Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “For decades, Florida’s builders and developers have complained about how long it takes to get a federal permit to fill wetlands. They greatly prefer dealing with the state because it doesn’t protect as many types of wetland, says yes to nearly every permit application and approves them rapidly. Now Gov. Rick Scott’s environmental regulators are negotiating with the Trump Administration for the state to take over issuing federal wetlands permits too – all in the name of making it easier to build in wetlands. A pair of bills to make it happen – SB 1402 and HB 7043 – are rolling through the Legislature… Audubon of Florida and the Nature Conservancy support the bills. Meanwhile, the Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation and Earthjustie are opposed… [W]etlands are considered valuable because they absorb flood water, filter out pollution and provide habitat for important species of wildlife… Florida had three reasons for ditching the proposal (to take over federal permitting) [in 2006]…: - Florida builders were requesting so many permits already that taking over that workload would overwhelm the state agency. – The DEP decided it would need help from the Corps to make sure the permits’ requirements were being followed to the letter. The state didn’t have enough people working enforcement. – Finally, the DEP decided it would need federal money to pay for all the extra work and employees it would take. Since Scott took office in 2011, the size of the DEP has shrunk by more than 600 employees… He slashed funding for the state’s water management districts, which also issue some wetland permits, and vetoed funding for the regional planning councils that helped guide growth... Although neither bill has passed yet, the DEP has already drafted legal documents for the transfer (of federal authority) and sent them to both the EPA and the Corps to read over.” Read Gov. Rick Scott’s DEP wants to take over issuing federal wetland permits
Julia Craven reports for the Huffington Post – “Griffin Park is surrounded by two major highways that are used by hundreds of thousands of cars heading in and out of Orlando, Florida, every day. Whatever trees once buffered the noxious fumes and the roar of cars on all sides have been cut down… The pollution in Griffin Park and its low-income Parramore neighborhood is violence of a kind Americans tend to ignore. But it is as deliberate and as politically determined as any more recognizable act of racial violence… [D]eaths could be prevented if the federally mandated air quality standards were tightened. Reducing current levels of so-called fine particulate matter by just one microgram per cubic meter of air would save about 12,000 lives every year… But rather than making environmental standards more stringent, the Trump administration is moving to scrap a number of regulations and has proposed cutting the Environmental Protection Agency budget by almost one-third.” Read Even Breathing is a Risk in One of Orlando’s Poorest Neighborhoods
The Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board writes – “[A] proposal before the powerful Constitution Revision Commission would… permanently hinder local governments’ ability to sensibly regulate businesses… Proposal 95, offered by state Sen. Tom Lee…, says cities and counties may only regulate ‘commerce, trade, or labor occurring exclusively within the respective entity’s own boundaries,’ and regulations must not ‘intrude upon or impede commerce, trade, or labor across the respective entity’s boundaries.’ The language is vague enough to be utterly confusing and broad enough to be dangerous. By limiting local governments to regulating only businesses within their boundaries, the proposal undercuts their ability to regulate at all… [C]ompanies that are based out of state but operate in Florida, such as developers, would… be above local regulation… In a sense, all regulations have the potential to ‘impede commerce,’ but that doesn’t make them unsound. Rules that prevent factories from dumping pollutants into lakes are costly, but they protect natural resources and residents’ health… Proposal 95 would be bad for Florida and should be stopped in its tracks.” Read Kill this proposed amendment that would hamstring local governments in Florida
The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board writes – “Environmental groups say the proposed reservoir is too deep. It’s squeezed on too little land. And it doesn’t include enough marshlands needed to filter the water before sending flows south to the Everglades. Given the many concerns being expressed, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature should send South Florida Water Management District managers back to the drawing board. This project… represents a major building block in addressing South Florida’s drainage and water supply challenges. It’s too important and too expensive to get wrong… Assembling more land wouldn’t require a spending spree with taxpayers’ money. Rather, state-owned land in the vast farming region south of the lake could be made available, though it would require terminating some leases with sugar cane growers. Publicly-owned parcels elsewhere also could be traded for land near the reservoir… It’s only fitting that South Florida provide more land to fix the Lake Okeechobee drainage problem, since the lake waters that foul coastal waterways are a direct result of protecting South Florida from flooding.” Read Lake Okeechobee reservoir needs more land to deliver promised relief
