Thursday, June 27, 2019

Governor DeSantis Signs HB 829- A Blow to the Environment

UPDATE:

**PRESS RELEASE**

SIERRA CLUB CRITICAL OF GOVERNOR’S SIGNING OF HOUSE BILL 829

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (June 28, 2019) – Today Governor DeSantis signed House Bill 829 despite calls from environmentalists to veto this terrible bill. Amended in the waning hours of the legislative session and without the opportunity for public input, HB 829 uses the threat of awarding the prevailing party attorney fees and costs to coerce local governments into acceding to broader constitutional or statutory preemptions than may actually exist in law.

“Now law, HB 829 imposes these expenses on non-prevailing parties even if initial presentations to the court were good faith arguments regarding whether the scope of an express preemption extended to the subject of a local ordinance,” said Sierra Club Florida’s Chapter Director, Frank Jackalone. “A general exemption from monetary sanctions for good faith behavior already exists in law.”

Deborah Foote, Director of Government Affairs for Sierra Club commented, “Neither party can control what the other’s fees and costs will be. This law serves to discourage both parties from entering the legal arena to challenge or defend. The inability to budget within one’s means is a strong disincentive to participation in a challenge or defense of an ordinance.”

The law also includes a preemption of regulation of Class B biosolids to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP); all local ordinances regulating Class B biosolids will be null and void once DEP adopts its administrative rule.

“Residents of communities are the ones who have to live with water pollution and must be able to adopt regulations strong enough to do the job of protecting their water resources.  Also, it is the local community that is on the hook for violations of the Clean Water Act, not the State.  Localities must be able to adopt regulations, up to and including bans, that work effectively and must not be saddled with a halfway measure that a statewide regulation is very likely to be,” said Jackalone.

“Water quality regulation should be done on a watershed by watershed basis as soils, vegetation, impermeable surfaces, and sources of pollution vary throughout Florida. HB 829 will no longer allow that. Governor DeSantis, by signing this bill, has shown his support of the environment is very selective; if it impacts developers, it goes out the window,” said Foote.


A chapter of the national Sierra Club, Sierra Club Florida is made up of volunteer leaders and civic activists representing over 230,000 members and supporters from all over the state. 

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On Wednesday, House Bill 829 was sent to Governor DeSantis. Please call his office and ask him to VETO this bad bill. 
HB 829 is an attempt by the legislature to (1) coerce local governments into acceding to more preemption than may be supported by statutory text by increasing the financial risk of going to court to defend an ordinance challenged on the grounds that it is expressly preempted, and (2) preempts regulation of Class B biosolids in a one-size-fits-all fashion. This is inappropriate in water quality issues which should be addressed on a watershed by watershed basis.

Specifically, the bill would:

1) Use the threat of awarding the prevailing party attorney fees and costs to coerce local governments into acceding to broader constitutional or statutory preemptions than may actually exist in law. HB 829 would impose these expenses on non-prevailing parties even if initial presentations to the court were good faith arguments regarding whether the scope of an express preemption extended to the subject of a local ordinance, and if the arguments were made with a reasonable expectation of success. Neither party can control what the other’s fees and costs will be. This serves to discourage both parties from entering the legal arena to challenge or defend. The inability to budget within one’s means is a strong disincentive to participation in a challenge or defense of an ordinance. The legislature’s power is wrongly increased whenever a dubious claim of preemption goes unchallenged and law is not clarified because of an indefensible disincentive to accessing the judiciary. General laws are written to apply to the state as a whole and interpretation is often necessary. Local governments and their constituencies should not suffer diminished autonomy because the legislature chooses to make court action prohibitively risky. 

  2) The bill also makes clear the legislature’s intent to preempt local control of the management of land application of Class B biosolids. The intended preemption is clearly implied as beginning on the effective date of rules adopted by the Department of Environmental Protection. The preemption is to be complete; no more stringent regulation will be permitted. Residents of communities are the ones who have to live with water pollution and must be able to adopt regulations strong enough to do the job of protecting their water resources. Also, it is the local community that is on the hook for violations of the Clean Water Act, not the State. Localities must be able to adopt regulations, up to and including bans, that work effectively and must not be saddled with a halfway measure that a statewide regulation is very likely to be. 

Please call Governor DeSantis at (850) 488-7146 and ask him to VETO HB 7103. If you are unable to call, please email   GovernorRon.DeSantis@eog.myflorida.com.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Governor Signs Bill Effectively Ending Citizens' Ability to Enforce Local Comprehensive Plans

SIERRA CLUB CRITICAL OF GOVERNOR’S SIGNING OF HOUSE BILL 7103

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (June 28, 2019) – Today Governor DeSantis signed House Bill 7103 despite the call from environmentalists, including over 40 environmental organizations committed to the protection of the Everglades, asking him to veto this terrible bill. Amended in the waning hours of the legislative session and without the opportunity for public input, HB 7103 threatens Florida with a proliferation of sprawl by effectively eliminating the only means of enforcing local comprehensive plans by requiring the court to award costs and fees to the prevailing party.

