Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “Scott Pruitt wants to hand much of [the EPA’s] duties back to the states…Is DEP up to the job? In the six years since Rick Scott was elected governor…, the size of [DEP] has shrunk by more than 600 employees…Many of those ousted were viewed as the top experts in their fields, said former DEP employees, and their dismissal left those who were spared beset by anxiety and paranoia…[DEP] has also been pressured to speed up how quickly it issues permits for filling in wetlands and dumping pollution into the state’s waterways… ‘The quality of the permit review was sometimes sacrificed as a result,’ [Janet Llewelyn, a top state water policy and permitting expert who was pushed out last year after 32 years] said…[DEP has] drastically scaled back its enforcement of pollution laws…Last year [DEP] opened 81 percent fewer enforcement cases than it did in 2010 and collected the smallest amount of fines in 28 years…Since Scott took office, most of [the state park system’s] leadership has been booted out or demoted… ‘The park service that was so good probably won’t ever be the same again.’…Paranoia about the press [is] another hallmark of the past six years…” Read If the EPA goes away, is the state up to the job of protecting Florida’s environment?
Holly Parker writes for the Tallahassee Democrat – “For Florida’s economy, it is all about the beaches…That’s why it’s not only illogical, but inexcusable that the state of Florida relies exclusively on federal funding for our beach water quality monitoring. That’s right – the state that spends $78 million dollars for Visit Florida to bring in tourists doesn’t spend a dime to make sure they don’t get sick whey they go swimming…The [Florida Healthy Beaches Program] monitors recreational beaches for fecal pollution and notifies the public when high bacteria levels indicate a health risk of developing gastro-intestinal illness, eye, ear and nose infections, skin rashes and infections, and worse…Since Florida quit paying its fair share, the program has been forced to make substantial cuts…With the new administration proposing drastic cuts to the EPA’s budget, the federal funds that have kept this program alive could be completely eliminated. It’s time for the Florida Legislature to step up and fully fund the Florida Healthy Beaches Program.” Read Sick at the beach? Blame the Legislature
Chad Gillis and Alexandria Glorioso report for the TC Palm – “The Everglades Foundation has been pushing the state to buy…land south of Lake Okeechobee for a…reservoir that would be part of…Everglades restoration…Critics of the foundation say Eikenberg (Everglades Foundation CEO) and Jones, the billionaire, influence many environmental groups that depend on the foundation for funding…[T]he Everglades Foundation distributes about $1 million annually to 16 organizations…Before the foundation hands out money to other groups, such as the Florida chapters of Audubon ($418,000) and the Sierra Club ($100,000), they must agree to participate in weekly call-ins to coordinate efforts… ‘The fact that people think this is some kind of a puppet master, it is herding cats,’ Eikenberg said. ‘You’ve got to keep people focused because there are a lot of competing interests. We’re trying to speak in one voice.’…Captains for Clean Water…received $25,000 from the Everglades Foundation last year… ‘I’ve seen a lot of stuff…put out that we’re controlled by the Everglades Foundation and it’s hurtful,’ Andrews (a member of Captains for Clean Water) said.” Read Agriculturalists and environmentalists battle over sugar land-buy bill
Jake Varn writes for the Tallahassee Democrat – “I have spent more than 50 years dealing with water resource issues…throughout the state, including serving as the Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation and in many capacities at the Southwest Florida Water Management District…It is probably fair to say most Leon County citizens enjoy spending time around our rivers, ponds, streams and beaches. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these water bodies, as well as our ground water, have serious water quality problems. Not only are they failing to meet state water quality standards, they continue to deteriorate. Neglecting these problems will only increase the…costs that…future generations will have to pay to try to restore these waters…The City of Tallahassee spent $228 million to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant to reduce impact on the water quality of Wakulla Springs. I am willing to bet Leon County has not spent anywhere near this amount…for such purposes. The studies…clearly demonstrate septic tanks in Leon and Wakulla counties account for a substantial amount of nutrients flowing into Wakulla Springs…[D]ischarges from septic tanks need to be eliminated…Such an effort by Leon County would give meaning to Desloge’s commitment (to water).” Read Former DEP secretary says Leon waters ‘continue to deteriorate’
