Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Dunedin Commits to 100 Percent Clean, Renewable Energy

City joins five others across Florida with the goal, adding to the growing, 
unstoppable national momentum for a 100% clean energy future for all. 

DUNEDIN, FL -- Last Thursday, December 6, 2018, the Dunedin City Commission unanimously approved a resolution establishing a goal of powering municipal operations entirely with renewable sources of energy by 2035, and community-wide by 2050. This action establishes Dunedin as the 101st city in the nation to commit to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.

Additionally, 26 local businesses and organizations signed a letter of support for Dunedin’s goal. Dunedin joins five other cities in Florida -- Largo and St. Petersburg also in Pinellas County, as well as OrlandoGainesville, and Sarasota -- in establishing a goal of being powered by 100 percent renewable sources. Four cities in Florida served by Duke Energy have now committed to 100 percent clean energy.

Dunedin is known for its world-class beaches -- Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island State Parks, walkability, and lively celebrations of its proud Scottish heritage. A coastal city, Dunedin is especially vulnerable to effects of climate change like sea level rise and destructive storms. As recent studies like the Fourth National Climate Assessment and International Panel on Climate Change report show, climate change is a major threat to communities -- and a transition away from polluting dirty fuels to renewables is imperative to avoid the worst effects of climate disruption. By committing to 100 percent renewable energy, Dunedin joins other Florida cities in taking climate action by moving toward a stronger, more resilient energy system for everyone.
(l-r) Suncoast S. Pinellas Conservation
Chair Jim House, N. Pinellas Conservation
Chair Courtney Murphy, RF100 staff
Phil Compton, local solar industry rep
Brenda Probasco, and FL Chapter
Political Chair David Harbeitner.
Photo by Marcia Biggs. 

“The City couldn’t be more excited to take this next step in making the world a better place. We signed on to the Mayors for 100% Clean Energy and now we are taking our commitment to the next level. Our Commission and our Citizen Committee on Environmental Quality believes strongly in setting the example for our residents future,” said Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski.

“Congratulations to Dunedin for joining the movement towards 100 percent clean energy. There’s strength in numbers -- and by working together to change our shared energy system, more Pinellas County residents will enjoy the benefits of healthy and affordable energy,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.
 Supporters stand with the City Commission after the unanimous vote at 10:45pm. Mayor Bujalski
gives a thumbs up as she stands directly in front of  the U.S. flag. (photo by Marcia Biggs)
“Lately we’ve heard a lot about the risks and dangers posed by climate change. Today, Dunedin's leadership is telling a new story -- one of optimism and opportunity. Communities who step up to build a clean energy future today will have a competitive economic edge tomorrow. This commitment, combined with those of St. Petersburg and Largo, means that approximately 40 percent of residents in Pinellas County -- Florida's most densely populated county -- live in a place committed to 100 percent clean energy. We're approaching a very positive tipping point,” said James Scott, Executive Committee Chair of the Sierra Club Suncoast Group.

Left to right: Lael Giebel of the City of Dunedin, N. Pinellas
volunteer Warren Stovall, and the Brand family: their daughter,
Diane, and Alan. Alan, a member of the Dunedin Committee
on Environmental Quality, led this successful effort, with
support from Diane, chair of the City's Planning Board.
(photo by Marcia Biggs)
What you can do right now to grow a clean energy future: The Ready for 100 national team has created a new tool kit to help you and your community join in the celebration of  this collective accomplishment -- and we need your help! This moment can also help support your campaign's advocacy for 100% clean energy locally. Please share this tool kit with your local volunteers and allies and help spread the good news via letters to the editor, op-eds and social media

As this kit was released in recognition of  Cincinnati's 100th commitment the night before Dunedin's, please add a note that America is rapidly moving past Cincinnati's 100th commitment into our 2nd set of 100 cities. We'd love for cities numbered 1-- to include your Florida cities or counties. Spreading the news that this is happening will get lots of folks intrigued and dreaming over the holidays, not just of a white Christmas, but of a clean energy future where we still have snow somewhere!