“This now law is specifically designed to deter persons from seeking review of, or defending against, unreasonable governmental action because of the expense of civil actions and administrative proceedings. HB 7103 makes no such accommodation for the differences between citizens and local governments because its purpose is to intimidate citizen action against development orders inconsistent with local comprehensive plans,” said Sierra Club Florida’s Chapter Director, Frank Jackalone. 

Deborah Foote, Director of Government Affairs for Sierra Club commented, “The only bulwark against violations of an adopted comprehensive plan is citizen action; Florida Statutes provide no other mechanism. The fees and costs provision makes the choice to challenge the approval of a development order equivalent to deliberately choosing to risk bankruptcy. It is clear that few, if any, such challenges will be mounted. The result will be the end of growth management in Florida.”

The law also restricts local governments’ ability to create affordable housing units; it continues to allow governments to require affordable housing but forces them to repay the developer for any financial losses as a result. In other words, if local governments want affordable housing, they’re going to have to pay for it themselves. “In a state facing an affordable housing crisis, the Governor just made it harder for local governments to do something about it,” said Foote.

A chapter of the national Sierra Club, Sierra Club Florida is made up of volunteer leaders and civic activists representing over 230,000 members and supporters from all over the state.
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Today House Bill 7103 was sent to Governor DeSantis for his action. Please continue to make calls to his office urging his VETO on this terrible piece of legislation. 
HB 7103 threatens Florida with a proliferation of sprawl by effectively eliminating the only means of enforcing local comprehensive plans, and is unnecessary in light of statutory sanctions for improper or baseless legal actions.

HB 7103 requires the court to award costs and fees to the prevailing party. This is specifically designed to deter persons from seeking review of, or defending against, unreasonable governmental action because of the expense of civil actions and administrative proceedings. HB 7103 makes no such accommodation for the differences between citizens and local governments because its purpose is to intimidate citizen action against development orders inconsistent with local comprehensive plans.

The only bulwark against violations of an adopted comprehensive plan is citizen action; Florida Statutes provide no other mechanism. The fees and costs provision makes the choice to challenge the approval of a development order equivalent to deliberately choosing to risk bankruptcy. Accordingly, it is clear that few, if any, such challenges will be mounted if this bill becomes law. The result will be the end of growth management in Florida.

There are already numerous provisions in statute that deal with awards of costs and fees, and in many cases these awards are sanctions for wasting the time of the court or for using the courts to harass another party.

Please call Governor DeSantis at (850) 488-7146 and ask him to VETO HB 7103.  
If you are unable to call, please email   GovernorRon.DeSantis@eog.myflorida.com.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Suncoast Sierra Proud to Be Part of St. Pete Pride!

For 6th Consecutive Year, Suncoast Members & Allies March & Table Together at Biggest Pride Event in Florida

Environment Florida Executive Director Jennifer Rubiello (center) helps carry our "float" in the St. Pete Pride Parade
St. Petersburg, Florida is considered by many to be one of the coolest places anywhere. Two reasons why that’s true: It was the 1st Ready for 100 city in the SE U.S., back 2 ½ years ago, and it boasts the biggest Pride events in Florida, second only to Atlanta in the Southeast.
Everybody loves Maggie & she loves them back

The local Suncoast Sierra Club has participated in St. Pete Pride ever since the FL Chapter moved to a net zero office in the Grand Central District, long the heart of Tampa Bay’s LGBTQ community. This City embraces important values, such as equality and clean energy, and is led by a Council with 3 of its 7 members belonging to the LGBTQ community. Suncoast demonstrates its support by marching in the St. Pete Pride Parade, attended by ¼ million, but we don’t stop there. The next day we exhibit at Pride Fest, an event two blocks from our office. 

This year was no different, with a big crew carrying a “float”, Flintstone-style, led by a decorated, electric Chevy Volt. Our theme was “Animals are Cute, Highways Pollute”, bemoaning the planned creation of 3 new toll roads by the FL Legislature that would pave over much of Florida’s remaining wilderness – something we’re determined to fight every step of the way. Our marchers wore forest animal masks to help make our point. 
Suncoast Chair James Scott and his faithful four-legged companion Maggie are ready to roll with our wagon train
At Pride Fest Sunday we talked to people about the #Readyfor100 Campaign, which won its 4th commitment in this county earlier that week. Our hearty crew endured microwave-level heat & humidity to get 330 postcards completed, most directed to one of our next #Readyfor100 targets: the Pinellas County Commission or the new mayor of Tampa, Jane Castor. Mayor Castor is the first openly Lesbian mayor in the SE U.S. She's pledged to soon follow the lead of St. Pete and make her city Ready for 100 as well. 
Our stalwart Pride Fest volunteers brave the heat

Photo by Dylan Todd, Watermark 
We’re proud to have so many friends and allies in a city where the Pride flag flies from City Hall every June. Being Ready for 100% clean energy for all goes right along with the values we all embrace for our families – all of them. 

