FCC News Brief - August 23, 2017

Keith Goldberg reports for Law360 – “A divided D.C. Circuit panel said… that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) failed to adequately analyze the greenhouse gas emissions impacts of a $3.5 billion natural gas pipeline (Southeast Market Pipelines Project, whose centerpiece is the Sabal Trail pipeline) to Florida it approved… The D.C. Circuit vacated FERC’s approval of the pipelines, a joint venture of Engbridge Inc. unit Spectra Energy Partners, NextEra Energy Inc. and Duke Energy that went into service in July…, and directed it to prepare a new environmental impact that conforms to its findings… With the pipelines up and running, Benson (staff attorney at the Sierra Club) said the environmental groups are still considering what further steps to take. ‘We are reviewing the decision,’ Sabal Trail spokesperson Andrea Grover said… ‘The court’s decision will not affect Sabal Trail’s operations at this time.’” Read DC Circ. Says FERC Botched Review of $3.5B Fla. Pipeline

Eric Staats reports for the Naples Daily News – “Sen. Jack Latvala… [filed] legislation for a second year to shore up the state’s eroding shoreline. The legislation… would dedicate $50 million each year (from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund) to Florida’s beaches and rework the state system that ranks communities’ beach projects for a share of the money… The new proposal is identical to a bill Latvala unveiled [last session.]… Among other things, the bill… would set up a new ranking system that would for the first time include tourism-related tax revenue as a measure of a project’s return on investment. Also for the first time, storm damage impacts would be included in a project’s ranking, not just historical rates of erosion. The new ranking system also would give projects extra points if they have been repeatedly ranked but left out of the money.” Read State Sen. Jack Latvala files legislation to rework Florida beach aid

Chad Gillis reports for News Press – “The Caloosahatchee River is starved of freshwater at times… The result is death of sea grasses and the base of the marine food chain. Keeping that brackish balance is the reason the river needs a reservation, basically a law that would say no more water use permits can be issued once a certain amount of water has been allocated… ‘It’s the point at which further withdrawals will cause significant harm to water resources or the ecology of an area,’ said Don Medellin, a coastal and marine scientist for the [SFWMD.]… A minimal flow level was set in 2001, but there was no time frame as to when those minimums would be established and maintained. The answer to getting enough water for the river and estuary, water managers say, is the Caloosahatchee Reservoir, also called C-43. This compound in Hendry County will hold about 55 billion gallons and will, by design, feed the Caloosahatchee during drought conditions. At a cost of about $600 million, the reservoir will be completed in 2022 and is expected to help the state meet the minimum flow rules… David Ceilley, with Johnson Engineering, said the reservoir needs water treatment systems to help clean the water and ensure that it can be legally discharged back into the Caloosahatchee River. ‘I think it’s important to recognize that the C-44 (the west coast equivalent to the Caloosahatchee Reservoir) has two filter marshes and the C-43 currently does not have treatment. It’s just a bath tub,’ Ceilley said. Ceilley said he and others fear waters in the reservoir will be plagued by blue-green algae, which could make it illegal to release the water back into the river.” Read Caloosahatchee River, estuary relief may have to wait until 2022

Chad Gillis reports for News Press – “Early season rains have flooded massive swaths of land used to store water during the summer. And while the Everglades is a waterworld, there’s too much water south of Lake Okeechobee and north of Everglades National Park… If a tropical storm or hurricane were to hit South Florida, as far north as the Orlando area, the only safe way to lower Lake Okeechobee… would be to send water down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers… Smith (spokesperson for the SFWMD) said even with a reservoir south of the lake… lands north of Everglades National Park would still be flooded. It’s a strange situation because if the rain water fell mainly to the south of the lake over the past few months, saturating thousands of acres, it could make for painful choices, he said. ‘If there was a reservoir down here, it probably would have done the same thing. It would have filled up.’” Read State, feds: Can’t send water south of Lake Okeechobee

The Public News Service reports – “A federal appeals court hears arguments this week in a case challenging a Florida law that leaves utility customers on the hook for speculative nuclear projects. The controversial nuclear cost-recovery law passed in 2006, at a time when nuclear power appeared to be making a comeback, but things have changed with the rise of renewable energy… ‘We have a fundamental concern that ratepayers should not be paying profit on these costs when it is unknown if the facility is even going to be built,’ Kelly states. The plaintiffs contend the nuclear cost-recovery law is unconstitutional and seek to recoup $2 billion they say utility customers have already paid. FPL says it isn’t the right party to be sued – that it is following state law, so the State of Florida should be on the hot seat… A federal district judge last year dismissed the case, prompting the plaintiffs to go to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta.” Read Will Florida Utility Customers Pay Now for Future Power?

