Bruce Ritchie reports for Politico Florida – “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he was withdrawing Florida from consideration for new oil and gas drilling leases… Zinke said seismic testing still would be allowed but there would be no new oil drilling or platforms. A compromise was always in the works that would allow Scott to claim victory in a likely bid later this year for the Senate, said one Republican who spoke with Zinke prior to the announcement last week. The Interior Department proposal included buffers of up to 125 miles off the Gulf Coast as part of a possible compromise… ‘It’s unfortunate that [Governor Scott] and his friend President Trump would manufacture a crisis to try and help his political ambitions, but in doing so they’ve shone a bright spotlight on Scott’s long record of backing oil drilling off Florida’s shores and beaches,’ [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee] spokesman David Bergstein said… Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida chapter director, said he wanted to see details backing up the announcement.” Read Interior secretary says new drilling ‘off the table’ for Florida
The Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board writes – “The Trump administration’s plan to open virtually all U.S. coastal waters to new oil and gas drilling is wrongheaded in every respect… [I]t’s bad for America’s economy and influence in the world, as other states and nations continue to reap the benefits of leading a global shift toward renewable energies… The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon rig disaster showed how a spill off the coast of Louisiana could impact Florida. It exposed the difference between a safety plan that exists on paper and one that’s tested by reality… Scientists still have not fully documented the impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill… While [the Trump administration] argued that new steps the government has taken since the Deepwater Horizon blowout have made offshore drilling safer, the administration failed to note its effort to repeal these reforms, including proposing looser rules on blowout preventers, a runaway rig’s last line of defense.” Read Why Trump’s drilling plan is wrong for Florida, nation
The Herald Tribune reports – “Twenty members of Florida’s congressional delegation sent a letter… to the Trump Administration opposing any rollback of safety regulations adopted after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.” Read Florida congressional delegation opposes rolling back oil drilling regulations
Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm – “The Florida Legislature now has five plans, including two “best buys,” for the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to consider. Some environmentalists say legislators should be looking at more… Each (plan)… assumes that $400 million of the cost would be paid under the previously approved Central Everglades Planning Project. The reservoir is, in fact, an attempt to reconfigure part of CEPP, which called for the 17,000-acre site to be a shallow reservoir rather than a deep one… The [SFWMD] report notes the district is working to acquire about 3,000 acres that make up the western side of the project site. As for acquiring any more land, the report states 15 private landowners who own most of the land south of Lake O notified the district in writing ‘they are not willing to sell or remove agricultural land out of production for the project.’ The district will continue to ‘work to exchange state-owned lands for private lands,’ according to the report. The “best buy” plans can be adapted and improved ‘if additional land becomes available,’ Velez (the district’s director of Everglades policy) said… ‘We could make the reservoir shallower, for example, if we get more land,’ Velez said… None of the district’s options have marshes, known as stormwater treatment areas, large enough to clean the water enough to meet stringent federal standards, said Thomas Van Lent, director of science and policy for the Everglades Foundation. The foundation has developed its own alternative project… The foundation’s plan would require the state to terminate leases farmers have on government-owned land scattered south of Lake O and swap that land for about 13,000 privately owned acres adjacent to the project site… The district’s options ‘consider a reservoir that is constructed on state-owned lands and that’s mindful of our communities’ agricultural economies,’ said the mayors of Clewiston, Moore Haven, South Bay, Belle Glade and Pahokee.” Read Florida legislators get 5 reservoir plans, 2 ‘best buys’ to cut Lake Okeechobee discharges
Kimberly Miller reports for my Palm Beach Post – “A peer-reviewed Florida Atlantic University paper that appeared in December’s issue of the journal Harmful Algae, says that algae in freshwater lake discharges grows exponentially when it reaches the St. Lucie River because of heavy nitrogen levels specific to septic tanks. The fresh lake water weakens the brackish water ecosystem then the algae feeds on the reactive forms of nitrogen, such as ammonium and nitrate, that comes from the tanks, according to the report. Brian LaPointe, lead author of the study and a research professor at FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, said the study was able to trace the nitrogen’s source not to fertilizer – long blamed for the growth – but to human sources… Treasure Coast environmentalists are skeptical of LaPointe’s findings, arguing the amount of nitrogen from septic tanks is miniscule compared to what’s coming from agriculture… But LaPointe argues it’s flawed to look at total nitrogen output because it’s only specific forms called “reactive nitrogen” that fuel algae growth.” Read Lake Okeechobee not lone cause of Treasure Coast algae
Eric Staats reports for the Naples Daily News – “The first two Florida panther deaths of 2018 were reported… on roads in Collier and Hendry counties. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found the body of a panther kitten, estimated to be about 5 months old, on Interstate 75… in Collier County. The body of a second female panther, estimated to be 3-4 years old, was found… on the Josie Billie Highway in eastern Hendry County. The two deaths follow a downward tick in panther roadkills in 2017… A total of 30 panthers were found dead in 2017… The record for panther roadkill was set in 2016, with 34 roadway deaths out of a total of 42.” Read Florida tallies first two endangered panther deaths of 2018 on Collier, Hendry roads
Mark Sherman reports for the Associated Press – “The Corps controls the water flow on the Chattahoochee to serve several purposes, including hydropower, flood control, protecting endangered species and storing water for release during droughts, Justice Department lawyer Edwin Kneedler said… The agency has enough control over the flow of water that there might not be any increase in the water that reaches Florida even if the court were to cap Georgia’s use of water from the Flint River, Lancaster found. The Corps could decide to store more water in its Chattahoochee reservoirs and cancel out any increases from the Flint River… One problem Kneedler described is that the bay is not under the Corps’ control, even though the river flows into it. It’s not clear the Corps has the authority to send more water to Florida to benefit the bay and the oyster harvest, he said.” Read Justices seem to favor Florida in water fight with Georgia
Brad Plumer reports for the New York Times – “Federal regulators… rejected a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to subsidize struggling coal and nuclear plants, in a major blow to the Trump administration’s efforts to revive America’s declining coal industry… In September, Mr. Perry warned that the loss of these plants could threaten the ‘reliability and resiliency of our nation’s grid’ and asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission… to guarantee financial returns for power plants that can stockpile at least 90 days’ worth of fuel on-site – which, in effect, meant propping up uncompetitive coal and nuclear units. (Natural gas plants are typically fed by pipeline and would not qualify.)… Mr. Perry’s proposal generated a fierce backlash from a broad coalition of energy companies, free-market groups and former regulators… Opponents… also pointed out that blackouts usually occurred because of problems with transmission lines – not because power plants had insufficient fuel on site.” Read Rick Perry’s Plan to Rescue Struggling Coal and Nuclear Plants is Rejected
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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 email@example.com.
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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