Friday, March 29, 2019

Roads To Ruin Advance In Legislature; Opposition Needed

Plans to push a new set of roads into rural areas of Florida at the expense of wildlife habitat protection and preventing urban sprawl are advancing in the Florida Legislature with support in the House, which until recently had taken no position.

One of these roads, which would run from Polk to Collier County, revives an idea proposed 15 years ago at a time when the road-building and development lobbies were also pushing a cross state toll road from Manatee County to Indian River County that would have crossed the Lake Wales Ridge, the Kissimmee and Upper St. Johns rivers, bisecting key wildlife habitat.

The southwest corridor under consideration would affect key corridors important to the Florida panther and Florida black bear and doom plans to preserve a natural statewide wildlife corridor system.

Interestingly, plans for a second toll road extension between the Tampa Bay area and the Big Bend area  drew support from a group called the Environmental Caucus of Florida, which maintains that the road is needed to reduce traffic  congestion in the Tampa Bay area so greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced.
This is misguided. The new roads will not cut vehicle emissions, only displace them to other parts of the state. In the meantime, the construction of the roads and the development they will generate will lead to the destruction of native habitat, reducing carbon capture and other ecosystem services.
In addition, these unnecessary  projects will  divert limited state revenue away from real public needs.
Although some legislators are supporting the push for the roads because the studies that must precede their further planning, engineering and construction have not occurred, experience shows us that once powerful political forces push projects, the studies are only a formality. 

Everyone should contact their legislators to oppose this idea before it goes any further.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

#TelltheTruthTECO Campaign Surges in Tampa

Over 100 turn out to People's Forum to oppose Big Bend expansion of fracked gas, continued burning of coal 

The Sierra Club organized a rally preceding the public comment portion of the site certification hearing for Tampa Electric Co.'s Big Bend Power Station modernization project. Pictured is the crowd at the rally. | [Malena Carollo | Times, 2019] 
On Monday, March 11th, the Tampa Bay community mobilized in an incredibly powerful way to oppose Tampa Electric Company's (TECO) plans for the largest fracked gas expansion and continued burning of coal at its Big Bend plant.  Video of the event is HERE  

As part of our #TelltheTruthTECO campaign over 150 members, activists, allies, and elected officials came together to hold a People's Forum just before the official public hearing to say NO to Fracked Gas and Coal in Tampa Bay.  

The forum kicked off with Hillsborough County Commissioners Pat Kemp and Mariella Smith demanding that TECO withdraw its proposal for more fossil fuel and invest in clean, renewable energy instead.  St. Petersburg City Councilwoman Darden Rice drove an hour to speak about how St. Pete will be impacted by sea level rise, flooding, and storm surge.  

The public hearing that took place after the people's forum couldn't fit the huge number of people and resulted in standing room only with overflow out into the hallway.  An enormous turn out especially given the fact that the hearing took place during rush hour, 45 minutes south of Tampa, and on a weeknight. 

Sierra Club's animated video describing the impact of the plant on climate change and the resulting sea level rise has now reached over 400,000 views and it's still going!  WATCH the video here!

Our online and social media campaign that has exceeded 7,500 online petitions in opposition to TECO's proposal and the number just keeps growing. 

Finally, the drumbeat of opposition to TECO's proposal and the call for clean energy has become so loud that every candidate in the Tampa Mayor's race, including the front runner, has signed a 100% Clean Energy pledge and has made additional commitments such as the hiring of a sustainability director -- noteworthy because the previous Tampa Mayor had remained silent on these issues. 

Tampa is abuzz with opposition to TECO's proposal and there are renewed discussions of clean energy replacing fossil fuels.  With the national leadership of our hometown Congresswoman Kathy Castor as Chair of the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, it is the dawning of a new day that promises to fully embrace the sunshine in the Sunshine State!

Sign the petition HERE or get in touch with the Tampa Bay local group to find out how you can help the #TelltheTruthTECO campaign!

Friday, March 22, 2019

URGENT!!! Ask Florida Senators to VOTE NO on SB 7068 funding toll roads that would destroy rural Florida.

Senate Bill 7068 funds three toll roads through rural Florida that will fragment landscape and wildlife habitat. The intended “benefits” of these toll roads include water and sewer infrastructure which, with on and off ramps, will accelerate urban sprawl in the last of Florida’s undeveloped areas. Subdivisions and strip malls will proliferate and the natural resources that bring visitors to the State will be overused and overrun. The bill is now headed to the Senate Committee on Appropriations and we need your help.

