John Davis reports for WGCU – “A Florida Senate committee, Wednesday, advanced a bill (SB 1402) which aims to place a longstanding federal program that protects wetlands through the Clean Water Act under state control… Environmental advocates oppose the bill over concerns that it will fast track permitting for development of wetlands. They point to the importance of Florida’s wetland ecosystems as critical habitat for endangered species, as a source of fresh drinking water, and as a vital aspect to Florida’s natural infrastructure in the event of hurricanes and floods… The Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s Amber Crooks said she’s also concerned about the DEP’s ability to take on the additional work. ‘We know that they’re already strapped. The growth has already increased and we know just for the state’s program, that they’re having a hard time keeping up with the influx of permitting applications,’ said Crooks. ‘We’re not sure how they can take on this additional responsibility and DEP has testified that they’re not planning to provide additional money for implementing this program.’ The bill unanimously passed the Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources. It now heads to the Senate’s Appropriations committee before going to the full chamber for a vote. The House companion bill (HB 7043) is already waiting for a floor vote. Florida lawmakers considered making this regulatory change back in 2005, but after a detailed analysis decided it would be too costly and too complicated to implement. Crooks worries that is not happening this time around. ‘We’re not getting a sense that there’s much analysis going into this,’ said Crooks… Crooks said that only Michigan and New Jersey have taken similar action. ‘Almost immediately there were some issues on ensuring that those states had actual up-to-date federal laws they were enforcing and questions about whether they were really implementing the Clean Water Act up to the standards that they should be and also about how to handle endangered species issues.’” Read Federal Wetlands Protections Threatened by Bill Advancing in FL Legislature
Chad Gillis reports for News Press – “The South Florida Water Management District is working to update a rule that sets aside a minimum amount of freshwater needed to save what’s left of the Caloosahatchee River estuary, but critics say the rule doesn’t go far enough.” Read Critics: State not doing enough to protect Caloosahatchee estuary
Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm – “A proposed reservoir to cut Lake Okeechobee discharges will do a pretty good job holding and moving water, but a lousy job cleaning it, the Everglades Foundation says… To ‘optimize’ the environmental benefits of the proposed reservoir, district engineers made the project ‘multipurpose,’ meaning about 25.7 billion gallons of water a year would be available to irrigate area farms. That will set up ‘a direct competition for water’ between farms and the Everglades, the foundation claims, especially in the dry season when both need water the most.” Read Lake Okeechobee reservoir will not clean water bound for Everglades, foundation says
Max Chesnes reports for WUFT – “A portion of the allocated $50 million would aid in the plan to siphon water from Black Creek in Middleburg to the Keystone Heights Lake Region, according to the bill (SB 204). While many residents of Keystone Heights favor the proposed pipeline, many Middleberg residents worry for the wellbeing of the creek.” Read Keystone Heights’ Lakes Might Get State Funding for Water Replenishment, But Not Everyone’s Happy
Bruce Ritchie and Ben Lefebvre report for Politico Florida – “An Interior Department plan… to open a huge swath of the Gulf of Mexico to oil drilling, including a smaller area off Florida’s Gulf Coast for oil and gas drilling, left environmentalists adamantly opposed. But an oil industry representative and the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management pointed out that the area off Florida, which covers 944,640 acres and at its closest is 125 miles from the Panhandle coast, has never been off limits to drilling… The Interior Department is advertising the new lease sale as the largest in U.S. history. It would include 77.3 million acres of federal waters stretching from South Texas to the moratorium area boundary off Florida, put in place by Congress in 2005 to protect military training missions in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.” Read Federal oil drilling lease sale off Florida coast sparks environmental opposition
Reps. John H. Rutherford, Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Ron DeSantis, Matt Gaetz, Brian Mast, Francis Rooney, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Dennis Ross, and Ted Yoho write – “[W]e have introduced legislation to codify in law Zinke’s commitment. The PROTECT Florida Act would extend the moratorium on drilling and exploration in the Eastern Gulf and establish a new moratorium on drilling and exploration in the Florida Straits and South Atlantic, off the coast of Florida, through the next two five-year drilling plans… As the Eastern Gulf moratorium nears its expiration in 2022 and actions are underway to expand seismic work in the gulf and the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf, legislative action, like passage of the PROTECT Florida Act, is needed now more than ever. Floridians must unite to protect our clean and healthy Florida beaches, ocean ecosystems and coastal communities.” Read Florida Republican House members call for offshore drilling ban