The Ledger reports – “[A] Florida panther cub has been found dead from an apparent vehicle strike in southwest Florida…A total of seven Florida panthers have been found dead in 2017, with five road fatalities.” Read Panther cub found dead in southwest Florida
The Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board writes – “Mark 2017 on your calendar because if current trends continue and Tallahassee passes what’s proposed this year, citizens face a tipping point in lost access to public meetings and public records needed to hold government accountable…The biggest threat to your right to know is Senate Bill 1004 and House Bill 843, which would let two members of a public board or commission (with more than five members) meet in private to discuss pressing issues…By the time citizens would know what politicians are up to, their chance for input would be long gone…If another bill by Sen. Greg Steube…passes, you’d have to prove…that government officials intentionally violated the law to secure a guarantee of having your attorney fees reimbursed. Having to pay your attorney fees is the only consequence now facing public officials who illegally withhold public records from you. If this hammer is weakened…it will create a chilling effect on your ability to pursue the paper trail behind zoning…” Read Florida’s legal, constitutional guarantees for open government in danger
Kendra Pierre-Louis writes for Popular Science – “Today, we recoil from the soupy, sooty air in cities like Beijing and New Delhi. When we do so, we forget the recent history of our own cities full of pollution just as thick…[W]e’re not that far removed from…[a] time when we poured pollution into our drinking water. A time when developers built neighborhoods atop toxic waste…[I]f we get rid of the EPA today we’ll be left less able to adapt to new hazards…The chemical industry develops 2,000 new chemicals each year.” Read What would America be like without the EPA?
Chris Mooney reports for The Washington Post – “[B]ecause [clean energy sources like solar and wind] are “intermittent”…there has to be some means of continuing to provide electricity even when they go dark. And the more renewables you have, the bigger this problem can be…[A] new study suggests that…solving [the] problem has ironically involved…installing a large number of fast-ramping natural gas plants, which can fill in quickly whenever renewable generation slips… ‘All other things equal, a 1% increase in the share of fast reacting fossil technologies is associated with a 0.88% increase in renewable generation capacity in the long term,’ the study reports…[T]he study also notes that if we reach a time when fast-responding energy storage is prevalent – when…large-scale grid batteries store…energy and can discharge it instantaneously when there’s a need- then the reliance on gas may no longer be prevalent…Other recent research has suggested that…extremely cheap natural gas prices have helped the industry out-compete the storage sector and slowed its growth.” Read Turns out wind and solar have a secret friend: Natural gas
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
March 20, 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM – Attend the Tallahassee premiere of Catching the Sun, an inspirational documentary about the global shift to solar and renewable energy. For more information and to purchase tickets ($5), click here.
March 22, 10:00 AM – Participate in Reclaiming Florida’s Future for All at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee. Floridians will make their voices heard by speaking directly with their elected officials on key energy and water issues facing Florida. Public transportation from several cities across the state will be offered, as will advocacy training on March 21st. For more information and to RSVP, click here.
April 1, 10:30 am – Attend Solar: Unlimited Energy for the Sunshine State, a free educational program on solar power, at the Coastal Region Library (8619 W. Crystal St.) in Crystal River. For more information, please contact Nancy Kost at (352) 628 – 0698 or email@example.com.
April 18, 5:00 pm – Attend the Suncoast Climate Change Symposium at USFSM’s Selby Auditorium (8350 N. Tamiami Trail) in Sarasota. The symposium will host presentations on climate change and its consequences for Florida, featuring Dr. Harold Wanless of the University of Miami, noted geologist and sea-level rise expert. The sustainability manager for the City of Sarasota will also discuss Sarasota’s “Climate Adaptation Plan.” Tickets are $15 for the general public, and free for students. To purchase tickets, click here.
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