Robert Barnes reports for The Washington Post – “Florida v. Georgia… is a water fight that pits the thirsty megalopolis of Atlanta and the farmers of southwestern Georgia against conservationists and seafood producers in this stretch of the Florida Panhandle called the Forgotten Coast… To hear Florida’s complaint, the court assigned Ralph I. Lancaster Jr…. to be special master… ‘As the evidentiary hearing made clear, Florida points to real harm and, at the very least, likely misuse of resources by Georgia,’ Lancaster wrote. ‘There is little question that Florida has suffered harm from decreased flows in the river’ and ‘Georgia’s upstream agricultural water use has been – and continues to be – largely unrestrained.’ Lancaster followed that with a big but. Even if he ruled for Florida, Lancaster said, there was no guarantee that reduced consumption in Georgia would result in more water in Florida. That decision would be made by the Corps of Engineers. And because the Corps enjoys sovereign immunity, Florida could not force it to be a party to the lawsuit… Florida tells the justices it is only common sense that restrictions in Georgia would yield more water downstream. It contends the special master made a mistake of law by requiring Florida to ‘guarantee’ its proposed remedies would work, and asks the court to send the case back for more work. In an amicus brief, the U.S. government sides with Georgia. But Florida points to somewhat vague language in the brief to argue that the Supreme Court’s decision could influence the federal regulation of the riverflow.” Read On Florida’s ‘Forgotten Coast,’ a Supreme Court fight over fresh water
Bruce Ritchie reports for Politico Florida – “Some Florida officials hope the oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court case over Georgia’s water use will mean that the court will order a new hearing instead of heeding a recommendation to dismiss Florida’s case… The high court justices on Monday repeatedly voiced some degree of support for Florida’s argument that reduced water use upstream would result in more water flowing downstream regardless of how the Corps manages the system. Florida officials said the case should be sent back to Lancaster to set a cap on Georgia’s water use… Dan Tonsmeire of the Apalachicola Riverkeeper group… said he was encouraged after attending the arguments. ‘What I heard was the justices were trying to find a way to give Florida some relief,’ Tonsmeire told POLITICO… During the hearing, several justices struggled with the question of how to provide relief to Florida without the Corps’ involvement – despite the special master’s recommendation to dismiss the case. ‘If the water is eventually going to get to Florida, that will help Florida,’ Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said… [D]eputy solicitor general Edwin S. Kneedler, representing feral interests in the case,… responded that the Corps, under federal law, must balance competing interests in its management of the river system. ‘It’s not at all clear that the governing statutes… even allow the Corps… to allocate additional water for the Apalachicola Bay or to do so would be consistent with balancing all other responsibilities the Corps has,’ he said.” Read Some Florida officials optimistic after U.S. Supreme Court arguments in water dispute
Eric Beech, Eric Walsh, and Leslie Adler report for US News – “President Donald Trump’s administration will not allow drilling for oil and gas off the coast of Florida after urging from the state’s governor, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said… ‘I support the governor’s position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver,’ Zinke said in a statement… The administration’s decision… removes from consideration a portion of the eastern Gulf of Mexico,… but not all of it. Florida state waters extend 3 nautical miles from the shore on the Atlantic, and 9 nautical miles on the Gulf side… On Twitter, several governors, attorneys general and lawmakers representing coastal states asked Zinke to extend the exemption for Florida to their coastal waters… Zinke said last week that the department’s draft National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019 to 2024 would make over 90 percent of the outer continental shelf’s total acreage available for leasing to drillers, a national record. That would reverse the Obama administration order placing 94 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf off limits to drillers.” Read Trump Administration Bars Oil Drilling off Florida After Governor’s Plea
Matt Dixon and Bruce Ritchie report for Politico Florida – “[T]wo Republican Florida congressmen say they have received assurances from House Speaker Paul Ryan that he will push for a permanent moratorium on drilling in the waters of the eastern Gulf of Mexico. ‘There is a governmental funding bill that has to be passed later this month,’ said Rep. Matt Gaetz, (R-Fla.) ‘Francis Rooney and I had a conversation about this with Speaker Ryan, who gave Rooney and I a commitment that eastern Gulf moratorium language will be in the must-pass bill.’… In January 2017, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson filed S.74 (115) to extend the moratorium to 2027. In March, Nelson and 16 bipartisan members of Florida’s congressional delegation urged the Trump administration to keep the eastern Gulf of Mexico off limits to drilling… Among those not signing the letter were Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), along with Panhandle Republican Reps. Neal Dunn (R-Panama City) and Gaetz. Later in March, Dunn and Gaetz were among 15 delegation members who asked Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to support maintaining the moratorium on oil and gas to protect military training in the region. Last May, Rubio filed his own bill, S. 1041 (115), to extend the moratorium but neither his nor Nelson’s bill have been heard by committees… Rep. Neal Dunn (R-Fla.) said… that Rep. Rob Bishop, (R-Utah), who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, told him that a proposal extending the moratorium on drilling for 40 years would be brought up in his committee.” Read GOP congressmen say Ryan to push permanent moratorium on eastern Gulf drilling