Robin George Andrews writes for Wired – “Last year a coalition of scientists, economists, policymakers, researchers, and business people published Project Drawdown, a compendium of ways to prevent carbon dioxide from escaping skywards… Ranked in order of carbon emissions locked down by 2050, the usual suspects made the list. A moderate expansion of solar farms (number 9), onshore wind turbines (number 2), and nuclear power (number 20) would all save tens of billions of tons of equivalent carbon dioxide emissions. Increasing the number of people on plant-rich diets (number 4) and using electric vehicles (number 26) are effective carbon-cutting measures… The top spot went to managing refrigerants like HFCs, which are incredibly effective at trapping heat within our atmosphere. But two lesser-known solutions also made this most practical of lists: the education of girls (number 6) and family planning (number 7).” Read To Stop Climate Change, Educate Girls and Give Them Birth Control
Eleanor Ainge Roy reports for The Guardian – “More than one million trees have been pledged for Trump Forest, a bid by environmentalists to offset the US president’s curtailing of Obama-era clean energy initiatives by planting 10 billion trees around the globe… The project was launched last March and in less than a year over a million trees have been pledged from people around the world, but particularly in the US and Europe. The donated trees are to go towards offsetting the 650 m tonnes of CO2 that will be released into the atmosphere by 2025 if the president’s plans to backtrack on US climate commitments go ahead, organizers say. The figure of 650 m tonnes – equivalent to the annual carbon footprint of 33 million Americans – is calculated from Trump’s decision to roll back the US 2015 Paris agreement pledge to lower emissions by at least 26% below 2005 levels by 2025. It would take 10 billion trees – covering a landmass roughly the size of the state of Kentucky – to offset the full amount.” Read Trees for Trump: one million plants pledged to offset U-turn on climate change
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
February 21 – April 17 – Solar United Neighbors is hosting several solar co-op information sessions around Florida throughout the next few months. Attendees will learn about solar equipment, financing, and the benefits of joining a solar co-op. For a complete list of sessions, click here.
February 22, 6:00 pm – Attend 350 Pensacola’s Chasing Coral Event at the West Florida Public Library (239 N. Spring St.) in Pensacola. The event will feature the award-winning film, Chasing Coral, which allows viewers to join divers, photographers, and scientists as they set out to discover why coral reefs are disappearing. After the film, there will be a panel discussion with experts on the plight of the world’s reefs and what we can do to save them. For more information, email email@example.com.
February 24, 7:00 pm – Attend Shore Stories at Waterboyz (380 N. Ninth Ave.) in Pensacola. The event will feature 6 short films discussing the perils of offshore oil drilling and conclude with a question and answer session with representatives from the Gulf Restoration Network and Surfrider Foundation. For more information, contact Christian Wagley at Christian@healthygulf.org or (850) 687 – 9968.
February 28, 6:00 pm – Attend Shore Stories at the Amavida Coffee St. Andrews Cafe (2997 W. 10th St.) in Panama City. The event will feature 6 short films discussing the perils of offshore oil drilling and conclude with a question and answer session with representatives from the Gulf Restoration Network and Surfrider Foundation. For more information, contact Christian Wagley at Christian@healthygulf.org or (850) 687 – 9968.
March 1, 6:00 pm – Attend Shore Stories at Grayton Beer Company (217 Serenoa Rd.) in Santa Rosa Beach. The event will feature 6 short films discussing the perils of offshore oil drilling and conclude with a question and answer session with representatives from the Gulf Restoration Network and Surfrider Foundation. For more information, contact Christian Wagley at Christian@healthygulf.org or (850) 687 – 9968.
March 3 – 4, 10:00 am – Attend Florida Springsfest in Silver Springs. Enjoy music, art, mermaids, Glass Bottom Boat rides, environmental presentations, and more. For more information, click here.
March 8, 6:30 pm – Attend Newts of the Apalachicola National Forest in Tallahassee. Rebecca and Ryan Means will discuss the plight of the endangered newts of the Apalachicola Forest. For more information, click here.
March 14-16, 8:30 am – Attend The Endangered Apalachicola Conference in Tallahassee. The Apalachicola ecosystem has incredible biodiversity and once provided for a booming oyster industry. Unfortunately, this ecosystem is now struggling to survive due to a lack of fresh water. The problem is so dire, Florida is suing Georgia over its water use! The Florida Conservation Coalition invites you to come learn more about this endangered ecosystem. After Thursday’s overview of challenges facing the Apalachicola, FCC Chair and former Florida Governor, Bob Graham, will host a special keynote dinner. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.
March 26, 6:00 pm – Attend a talk by Maya van Rossum, Delaware Riverkeeper, on The Green Amendment: Our Right to a Healthy Environment at the Working Food Community Center (219 NW 10th Avenue) in Gainesville. Doors open at 5:30 PM.
Do you know of an upcoming environmental event or meeting you would like to include in the FCC News Brief? Send us a quick e-mail and we will include it for you.
We hope you enjoy this service and find it valuable. Our goal is to provide you with the latest and most relevant environmental news for Floridians. Our hope is that you will use this information to more effectively and frequently contact your elected representatives, and add your voice to the growing chorus of Floridians concerned about the condition of our environment and the recent direction of environmental policies.
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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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