Lynn Hatter reports for WFSU – “Florida lawmakers have a budget. But that’s come at the cost of a process that has in recent years, been a lot more transparent than it is now… ‘Listen, every single thing you’re seeing in the budget, for the first time since the ’68 Constitution, you’re seeing it all. There was nothing that came in late, nothing that came in on the back of a napkin,’ [Speaker Corcoran] said… But that’s not how other lawmakers feel. Democrats like Lori Berman have tried to call out lawmakers for the behind the scenes haggling on key issues like Senate President Joe Negron’s… water reservoir, which wasn’t heard in any House committee before it was presented on the chamber floor. ‘I move to refer SB 10… to the House Committee on Agriculture and Property Rights and the House Subcommittee on appropriations,’ Berman motioned. The effort… failed… Legislative leaders have reached deals and made trades on major policy proposals like Negron’s reservoir out of the public eye… ‘We’ve kept the subcommittee chairman involved, along with me, along with the presiding officer. In the House, I know chairman Trujillo has been integrally involved even after issues bumped up to the presiding officer. So there’s been a wider group involved here than just the presiding officers,’ [Sen. Latvala] said.” Read So Much for Transparency: Concerns Mount Over Legislature’s Shrouded Budget Plans
Senator Jeff Brandes shares – “Senate Bill 90, Renewable Energy Source Devices, by Senator Jeff Brandes passed the Florida Senate with unanimous support, following unanimous approval of the Florida House of Representatives… ‘The voters of Florida spoke loud and clear in support of an expanded solar market in the sunshine state,’ stated Senator Jeff Brandes. ‘Reducing property taxes on solar and renewable energy devices will bring more solar energy to Florida. The unanimous support of the legislature shows that we are dedicated to expanding the share of renewables in our energy portfolio, and I am excited to continue to advocate for energy reform.’ The bill implements Amendment 4… The bill exempts 80% of the value of solar and renewable energy devices from property taxes on real and tangible personal property… The tax exemption of the bill will begin in 2018 and extend for 20 years.” Read Solar Tax Exemption Legislation Passes Unanimously
Eve Samples reports for the TC Palm – “In an interview… Grunwald called it ‘a national embarrassment’ that we’re still waiting on water storage called for in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Nevertheless, environmentalists across the state cheered [last] week’s ‘modest step.’ That’s what happens when Florida’s elected leaders temper our expectations by eroding environmental protections. The reservoir is a far cry from a wide, meandering “flow way” some envisioned to reconnect Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades – but it’s a whole lot better than what we usually get from Florida’s power brokers.” Read Long wait for Everglades reservoir a ‘national embarrassment’
C.T. Bowen reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “A $1 million state grant and a connection to Pasco County Utilities was supposed to curb the tap water troubles for the Summertree neighborhood. It hasn’t. ‘Our water quality has actually gotten worse and now threatens our health and safety,’ Ann Marie Ryan said in an April 21 letter to state House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Sen. Wilton Simpson. Ryan is the leader of the Summertree Water Alliance, which has worked for years to improve the quality of water for 1,200 customers in the neighborhood south of State Road 52 in west Pasco. The residents, clad in red T-shirts, had become frequent visitors to the Pasco Commission chambers, complaining about expensive, dark-colored, sulfur-odored water they said was unfit for drinking, bathing or cooking. Corcoran… and Simpson… procured the $1 million appropriation in 2015 to offset the cost of linking Summertree’s private utility provider, Utilities Inc. of Florida, to the county water system. Simpson also tried unsuccessfully to get Utilities Inc. to relinquish its franchise over the area. Even with the Dec. 21, 2016 connection... the Summertree water contains excessive bacteria… ” Read Residents say Summertree water quality worse than ever
Sen. Marco Rubio writes for the Pensacola News Journal – “Ever since Congress passed the Gulf of Mexico Security Act into law in 2006, energy exploration in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico has been banned. The same law also gave all the Gulf states – except for Florida – the ability to benefit from revenue generated by drilling in the middle and the west of the Gulf. This is still the case today. So while Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama receive a direct flow of money they can use on conservation and environmental efforts, restoring their coasts, hurricane protection, flood control, mitigation measures for wildlife and approved federal projects, Florida is losing out. This is unfair. As the tragic Deepwater Horizon disaster demonstrated, Florida’s environment and economies are in danger of being affected by rare but major drilling accidents in the Gulf – even with the 125-mile ban in the current moratorium… I’ve introduced legislation that would help Florida in two ways. First, it would extend the current moratorium in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico from 2022 until 2027. Second, it would allow Florida to be included in the list of Gulf states that are eligible to share revenue. This would give Florida a new source of funding, and recognize that as long as our shores shoulder some of the risk, it’s only fair that Floridians share in some of the benefit.” Read Florida faces risks of drilling
Ann B. Shortelle writes for the Orlando Sentinel – “Since 2014, the [St. Johns River Water Management District] has provided $36 million in cost-share funding for 76 projects with local government and other partners. These projects benefit spring flows by reducing groundwater demands by 68 million gallons of water a day and improve spring-water quality by eliminating almost 1 million pounds of nutrient pollution annually… It’s important to know that MFLs are not a one-stop solution to all springs’ problems; nor are they intended to create ideal or optimal conditions. MFLs don’t address flow declines caused by drought. Their purpose is to protect against significant harm from overpumping.” Read Springs protection a year-round focus
Timothy Gardner reports for Reuters - “Climate change poses a global security threat that all countries must fight together, a NATO general said… as U.S. President Donald Trump nears a decision on whether to pull out of the Paris climate deal. The comments were the strongest yet from the U.S.-European military alliance about the importance of upholding the Paris accord… ‘If one nation, especially the biggest nation… if they do not recognize a problem, then we will have trouble dealing with the causes,’ of climate change, said (General) Mercier.” Read NATO urges global fight against climate change as Trump mulls Paris accord
CNN reports – “Climate change is expected to affect your life in some surprising ways in the coming decades. From worsening pollen allergies to lowered sex drives, raising the planet’s temperature by continued greenhouse gas emissions has wide ranging impacts – but did you know that global warming may also make your plane ride significantly bumpier?” Read Climate change to make turbulence stronger, more frequent
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
May 18, 6:30 pm – Attend a potluck and screening of “The Forgotten Coast: Return to Wild Florida” at the First Congregational Church of Winter Park (225 S. Interlachen Ave., Parish Hall) in Winter Park. RSVP to CFLGrassrootsProgressives@gmail.com or call (407) 951 – 8183. Please bring a dish to share at the potluck before the movie.
May 21, 3:00 pm – Attend a free “Solar Co-op Information Meeting” for the Alachua County Solar Co-op at the Alachua Library Branch (14913 NW 140 Street) in Alachua. For more information and to RSVP, click here.
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