Steve Crisafulli writes for the Tallahassee Democrat – “While [2015’s comprehensive water bill] is beginning to offer significant promise as we work to improve Florida’s water quality issues, it is sadly also causing paid environmental special interests to spread misinformation on what the law is helping to accomplish.” Read Comprehensive water reforms empowering local communities

Chelsea Harvey reports for The Washington Post – “The study… concerns a California “carbon offset” program, which allows companies to pay to preserve carbon-storing forests instead of reducing their own emissions… The program is built into California’s existing cap-and-trade system… The program is controversial among some…, who argue that it allows companies to slack off on their own emissions reduction efforts and continue polluting California’s air. They’ve also suggested that the forests selling offsets would likely be storing up carbon regardless and that the program may not actually produce any climate benefits… [F]orest offset credits only account for 2 percent of all credits in California’s cap-and-trade system… The authors also conclude the program does, in fact, reduce emissions that wouldn’t have otherwise been cut. Only about a quarter of the forests participating in the program are already owned by conservation groups, meaning the majority of participating forest managers would not necessarily have opted to preserve their trees without the purchase of offsets. In fact…, more than half of the participating forests were actively being logged before becoming part of an offset project. The researchers also point out the offsets account for uncertainty about the future of preserved forests, whose carbon-storing potential could be affected by a variety of factors, including wildfires or disease outbreaks… And the program comes with various side benefits as well – namely, the conservation of forests that might otherwise have been destroyed and the preservation of habitat for wild plants and animals.” Read A controversial California effort to fight climate change just got some good news

Eric Lipton and Roni Caryn Rabin report for The New York Times – “Chlorpyrifos is still widely used in agriculture – on apples, oranges, strawberries, almonds and many other fruits – though it was barred from residential use in 2000. The E.P.A.’s scientists have recommended it be banned from use on farms and produce because it has been linked to lower I.Q.s and development delays among agricultural workers and their children… Ryan Jackson, Mr. Pruitt’s chief of staff, wrote to another political appointee that he had ‘scared’ the agency’s career staff, suggesting that he had made clear the direction that the political staff wanted to go – and given the career staff explicit verbal orders to prepare documents explaining why the agency had shifted its position… As the draft of the order rejecting the ban of the petition was being written, political staff at the E.P.A. continued to organize meetings with agriculture industry officials… The emails indicate E.P.A. officials closely coordinated their decision on chlorpyrifos with the White House and the Department of Agriculture, which is more closely linked with the agriculture industry and had questioned the justification for the ban… Environmental groups said the emails demonstrate that the E.P.A. under Mr. Pruitt is doing favors for the industry, even if it means compromising public health. ‘What is clear from these documents is that Administrator Pruitt’s abrupt action to vacate the ban… was an ideological – not a health-based decision,’ said Melanie Benesh, a legislative attorney at the Environmental Working Group.” Read E.P.A. Promised ‘a New Day’ for the Agriculture Industry, Documents Reveal





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Upcoming Environmental Events    


August 20-23 – Join the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute for its annual Florida Springs Field School; four days of outdoor activities and springs education in the Ocala National Forest! Field trip locations include Silver Springs State Park, Salt Springs, Juniper Springs, and Silver Glen Springs. For more information, click here or call (386) 454 - 2427.

August 31, 6:30 pm – Attend the “Get the Dirt Out Workshop” in Jacksonville. Become a water watershed protector when you join this program designed to educate citizens about Duval County’s “dirt laws” and train them to be watchdogs in their neighborhoods to keep dirt out of our waterways. For more information, click here. To register, click here.

September 5, 12:00 pm – Join the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute at the North Florida Springs Environmental Center in High Springs for Springs Academy Tuesdays; a lunchtime lecture series on Florida’s springs. September’s lecture is on Springs Advocacy with guest speaker Aliki Moncrief, Executive Director of Florida Conservation Voters Education Fund. All lectures are free and open to the public. A recommended donation of $5 is appreciated. More information is available here or by calling (386) 454 - 2427.

September 12, 6:30 pm – Attend a screening of “Troubled Waters,” in Orlando followed by a panel discussion featuring Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine, St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman, and Professor James C. Adamski. For more information and to register, click here.

September 12, 7:00 pm – Attend in Algal Bloom Awareness Presentation in Orange Park. Aquatic ecologist Robert Storm Burks will explain what causes blue-green algal blooms and why they may be toxic. Learn how to report algae occurrences using Water Rangers, a new web-based app. For more information, click here.

September 16, 9:00 AM – Participate in the Big Talbot Island Cleanup. For more information, click here.

September 23, 9:00 AM – Attend “Solar Rocks for the Equinox” at Rum 138 (2070 SW County Road 138) in Fort White. The event will feature solar experts and exhibitors to showcase affordable solar energy solutions. The event is free and open to the public. Live music and local food options will be available. For more information, contact Chris Mericle (cjmericle@gmail.com, (386) 855 – 5096) or Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson (merrillee.malwitz-jipson@sierraclub.org, (352) 222 – 8893).



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