Kathleen Beckman of Clearwater shows how many postcards have been filled out at Pride Fest. Good work, y'all!

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 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Safety Harbor Becomes Florida's Ninth City to Commit to a 100 Percent Clean Energy for All Future

With Commission vote, city joins Sunshine State movement to go all-renewable 
Over 80 supporters wore this
sticker to make their point known
to the Safety Harbor Commission.
They definitely saw us all!


Safety Harbor, FL – On Monday night, June 17, the City Commission of Safety Harbor voted unanimously to become Florida’s ninth city to adopt a resolution setting a 100 percent clean, renewable energy community-wide goal, committing the City to plan for the complete elimination of all fossil fuels in the electricity sector by 2035 for municipal operations and 2050 community-wide. The resolution creates an inclusive community planning process to guide a transition for both municipal operations as well as the entire community.

So many people, the fire marshall feared he'd have to turn
people away. So many, we couldn't get everyone in the shot! 



Safety Harbor joins the Pinellas County cities of Dunedin, Largo, and St. Petersburg in moving to clean, renewable energy, along with Sarasota, Orlando, Tallahassee, Gainesville, and most recently, South Miami. Across the US, 126 other cities have also made such commitments, from small towns like Safety Harbor to some of America’s major cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland, and Atlanta. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, plus  Washington, California, New Mexico, Nevada and Hawaii have also set 100 percent clean energy targets.

Pinellas Suncoast Group lead volunteer for Ready for 100,
Bryan Beckman, addresses the City Commission.

These commitments lay the foundation for an equitable and just transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy across the state and country. Across the US, 70 million people, or 1 in 5 residents, now live in a place committing to moving beyond fossil fuels to a healthier, more affordable, and more just system powered by 100 percent clean energy.



Earlier that same day, Bryan Beckman was a guest on the
WMNF 88.5 Sustainable Living Show with
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, chair of the House Select Committee on the
 Climate Crisis. You can listen to that great conversation here.
The show was co-hosted by a resident of Safety Harbor,
 and discussed climate action at the national and local level. 

In response to the Commission's vote, Suncoast Sierra Club Ready for 100
volunteer leader Bryan Beckman issued the following statement:


“Safety Harbor has shown great leadership to set 100 percent renewable energy goals.  Implementing energy efficiencies and renewables saves money, reduces pollution, and creates local jobs.  The community looks forward to working with city officials to build an implementation plan with a sense of urgency that is inclusive, transparent, and equitable.”
 Laura McCullough of Indivisible Safety Harbor issued the following:

“We seek a world based on love and caring, kindness and generosity, empathy and compassion, social, economic and environmental justice, peace and nonviolence, and protection of the life support system of our planet. We believe that the Earth is a living organism and that we are dependent upon its well-being for our well-being. We commit to being in right relationship with nature, and be stewards of the Earth to ensure its well-being and longevity.”

Safety Harbor City Commissioner Andy Zodrow also issued the following:


“I am proud that the City of Safety Harbor could be the 127th City in the nation and 9th in Florida to be approved for the Ready for 100 commitment to achieve 100% clean, renewable energy. I want to thank the city staff, the Commission and most importantly the residents who came out in support of the resolution and the goal of renewable energy in our community.”

This big story in a little town got coverage from the Florida PhoenixWTVT FOX13, and WFLA 970AM's AM Tampa Bay morning drive talk show. 970 AM is Tampa Bay's conservative news/talk station that airs shows like Rush Limbaugh. Organizer Phil Compton did a 5 minute interview with long time media personality Jack Harris, and even though Harris is a climate change denier, succeeded in gaining his agreement that Florida, the Sunshine State, should become the Solar State. If we can win over such voices who generally oppose our efforts, perhaps we really can attain Clean Energy for All.