Dino Grandoni reports for The Washington Post – “[T]he Trump administration announced an offshore energy plan that would open almost all waters on the U.S. continental shelf to drilling for natural gas and oil… Perhaps nowhere is the political fallout more concentrated… than in Florida. With Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson up for reelection in just 10 months, offshore oil is poised to become a topic of debate… between the incumbent and Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is expected to try to unseat him. Nelson and Scott both oppose the offshore drilling proposal… [S]ome observers see Scott’s sudden leftward lean on the environment as suspect during an election year. Wedged between the North Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, like other Gulf states, saw crude oil that gushed from the exploded Deepwater Horizon well wash ashore in 2010 and drive away tourists. But unlike other Gulf states such as Louisiana and Texas, whose economies rely on the oil and gas industry, Florida has its bread buttered by tourism… [L]ate last year the Trump administration proposed removing some safety rules for offshore rigs put in place after the Deepwater Horizon spill… Nelson responded furiously…, threatening to try to block the rollback by invoking a procedural rule… Meanwhile, the Scott administration is still considering how to respond… The perception of Scott as an environmentalist only when up for election is compounded by his positions on perhaps the biggest environmental issue facing low-lying Florida: climate change.” Read The Energy 202: Environmental issues could take center stage in Florida Senate race
David Smiley reports for the Miami Herald – “Florida Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez will sport some fancy footwear [during] the 2018 legislative session… in Tallahassee. Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat, announced… that he’ll wear shin-high Bogs rain boots all session in order to draw awareness to climate change. Rodriguez hopes that what he sacrifices in fashion… he’ll gain in political traction as he pushes a bill to require sea-rise projection studies from state-financed contractors before buildings in coastal areas… On his boots… he’s etched #ActonClimateFL…. Rodriguez, who is also running for U.S. Congress, said he hopes the… move helps spur a conversation without acrimony. ‘… The message is, I represent a coastal district with aging infrastructure that’s ground zero for sea-level rise,’ he said. ‘There are times when I’m out in the district and I’m like, ‘Crap, I wish I had rain boots.’ It’s literally true that this is business attire if you visit the district.’” Read Miami lawmaker’s flood-conscious fashion statement is really political
The Herald Tribune Editorial Board writes – “In light of Florida’s limits on generating tax dollars, senators and representatives often find themselves committing the political equivalent of robbing Peter to pay Paul – raiding so-called trust funds to shore up the general-revenue budget and shifting the burden of providing services, including education, to local governments… The Republican-dominated Legislature has in recent years employed “pre-emption” to replace locally crafted ordinances with statewide laws… Bills pending in the Legislature… would prevent cities and counties from regulating short-term home rentals, overtake local ordinances on trees and impose significant limits on community redevelopment organizations. These bills and the pre-emption trend are troubling. They ignore and undermine the principle of home rule, which was established in 1968 when voters approved wide-ranging changes to the Florida Constitution.” Read ‘Pre-emption’ laws violate home rule
Dinah Voyles Pulver reports for the Daytona Beach News-Journal – “The year 2017 was not a good one for Florida’s manatees… Red tide algae blooms were identified ‘as a significant contributing factor’ to the overall manatee deaths… Statewide 106 manatee deaths were attributed to watercraft collisions. Overall, Kerr said watercraft-related collisions account for about 20 percent of the manatee deaths over the past five years.” Read Florida reports 538 manatee deaths in 2017
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Upcoming Environmental Events
January 15-16 – Participate in Florida Coasts & Ocean Citizen Advocacy Day in Tallahassee. This is your opportunity to speak out for clean water and healthy beaches. Citizens will support the plastic bag ban bills, water quality monitoring, beach access, and more. They will receive free training and food. For more information and to register, click here.
January 18, 7:00 pm – Attend The Islands at Apalachicola with Jeff Chanton & Susan Cerulean in Tallahassee. Experts will discuss how the Apalachicola River’s flow affects the configuration of St. Vincent Island and its wildlife. There is a social at 7:00 pm and the program begins at 7:30 pm. For more information, click here.
January 20, 9:00 am – Participate in the annual Newnan’s Lake Cleanup in Gainesville. Volunteers will meet at Earl P. Powers Park (5910 SE Hawthorne Rd) on the southwest edge of the lake. Current Problems will provide cleanup supplies such as bags, grabbers, gloves, nets, and scales. There will be snacks and drinks for volunteers. For more information, contact Megan Black at firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 30-31 – Participate in the Reclaiming Florida’s Future for All Advocacy Day in Tallahassee. Citizens will gather together to support climate action and land conservation funding. They will receive free advocacy training and may receive free lodging. For more information, click here.
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