that last night Senator Gary Farmer (D-Ft. Lauderdale) withdrew his amendment to House Bill 1149 that would ban fracking in Florida.  Additionally, Senator Farmer withdrew two other amendments to the bill that would ​make water pumped into the aquifer cleaner.

The bill that is left is coming to the floor today, and it is bad for Florida's waters. And Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville), the sponsor of the bill, is asking Senators to vote on a revision of the bill that would make it even worse. ​

Please call your Senators - one more time - and ask them to vote NO on House Bill 1149.  HB 1149 has already passed the House so only the Senate can stop it.

Find your Senator here.  Just enter your address:  http://flsenate.gov/Senators/Find  
All their Capitol phone numbers are at the bottom of this email.  

Thank you!

Background and talking points

Sen. Perry will move the adoption of amendment  908716 to 1308 to match it to HB 1149 and then move to substitute HB 1149 for his bill and pass it on third reading.  The bill includes:
The standards of treatment for reclaimed water are inadequate to allow it to be pumped into the aquifer we all depend on.  Any contamination will be impossible to clean up – just xconsider how long it takes to clean up plumes resulting from dry cleaning fluid and leaking gasoline tanks.  And the aquifer recharge proposal contemplates pumping millions of gallons a day into the drinking water supply.
·         REISSUING EXPIRED PERMITS – EVEN TO NEW OWNERS WHO DIDN’T HAVE A PERMIT TO BEGIN WITH – and only requires the reissued permit to meet the standards that were in effect up to three years ago, not new standards that may have been adopted since.  It also accepts “professional certification” that the project won’t create additional adverse impacts.  That determination should be made by DEP or the WMD, not by a professional with an unavoidable conflict of interest in favor of the client.
·         ALLOWING REPAIRS AND REPLACEMENT OF DOCKS AND PIERS THAT DON’T REQUIRE PERMITS WITHOUT CONSIDERING CUMULATIVE IMPACTS – Any construction that shades or disturbs seagrasses takes a very long time to heal and cumulative impacts are significant.

All Senators’ Capitol Phone numbers are below:
IMPORANT: Online lookup feature only shows the district phone number. Use tool to find your Senator's name and district number andcall the CAPITOL OFFICE NUMBER from list below. Don't forget, tell them WHERE YOU LIVE.
Find your Senator from the list below and call or click here to find.

Escambia, Santa Rosa and part of Okaloosa
Bay, Holmes, Jackson, Walton, Washington and part of Okaloosa
Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Taylor and Wakulla
Nassau and part of Duval
Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Suwannee, Union and part of Marion
Part of Duval
Flagler, St. Johns and part of Volusia
Alachua, Putnam and part of Marion
Seminole and part of Volusia
Citrus, Hernando and part of Pasco
Part of Orange
Sumter and parts of Lake and Marion
Part of Orange
Parts of Brevard and Volusia
Osceola and part of Orange
Indian River and part of Brevard
Part of Hillsborough
Parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas
Parts of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk
Manatee and part of Hillsborough
Parts of Lake and Polk
Sarasota and part of Charlotte
Part of Pinellas
Martin, St. Lucie and part of Palm Beach
Desoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, Okeechobee and parts of Charlotte, Lee and Polk
Part of Lee
Collier, Hendry and part of Lee
Part of Broward and Palm Beach
Part of Palm Beach
Part of Broward
Part of Broward
Part of Broward
Parts of Broward and Miami-Dade
Part of Miami-Dade
Part of Miami-Dade
Part of Miami-Dade
Monroe and part of Miami-Dade
Part of Miami-Dade