Friday, November 20, 2020

Commissioner Nikki Fried Stands With Sierra Club to Oppose M-CORES and Florida's Assumption of the CWA Section 404 Program

These days, we don't often have the opportunity to thank an elected official for standing up for Florida's environment. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, it makes perfect sense to send our gratitude to Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried for taking a stand with us on two important matters. 

M-CORES

Last week Commissioner Fried released a comment on the development of a new 330-mile toll road system in Florida known as M-CORES. Sierra Club Florida opposed the legislation that created M-CORES and has been a leader in continued opposition during the Task Force process through the No Roads to Ruin coalition

“While I recognize the importance of long-range planning for future population growth and the need for economic development, I am troubled by M-CORES’ overwhelming lack of support, lack of demonstrated need, and the millions in general revenue diverted from a state budget facing economic shortfalls reminiscent of the Great Recession. As Florida deals with billions in projected revenue losses due to COVID-19, this project would put an unnecessary strain on the state's ability to fund urgent priorities. Just as compelling are the effects these unnecessary toll roads will have on Florida's environment and agricultural lands, with the potential to destroy millions of acres of farmland, state forests, and wetlands in their paths. This project threatens the unique character of our state’s rural lands and last undeveloped landscapes. I urge Secretary Thibault and the Governor to listen to over 10,000 Florida residents who have voiced their opposition to M-CORES and utilize the 'no build' option. We cannot afford to divert money into more toll roads while millions of Floridians continue to suffer.

SECTION 404 ASSUMPTION

On August 20, the EPA received a request from Florida's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to take over the administration of the Clean Water Act’s (CWA) Section 404 program to regulate the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters within the jurisdiction of the state. In the 43 years since the CWA was amended to provide for state assumption, only two states have assumed administration of the Section 404 program, Michigan and New Jersey. Sierra Club Florida has long opposed Florida's 404 Assumption. 

Early this month, Commissioner Fried shared her concerns with this proposal. Of particular note is this comment:

The elimination of additional federal scrutiny for projects that have the potential to significantly impact Florida’s natural resources requires existing state programs to demonstrate the ability to protect those resources. A significant number of stakeholders have indicated noteworthy concerns that adequate evidence has not yet been provided to sufficiently demonstrate that DEP has the resources to tackle the substantial increases in workload that will be required by the delegation, or that existing state regulatory programs are adequate, to provide sufficient protections to the water resources of Florida in the face of increasing development impacts that continue to reduce the state’s open lands and agricultural landscapes. Given the value of the water resources and wetlands to the citizens of our state, any delegation of permitting authority to DEP must contain assurances that existing levels of protection of the natural resources will be preserved, and that sufficient resources are available for DEP to implement regulatory programs in an efficient and effective manner. Without those assurances, DEP will face the same fate as Michigan and New Jersey, the other two states that have assumed 404 permitting authority and required remediation of their state programs due to struggles in maintaining the required levels of regulatory integrity and resources to adequately implement the program.

TAKE ACTION!

Sierra Club Florida applaudes the Commissioner for both these stances and we encourage you to contact her and share your thanks for her opposition to M-CORES and Florida's proposed assumption of the Section 404 program. Here is how to reach her:

Phone: (850) 617-7700
Twitter: @NikkiFriedFL
Mail: The Honorable Nikki Fried
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Plaza Level 10, The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0800

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

PRESS RELEASE: MUCK CITY CAN’T BREATHE: Glades Area Black Lives Matter Organizes to Fight Back



For Immediate Release

November 10, 2020
Contacts: Robert Mitchell, MuckCityBLM@gmail.com, (323) 395-6895

 **PRESS RELEASE**

 MUCK CITY CAN’T BREATHE

Glades Area Black Lives Matter Organizes to Fight Back

BELLE GLADE--On Saturday, November 7, history was made on the steps of Belle Glade City Hall when the Glades community came together to announce the formation of Muck City Black Lives Matter (BLM).  In honor of Henry Bennett III “Scooter,” Belle Glade resident killed by the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office in 2016, Muck City BLM organizers laid out their current focus issues -- local government corruption, voting rights, and responsibilities, economic injustice and exploitation, mass incarceration, police violence, community mentoring for at-risk youth, and environmental racism associated with pre-harvest sugar field burning -- and asked community members to bring their hearts and souls to the fight.  The Cry of Black Youth (COBY) organization started the fight for Black lives from 1969 to 1971 and now the time is right and ripe for Muck City BLM in the Glades. The juxtaposition of the announcement of the Biden-Harris victory on Saturday was noteworthy; the power of the Black vote and the demand for change in the Glades is a reflection of the wider national movement for black lives.  

Robert Mitchell, Community Organizer:  "I stand before you as your Brother, Neighbor, and Friend to send the message of “Get Your Knee off our Necks, and Let Us Breathe”! I need you to know my people that our Black Lives Matter! That our Black and Brown Communities Matter!"

Colin Walkes, Former Mayor of Pahokee:  "Muck City we need to stand up. We have to be responsible for our vote. What does that mean? It means getting involved in our community. That means we attend local commission meetings. We need to organize in our community. We need to hold our voices together and hold those we elected accountable to create policies that support us. We cannot keep doing the same dance muck city."

 Joshua Walkes, Pahokee High School sophomore: "Muck City BLM represents goodness, strength, courage, understanding, and wisdom of humanity."

Kina Phillips, “Apostle” Community Organizer:  "For too long we've been silent. Whispering. Sitting in the comfort of our homes about the effects of a very outdated practice, and still we struggle to breathe.  The sugar industry has banked on our silence and has taken advantage of it. How long will we allow them to rape us of the value of our lives, to put a death sentence on our loved ones?  It is time to let your voice be heard to help bring about a change.  It is time to stop the burn."

Jerry Campbell, “The Champ” Life Coach: "Everything is an example to everything that happens, we need to start teaching our kids not to look up to football stars and to rappers, We need to stop pointing to people who are not real leaders as an example to follow, examples of real leadership for our community must start at home first."

Eric Brandon-Oce, Community Organizer with Food not Bombs:  “We are here to put the call out that Muck City BLM is on the map.  We know how to build the power that forces change and accountability on the PBSO, Geo Group, and the sugar industry whose single-minded pursuit of profit have turned the blessing of black soil into a health-sapping and life-shortening curse. It is necessary to look beyond our own communities and towards others nearby and far away for solidarity and support. So this is why I am here today.  In Solidarity.”

Robert Mitchell closed up the press conference with a call for Muck City residents to sign up and join the movement.  Supporters can join the movement by connecting to Muck City BLM on Facebook and Twitter @BLMMuckCity.

Photo Gallery

Robert Mitchell opening remarks

Colin Walkes remarks

Kina Phillips remarks

Jerry Campbell remarks

Eric Brandon-Oce remarks

Robert Mitchell closing remarks



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