Ali Schmitz reports for the TC Palm – “A House committee Tuesday unanimously passed a bill to boost Florida Forever funding… House Bill 7063 allocates $57 million to the Department of Environmental Protection for land preservation next year and gradually increases the amount to $100 million by fiscal year 2023-24 and $200 million by fiscal year 2029-30. Before the hearing, the bill’s sponsor eliminated a prohibition on using Florida Forever funds to build on rural lands. Everglades advocates objected to the prohibition, saying that would apply to the proposed reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee… Florida Forever used to receive about $300 million a year since 1999, but it was gutted during and after the 2008 recession… The Senate is backing a different plan, but it’s stalled in the House.” Read Florida Forever bill passes House committee, won’t affect Lake Okeechobee reservoir
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and Florida Rep. Mel Ponder write for The Destin Log – “A well-trained military is an effective military – and a well-trained military needs a place to train… Unfortunately, air training operations are currently constrained to the northern portion of the Gulf of Mexico, due south of Eglin Air Force Base. This constrictive geographical limitation has resulted in substantial aircraft congestion, and a sharp reduction in mission-critical training flights. America’s pilots are unable to fly often enough, long enough, or far enough. Recent studies have revealed that aircraft congestion has kept at least 80 training missions per year from taking place, and has prevented numerous F-35 and F-22 warfighters from undertaking mission-relevant training… In 2006, the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act halted oil and gas exploration east of the Military Mission Line… The “GOMESA moratorium,” as it is called, remains in effect until June 2022… While energy independence is a worthy goal, if it comes at the expense of national security, it will be a Pyrrhic victory at best… Extending the drilling moratorium is of paramount importance to America. The fundamental purpose of the government is to defend and protect the United States… Florida’s Gulf Coast remembers the horrific Deepwater Horizon oil spill all too well. The best way to prevent accidents like that from happening again is to prevent further drilling. For America’s national security, for the environment, and for the men and women who defend our freedom, we cannot in good conscience allow the moratorium to expire in 2022.” Read Drilling moratorium is a national security issue
Jackie Myers writes for The Ledger – “Recent reporting has clearly spelled out that there are already numerous threats to the health and safety of our waters in Florida… One concern that I have is that Florida… might be allowing yet another waste problem in Southwest Florida with fracking that could impact our water in our region… The EPA already conducted a study proving fracking causes water pollution… Lakeland is currently looking at how to address contaminants in five of its lakes as it is. Why let in an industry that we know will spill and leak chemicals? A bill to ban fracking is currently in the committee that Rep. Ben Albritton… leads. He should support it.” Read Let’s keep Florida’s precious water clean
Trimmel Gomes reports for the Public News Service – “Solar advocates expressed disappointment as the 21-member House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness approved its final report Tuesday, calling for strengthening the state’s power grid without an emphasis on solar… Florida now leads the nation in growth of residential rooftop solar permits. ‘The economies of scale now work, and they work well,’ [Macnab of the League of Women Voters] said. ‘And we’d like to really hope that the Legislature will be looking forward and helping preserve energy independence and resilience.’” Read Report on Solar in Florida Shows Progress
Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald – “The last couple of years have not been kind to the endangered Key deer. A grisly, flesh-eating screwworm infected the planet’s only herd in the Lower Keys in 2016, killing nearly an eighth of the beloved, dog-sized deer. Then came hurricane Irma in September, which landed a direct blow to their habitat. And don’t forget the poachers, an inept duo who hog-tied and stuffed three deer in their car before police stopped them. Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under increasing pressure to thin the ranks of the endangered species list, is quietly conducting a review of the deer’s protected status. The agency, which has not publicly announced the review, confirmed it is ongoing, but refused to provide details about what prompted it. The move is setting off alarms among scientists, who worry that a rise in the population, despite increasing threats from sea rise and development, may shove the deer off the list or reduce their status… Reviews are usually announced in the Federal Register, where agency actions are publicly advertised. No notice appears for the Key deer status review.” Read Feds quietly reconsider protected status for endangered Florida Key deer
Zac Anderson reports for the Herald Tribune – “Environmental advocates… say the DEP – an agency that often was accused of catering to business interests in recent years – is doing a better job of listening to the overall community under Valenstein. Speaking to one of the region’s leading business advocacy groups, Valenstein said almost nothing about the businesses that seek various permits from the DEP. There was no talk about speeding up the DEP permitting process, something Gov. Rick Scott has bragged about in the past. Instead, Valenstein focused on the DEP’s conservation efforts, from Everglades restoration to land conservation and establishing a new state park. Valenstein even touched on sea level rise… One way the DEP can help tackle the problem of sea level rise is by allowing those on the front lines of the issue to tap the agency’s scientific expertise, Valenstein said. ‘First, as a department we have tremendous team of technical experts,’ he said. ‘Let’s have those experts join with your local community, discuss your problems, provide funding and come up with solutions.’… Under Valentstein’s leadership, the DEP also has been listening to concerns raised by environmental advocates about an update to Myakka River State Park’s management plan, Miller (an advocate) said. A proposal to allow cattle grazing at the park was ‘swatted down’ a while ago, Miller said, but the plan still contained other measures opposed by environmental advocates, including cabbage palm harvesting. ‘Our citizen lobbying combined with new leadership at the state has resulted in a much better plan,’ Miller said… Asked if activities such as cattle grazing are off the table for Myakka going forward, Valenstein said ‘anything is off the table if it doesn’t preserve the resource for future generations and make it more accessible to Floridians to enjoy that resource and learn about it.’” Read Environmental Protection chief talks sea level rise during Sarasota visit
The Associated Press reports – “An endangered Florida panther has been struck and killed by a vehicle. It’s the seventh fatal collision this year, out of seven total panther deaths. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says that the remains of the 4-month-old male were collected Monday near Immokalee in Collier County.” Read Florida panther struck and killed by vehicle
Hiroko Tabuchi, Nadja Popovich, Blacki Migliozzi, and Andrew Lehren report for the New York Times – “Anchored in flood-prone areas in every American state are more than 2,500 sites that handle toxic chemicals, a New York Times analysis of federal floodplain and industrial data shows… As flood danger grows – the consequence of a warming climate – the risk is that there will be more toxic spills like the… ones at a Florida fertilizer plant that leaked phosphoric acid and an Ohio refinery that released benzene… [R]ising sea levels combined with more frequent and extensive flooding from coastal storms… may increase the risk to chemical facilities near waterways… Federal law does not explicitly require sites in floodplains that handle toxic chemicals to take extra precautions against flooding. Nor do most states or local governments… President Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2015 requiring planners of federally funded buildings, roads and other infrastructure to account for the impact of possible flooding from rising sea levels or more extreme precipitation. President Trump rescinded those rules last year. The Times analysis focused on facilities on the federal toxic release database, which tracks sites handling chemicals that could be harmful to health and the environment if released. The list does not include properties like Superfund sites… where the predominant risks are fire or explosion, as opposed to toxic pollution.” Read Floods are Getting Worse, and 2,500 Chemical Sites Lie in the Water’s Path
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
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. If you would like a free ride from Pensacola to Tallahassee for this meeting, please contact Christian Wagley with the Gulf Restoration Network at Christian@healthygulf.org or (850) 687 – 9968.
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.
February 15, 7:00 pm – Attend “Shorebirds of the Apalachicola System” with Jennifer Manis and Paula Muellner of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in Tallahassee. For more information, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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