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 
phil.compton@sierraclub.org   https://twitter.com/PhilCompton

Monday, June 10, 2019

YMCA in St. Petersburg Saves Money, Energy by Switching to LED Lighting


As part of a countywide  effort to transition to 100 percent clean renewable energy,  Suncoast Sierra Club, along with several private donors,  has provided the  Jim & Heather Gills YMCA of Greater St Petersburg  with funding  to install LED lighting throughout the  facility. 
YMCA staff and Suncoast Sierra Club leaders 

The YMCA, located at 3200 First Ave. South, is in the process of replacing over 900 fluorescent bulbs with LED bulbs. The project is expected to be completed by the end of this summer. "We are extremely grateful for the support from the Suncoast Sierra Club in providing energy efficient lighting at our Jim & Heather Gills YMCA,” said  David Jezek President/CEO, YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg.  “In addition to the improved lighting, we expect to see significant savings in our energy bills.  These savings will allow us to make a great impact in the lives of those we serve."  


The  Jim & Heather Gills YMCA serves the needs of the community with a full-size  gymnasium and fitness room, indoor heated pool,  fitness classes, cycling studio, after school  programs, and outreach services.  The transition to LED lighting is estimated to save the branch over $10,000 per year in electricity, a savings that will pay for the cost of the bulbs in less than 6 months, according to Bryan Beckman, chair of the Pinellas  Ready for 100 campaign.  
Beckman, who spearheaded the energy efficiency project at the YMCA, calculated that the LED lighting use would save an estimated 70 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year -  the equivalent to installing 200 solar panels.  Given the estimated life of the bulbs, he said, over $100,000 is expected to be saved. “Sierra Club is  very proud  to have helped with the new LED lighting,” Beckman said at the May 30 ribbon cutting and rededication of the gym and activity center after recent upgrades and renovations.  “Businesses, residents and cities can have a big impact on our environment by installing similar efficiencies that save money and reduce carbon pollution at the same time.”
ABOUT READY FOR 100:  The Pinellas Ready for 100 campaign aims  to help local cities, businesses and residents transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy in an effort to  make  Florida  resilient to climate change  and  stop the burning of  fossil fuels. Cities in Pinellas County that have signed on with resolutions to move to 100 percent  clean energy include St. Petersburg, Largo and Dunedin.

To learn more about the Pinellas Ready for 100 campaign or how to  transition to clean, renewable energy, contact Bryan Beckman at bryanb@suncoastsierra.org  or go to   www.sierraclub.org/florida/suncoast/100pinellas

 CONTACT:
Bryan Beckman
Suncoast Sierra Club
bryanb@suncoastsierra.org

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Sierra Club Statement Regarding Berman Law Group Class Action Lawsuit

For Immediate Release
June 5, 2019
Contact:  Patrick Ferguson, patrick.ferguson@sierraclub.org, 954-288-4234

**PRESS RELEASE**
Sierra Club Statement Regarding Berman Law Group Class Action Lawsuit

The Sierra Club Stop Sugar Field Burning Campaign, launched in 2015, is not a party to the Berman Law Group class action lawsuit.  The fight to move Big Sugar to stop pre-harvest field burning is a huge one.  Many generations, hundreds of thousands of residents, in and around the Glades have been subjected to the smoke and ash that the industry has callously dumped upon them.  We are pleased that the work of local Stop the Burn-Go Green activists over the last four years has elevated the issue to a such a high profile; this lawsuit is one of many new angles from which impacted residents will come to pressure the sugar industry to “stop the burn.”

Pre-harvest sugar field burning is an outdated, toxic, and unjust practice that the sugar industry can and must stop.  The alternative, the green harvesting of sugarcane, is already practiced in other countries, in parts of Louisiana, and even in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) when convenient for the Florida sugar industry.  It has long been time for the industry to move to modern, sustainable green harvesting as the ultimate solution to the environmental injustice of pre-harvest sugar field burning. Green harvesting not only ends the burn, but also provides growers a new source of income.  The trash that is now going up in smoke can be turned into biochar, biofuels, electricity, tree-free paper products, and mulch, the production of which can provide new jobs so badly needed in the Glades. 

We challenge anyone who calls for further study or monitoring of air quality or health impacts.  The health and quality of life impacts from sugar field burning are already firmly established. It is unconscionable to suggest kicking the can further down the road when (1) the solution is clear, and (2) right now the more affluent citizens to the east are already protected because burn permits are not granted when the wind blows their way.  Everyone in and around the EAA deserves the same protection no matter where they live, and they deserve that protection now.

Sierra Club Stop Sugar Field Burning Campaign Information:

  1. Stop the Burn Campaign Primer:  http://bit.ly/2HoaaYj
  2. Sugarcane burn zones map and wind restriction definitions:  http://bit.ly/2yJzIba
  3. Stop the Burn Fact Sheet:  http://bit.ly/2IFPWMb
  4. Health impact study summaries:  http://bit.ly/2T38TsZ
  5. “Counterattack on Stop The Burn: Big Sugar loses its cool”:   http://www.sierraclubfloridanews.org/2019/04/counterattack-on-stop-burn-big-sugar.html
  6. “Fake Billboard for a Fake Claim”: 

Find press release here.

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