Cleveland Tinker reports for The Gainesville Sun – “Despite opposition from some officials from the smaller cities in Alachua County, a county-wide wetlands protection ordinance was approved by the Alachua County Commission… Close to 300 people packed into the meeting room and two other rooms in the County Administration Building…, and the overwhelming majority of those who spoke supported the passing of the ordinance… More than 70 percent of Alachua County voters in 2000 approved a ballot initiative giving county commissioners the authority to establish countywide standards for protecting the environment by prohibiting and regulating air and water pollution. However, the proposed code would extend regulations beyond just the unincorporated areas in Alachua County to the municipalities as well.” Read Wetlands ordinance passes despite some opposition
Sandra Walters and Matthew K. Vedder write for The Daytona Beach News-Journal – “We did not listen to the experts on global warming. We are not listening to the experts warning of the depletion of our fresh water supply. And now, according to leading scientists, we are nearing the point of no return in saving our oceans. We should line our boats up at sea, bow to stern, from Pensacola to Jacksonville, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder by land to defend the the state of Florida against [offshore drilling].” Read Letters: ‘It dawned on me that it was all a game.’
Juliet Eilperin reports for The Washington Post – “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed a land-swap agreement Monday to allow a small, remote Alaska town to construct a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, a vast wilderness area that has been protected for decades… Alaskan politicians have argued the road would provide a route in poor weather for medical evacuations from King Cove to the closest regional airport, while environmentalists counter that it would fragment a pristine stretch of tundra and lagoons otherwise off-limits to motorized traffic… Both supporters and critics of the agreement see it as an important precedent. The refuge, which provides a critical feeding ground for migrating birds as well as habitat for bears, caribou and other species, was established by President Dwight Eisenhower. All but 15,000 of its 315,000 acres have been designated as wilderness since 1980, and roads are traditionally banned in such areas… Defenders of wildlife President Jamie Rappaport Clark, who served as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director under President Bill Clinton [said,] ‘… If they can do this in as biologically valuable and internationally recognized a place as Izembek, there is not one public land base that is off limits to this administration.’” Read Zinke signs land-swap deal allowing road through Alaska’s Izembek wilderness
The Economist reports – “The EBP’s stated goal is to sequence, within a decade, the genomes of all 1.5m known species of eukaryotes… The idea of the code bank is to build a database of biological information using a blockchain… [Blockchains… can be employed to create ‘smart contracts’ that monitor and execute themselves…. To obtain access to Mr. Castilla’s code bank would mean entering into such a contract, which would track how the knowledge thus tapped was subsequently used. If such use was commercial, a payment would be transferred automatically to the designated owners of the downloaded data.” Read Sequencing the world
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Upcoming Environmental Events
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.
February 6, 12:00 pm – Attend Springs Academy Tuesday in High Springs. This talk will be focused on springs stresses such as groundwater pumping, fertilizers, wastewater disposal, and recreation. For more information, click here.
February 8, 3:00 pm – Attend the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s public meeting regarding their proposed offshore drilling plan in Tallahassee. This is the only meeting scheduled in Florida as part of the mandatory public comment period for the plan. For more information, click here.
February 14, 12:45 pm – Attend the Villages Environmental Discussions Group to hear presentations by Marty Mesh, Mike Archer, and Jody Woodson-Swartzman at the Belvedere Library (325 Belvedere Blvd.) in The Villages. Marty Mesh is the founder and executive director of Florida Organic Growers. He will speak about the importance of organic agriculture and accomplishments of the 2017 Inaugural Food & Farming Summit. Mike Archer and Jody Woodson-Swartzman will discuss their efforts to reduce the use of plastic bags. They have a no-sew method of converting a t-shirt into a shopping bag. For more information and to RSVP, contact Mary Hampton at email@example.com.
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