Building these roads will be expensive! FDOT estimates it will cost $134 million by 2022 to build 13 miles of the Suncoast 2 Parkway[1] – over $10 million a mile. The projects proposed in this bill could cost over $3 Billion. That’s money that will be taken away from General Revenue which funds state parks, education, health care, and hurricane emergency relief.


Please call members of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and urge them to vote NO on SB 7068. 

Please make every effort to speak to staff in the Senator’s office. Nicely, but firmly, ask the staff person to tell the Senator to vote “NO”. If you live in a Senator’s district (see the counties below), be sure to say so! Constituents are very important to legislators. State why you don’t want these roads built.  If you don’t reach staff, please leave a voice mail.  Ask Sen. Lee (the sponsor of SB 7068) to please withdraw his bill.

Senator's Name
County or Counties Represented
Sen. Rob Bradley (R-FL-005) - Chair
Consists of Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Suwannee, Union counties and part of Marion county
(850) 487-5005
Sen. Wilton Simpson (R-FL-010) - V. Chair
Consists of Citrus, Hernando counties and part of Pasco county
(850) 487-5010
Sen. Aaron Bean (R-FL-004)
Consists of Nassau county and part of Duval county
(850) 487-5004
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-FL-027)
Consists of part of Lee county
(850) 487-5027
Sen. Lauren Book (D-FL-032)
Consists of part of Broward county
(850) 487-5032
Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-FL-024)
Consists of part of Pinellas county
(850) 487-5024
Sen. Oscar Braynon (D-FL-035)
Consists of parts of Broward, Miami-Dade counties
(850) 487-5035
Sen. Anitere Flores (R-FL-039)
Consists of Monroe county and part of Miami-Dade county
(850) 487-5039
Sen. George Gainer (R-FL-002)
Consists of Bay, Holmes, Jackson, Walton, Washington counties and part of Okaloosa county
(850) 487-5002
Sen. Audrey Gibson (D-FL-006)
Consists of part of Duval county
(850) 487-5006
Sen. Travis Hutson (R-FL-007)
Consists of Flagler, St. Johns counties and part of Volusia county
(850) 487-5007
Sen. Tom Lee (R-FL-020)
Consists of parts of Hillsborough, Pasco, Polk counties
(850) 487-5020
Sen. Debbie Mayfield (R-FL-017)
Consists of Indian River county and part of Brevard county
(850) 487-5017
Sen. Bill Montford (D-FL-003)
Consists of Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, Wakulla counties
(850) 487-5003
Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R-FL-028)
Consists of Collier, Hendry counties and part of Lee county
(850) 487-5028
Sen. Bobby Powell (D-FL-030)
Consists of part of Palm Beach county
(850) 487-5030
Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-FL-019)
Consists of parts of Hillsborough, Pinellas counties
(850) 487-5019
Sen. David Simmons (R-FL-009)
Consists of Seminole county and part of Volusia county
(850) 487-5009
Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-FL-022)
Consists of parts of Lake, Polk counties
(850) 487-5022
Sen. Linda Stewart (D-FL-013)
Consists of part of Orange county
(850) 487-5013
Sen. Perry Thurston (D-FL-033)
Consists of part of Broward county
(850) 487-5033

SB 7068 calls for shifting an escalating amount of dollars to plan for the tolled expressways from the State General Revenue Fund, rising to $135 million by 2022. The state would borrow billions of dollars more for construction. SB 7068 shifts money away from other important purposes like education, hurricane recovery, state parks and important maintenance on the roads we already have. Governor DeSantis has repeatedly raised concerns about the impact of toll roads on the pocketbooks of working Floridians.

These expressways would carve three corridors through Florida’s undeveloped areas:
  • "Southwest-Central Florida Connector" extending from Collier County to Polk County; a previous highway planned for the route was called the Heartland Parkway
  • "Suncoast Connector" extending from Citrus County to Jefferson County
  • "Northern Turnpike Connector" extending from the northern terminus of the Florida Turnpike northwest to the Suncoast Parkway

Click here and take a look at a detailed map of what would be impacted by these expressways. You can zoom in and out of areas of interest and the buttons on the upper right allow you to sort the potential impacts.

These roads would not serve an identified transportation purpose. Instead, legislators have advocated for them on different grounds:

They claim…..
We respond……
These highways will reduce traffic
That transit and planning relieve congestion, not building roads
These highways will result in economic development for rural communities
Road building is not a sustainable job creation strategy and these roads will route traffic away from communities established on existing roads
These highways will reduce hurricane evacuation times
Getting on the road in bad weather is dangerous. Floridians need more safe spaces in their communities to shelter during storms

It's important for those committee members to hear from concerned citizens like you that SB 7068 is a bad investment that will hurt the environment and accelerate urban sprawl.