The Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board writes – “Legislators… have played games with money earmarked for land and water conservation under a constitutional amendment voters approved in 2014, diverting hundreds of millions of dollars to routine agency expenses. The Senate’s new budget chairman, Republican Rob Bradley, is calling for spending $100 million a year on the state’s main land-buying program, raising annual spending on springs restoration to $75 million, and putting another $50 million a year into protecting the St. Johns River. These commitments would give legislators less flexibility in budgeting, but would reflect the will of voters.” Read As Florida legislators prepare to convene for their 2018 session, here are 10 of our policy priorities for them
Ali Schmitz reports for the TC Palm – “(Senate President) Negron… said his 2018 priority is making sure the South Florida Water Management District properly implements Senate Bill 10, the 2017 bill he championed to secure state funding and set ambitious deadlines for a reservoir south of the lake… Negron said he’ll encourage the district to swap land and terminate leases to secure enough land to properly store and clean water before sending it south to the thirsty Everglades. The district has come up with five options based on two basic footprints… SB 10 budgeted $800 million, an estimate that banks on a federal government match for a total of $1.6 billion, but the cost will depend on which option the Legislature chooses. Negron said there’s always the potential of increasing the funding with new legislation… Negron’s strongest ally will be Senate budget Chairman Rob Bradley…, who sponsored SB 10 on Negron’s behalf… Negron also needs U.S. Rep. Brian Mast to keep the reservoir on track at the federal level… The reservoir is but one of many initiatives seeking to tap into the $862.2 million Land Acquisition Trust Fund… Another bill Negron called a major legislative priority would dedicate $100 million annually to preserve environmentally sensitive lands. Senate Bill 370 would boost the Florida Forever Trust Fund, whose $300 million annual funding the governor cut to zero during the recession. Reservoir funding came at the expense of Florida Forever funding last year too. That upset environmentalists who pushed Amendment 1 onto the 2014 ballot in hopes of funding Florida Forever again.” Read Lake Okeechobee reservoir keeps Treasure Coast in 2018 Florida legislative session spotlight
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto writes for the Miami Herald – “Floridians remember that dark day of April 20, 2010. BP Oil’s Deepwater Horizon offshore platform exploded killing 11 people and injuring 17 others. Over the course of a seemingly endless 87-day stretch, Florida watched helplessly as 200 million gallons of dirty crude oil gushed into our beloved Gulf of Mexico. Florida’s tourism industry lost billions of dollars that year with thousands put out of work. Florida leaders swore that we would never allow this to happen again… President Obama… enacted two new rules related to safety systems and well control to help protect us from another disaster. But while Floridians were enjoying the holidays, President Trump announced that he was dismantling these rules just before New Year’s – with the hope that no one was paying attention. Well, we are paying attention… These proposed rules put Florida in grave danger. We cannot sit idly by and watch this disastrous history repeat itself… Make your voice heard by submitting your comments in opposition… at www.federalregister.gov.” Read Trump’s stealth rollback of oil-spill protections a disaster for Florida
The Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board writes – “A plan the Trump administration unveiled this week to allow offshore drilling in previously protected waters in the Atlantic and eastern Gulf of Mexico is a dagger aimed at Florida’s fragile coastal environment and tourism-based economy. State leaders in both political parties must close ranks to ensure oil rigs don’t get any closer to Florida’s shores. Early signs are promising… [L]ast month the Trump administration also proposed to relax safety rules for offshore drilling that the Obama administration imposed in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster… Nelson also promised to fight this irresponsible idea. So did Buchanan… The Trump plan envisions selling drilling leases in the eastern Gulf in 2023 and 2024. Congress could make sure that won’t happen by passing legislation – backed by Nelson and… Republican Marco Rubio – to extend the drilling moratorium in the area to at least 2027.” Read Florida’s leaders must protect our coasts from a Trump administration plan to expand offshore drilling
Andy Marlette writes for the Pensacola News Journal – “In response to public outrage over plans for widespread expansion of offshore drilling from people who aren’t too dumb or stoned… to remember the BP oil spill, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued this totally fictional response to Floridians last week:…” Read Drill ‘em and kill ‘em, Florida!
Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “Scattered across Florida are 19,000 underground petroleum storage tanks that are no longer in use and may be leaking into the aquifer, the state’s drinking water supply. State records show that 738 of them are in Pinellas County, 792 in Hillsborough, 101 in Pasco and 61 in Hernando. Most people who live near them don’t even know they are there, or that they might be polluting their water. State law doesn’t require anyone to warn them. The state Department of Environmental Protection, in charge of cleaning up the mess, was originally supposed to work on the highest-priority sites first, those posing the greatest threat to human health. But at the direction of lawmakers and Florida Gov. Rick Scott, that’s no longer the case. Instead, the DEP has been targeting lower-priority sites… Florida has more underground tanks awaiting cleanup than any other state…. PEER is pushing for a new state law requiring the DEP to notify all property owners who live within a half-mile of a storage tank site of the potential risk to their health. So far, no legislators have shown any interest in filing that bill.” Read High-risk underground fuel tanks in Florida await cleanup as state spends millions on easy fixes
David Bauerlein reports for The Florida Times Union – “A decision on St. Johns Riverkeeper’s eleventh-hour attempt to prevent dredging the ship channel could go down to the wire as a judge said Thursday she will rule ‘promptly’ but cannot guarantee it will come before the company hired to do the dredge arrives later this month with its crews and equipment.” Read Judge vows prompt decision on Riverkeeper’s bid to stop river deepening
Zac Anderson reports for the Herald Tribune – “After cutting down a tree without a permit in September as Hurricane Irma approached, Sarasota real estate investor Marc Pelletz sat in a small conference room at Sarasota City Hall one recent morning and listened to his restitution options. Pelletz could pay a steep fine… or plant a similar tree as a replacement, preferably on the same property where the tree was cut down… Pelletz didn’t dispute that he violated the city’s ordinance. But the punishment didn’t fit the crime, he said, especially since the tree in question was threatening the house, Hurricane Irma was approaching and – Pelletz claims city staff told him – the tree likely would have been approved for removal if he had gone through the proper channels and secured a permit. Cases similar to Pelletz’s situation have been cited by state Sen. Greg Steube, who has filed legislation aimed at repealing every municipal tree protection ordinance in the state… In recent years state leaders have accused local officials of going overboard in regulating everything from guns to lawn fertilizer to small businesses… Local governments are fighting back, accusing the Legislature of meddling in issues that are best left to local communities and forsaking their conservative principles by taking authority away from elected leaders who are closer to the people. The preemption battle in Florida is part of a national trend… Meanwhile,… Pelletz said he doesn’t oppose the city’s overall goal with the tree ordinance, but believes it is not flexible enough.” Read Legislature 2018: War over home rule heating up in Florida
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
January 9, 12:00 pm – Attend Springs Academy Tuesday, a lunchtime lecture series on Florida’s springs, in High Springs. January’s lecture is on Springs Biology with special guest Dr. Stephen Walsh of the USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center. For more information, click here or call (386) 454 – 2427.
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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About the FCC: The Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) is composed of over 80 conservation-minded organizations and over two thousand individuals devoted to protecting and conserving Florida’s land, fish and wildlife, and water resources.
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