Phil Compton, Senior Organizing Representative

Sierra Club's FL Healthy Air & Ready for 100 Campaigns:
Clean Energy & Clean Transportation for All 
1990 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, FL 33712
(o) 727-824-8813, ext. 303      (c) 813-841-3601 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Tens of Thousands Tell U.S. Fish and Wildlife: No Mega-development in Florida Panther Habitat!

As of November 30, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had received over 30,000 comments submitted by people from across the nation demanding that the agency reject the Eastern Collier County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan) Application and all associated permits that will harm Florida panthers and destroy their habitat. The Plan calls for the destruction of thousands of acres of panther habitat to build sprawling residential developments.

In addition to comments submitted by the general public, and joint comments submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club, on November 30, forty-one (41) organizations and businesses representing additional tens of thousands of Floridians sent a letter to Fish and Wildlife Service opposing the plan. These comments were submitted during a woefully inadequate, 45-day comment period.

Conservation groups requested an extension of the comment period and a public meeting from the Fish and Wildlife Service, but it denied both requests. The one and only public meeting, with a standing-room-only crowd, was held in 2016.

The majestic, vulnerable Florida panther was one of the first species listed as endangered in 1967, and today it remains one of the most endangered species in the United States. As few as 120 panthers remain, which is far short of the population necessary for the species’ recovery under the Endangered Species Act. Rampant development and climate change threaten to destroy what little habitat remains for this magnificent creature’s recovery.

Nevertheless, the Fish and Wildlife Service is considering this destructive Plan that would be devastating to panther recovery. If approved, this misguided Plan would let real estate developers convert panther habitat in Eastern Collier County, Florida into sprawling housing developments.  Within the proposed 45,000-acre mega-development plan, approximately 20,000 acres of panther “primary zone” habitat would be destroyed. This habitat supports the only breeding Florida panther population in the world. Meanwhile, the developer-applicants claim that the “plan” will protect 107,000 acres in Eastern Collier County; yet, that 107,000 acres would be subject to agricultural intensification and oil and gas development, and in portions of this area, low density development.

“This plan would destroy thousands of acres of panther habitat, even as scientists say they can’t afford to lose any more,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Service has to take a stand and fight for the panther; otherwise, it is signing its death warrant.”

“Don’t be fooled by the name Habitat Conservation Plan – this is a destruction plan and is contrary to the future of the Florida panther,” said Cris Costello, Sierra Club Organizing Manager.

"This ill-conceived plan would pave the way for more than 90,000 new housing units, 174,000 new residents and 180,000 more vehicles on the road in primary panther habitat when vehicle collisions are the number one cause of panther deaths," said Eric Huber, Managing Attorney for the Sierra Club. "In our opinion this project violates the Endangered Species Act and we urge the Fish and Wildlife Service to turn it down.”

“The HCP would sever and fragment wildlife corridors that the Florida panther relies upon to move across the landscape. Without these corridors the panther will become more isolated and will never be able to fully recover,” said Amber Crooks, Conservancy of Southwest Florida Environmental Policy Manager.

Approval of the proposed Eastern Collier County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan and the associated 50-year take permits would enable intense mining, and residential and commercial development on 45,000 acres of habitat that is vital to the panther and other imperiled species including the scrub jay, caracara, wood stork, red cockaded woodpecker, snail kite, eastern indigo snake, and Florida bonneted bat.

The permits would facilitate construction of tens of thousands of homes, resulting in greatly increased traffic, roads, and other infrastructure that would further fragment dwindling panther habitat, obstruct corridors necessary to movement and recovery, and increase the already grave number of panther deaths from vehicle collisions.  The proposed development will also result in impacts to water resources, water supply, and sensitive public lands adjacent to the plan area.

While the comment period is over, the fight to protect the panther is not.  We will not sit by and let anyone strip South Florida of the land that is absolutely necessary for the continued existence of the panther.  Extinction is not an option!