Quote of the Day: “It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.” —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Read Florida Senate puts the brakes on toll road expansion plans- “A plan for expanding and building three toll roads on the western side of Florida was put on hold by its sponsor Wednesday, as Democrats including Linda Stewart pushed for more specifics on the environmental and land-use impacts. Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican, said he’s working with Democrats and environmentalists on some additional changes but otherwise believes the proposal will eventually “sail out of here” and become a conference issue with the House as budget talks get underway next week… The proposal calls for spending $45 million next year and would lead to establishing task forces to study economic and environmental impacts of extending the Suncoast Parkway from the Tampa Bay area north to the Georgia border, extending the Florida Turnpike west to hook up with the Suncoast Parkway and building a new transportation corridor from Polk County to Collier County. Critics have decried the potential for sprawl and environmental impacts from building the roads through mostly rural countryside. Senate President Bill Galvano has said the roads would help rural communities, address the state’s continued rapid growth, provide new hurricane-evacuation options, expand bicycle and pedestrian trails and lay the groundwork for new water and sewer lines and broadband...Stewart, D-Orlando, filed an amendment seeking to add more environmental voices to the task forces. “I want to be more specific about the stakeholders,” Stewart said. Lee said he’s working with Stewart on the amendment and that there are already more checks in place than if the Department of Transportation would do the road projects on its own…” Jim Turner reports for the News Service of Florida
Read Environmentalists cite report on Florida oil spills as bid to ban fracking stalls- “A set of bills that would ban some forms of fracking in Florida have likely stalled out in the Legislature, leaving environmentalists discouraged and petroleum industry representatives hopeful. People from the petroleum industry have said they are responsible for what they do and want to continue drilling and discovering new opportunities for oil in Florida as they have for the last 70 years. But drilling can cause accidents, leaks and spills because of a variety of reasons, including leaky well casings, traffic accidents and pipeline bursts, according to national advocacy group Food & Water Watch. Environmentalists who have testified at bill hearings say fracking in Florida’s porous geology escalates the risk of contaminated soil and drinking water...Lawmakers say they’d rather pass an imperfect fracking ban than nothing at all, and amendments posed to include matrix acidizing have been thwarted. Matrix acidizing, which is not part of the ban, is an oil extraction method performed by pumping acidic fluids into a well at a low pressure. Operators use acid to dissolve minerals and avoid damaging the rock layer around the well, but those toxic chemicals can get into the aquifer. While the fracking ban bills have made their way through committees in both chambers with relative ease, both bills have been stalled at their last committee stop, awaiting one last hearing in committees that have either stopped meeting or have a full agenda for their final assembly. Tuesday, April 23 is the last day for bills to be heard in committee…” Samantha J. Gross reports for the Miami Herald.
Read Banning sunscreens harmful to coral reefs not worthy of big-footing by Florida lawmakers- “When it comes to big-footing local governments’ authority, it seems nothing is off-limits for Florida legislators.Taxing authority. Plastic straws. Vacation rentals. It doesn’t matter how local, or how well-meaning. If the issue somehow insults a lawmaker’s -- or influential lobbyist’s -- sensibilities, it’s considered fair game to quash the smaller government’s ability to act. Only there is nothing fair about a St. Augustine senator’s bill (SB 588) threatening local governments with a $25,000 fine if they prohibit the sale of certain sunscreens. Republican state Sen. Travis Hutson’s bill, which was approved by the Senate Community Affairs Committee last Tuesday, is clearly meant to preempt a Key West ordinance banning the local sale of sunscreens that contain two ingredients -- oxybenzone and octinoxate. A growing body of scientific evidence says the chemicals are bad for coral reefs, leaving them bleached and often dying. The ordinance, which passed by a 6-1 city commission vote earlier this year, is set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021. Key West city commissioners were looking to get out ahead of this potential disaster. Their reasoning is simple: the tourist destination’s environment is its livelihood. When corals suffer from bleaching, they turn white and can quickly erode reefs, which act as natural barriers to shorelines from storms, are habitats for marine life and provide an income for dive and tourism companies. No more coral reefs; no more business. Period….Hutson justifies his threat to local governments by saying that, while he is concerned about the environment, he’s “just not a fan of government on the state or local level telling a business what to do.” He’s being short-sighted. Key West passed the ordinance to protect its business, by protecting its environment. Even Gov. Ron DeSantis connects the health of Florida’s economy to that of the environment…” From the Palm Beach Post Editorial Board.
Read DeSantis stops at UF, talks water protection - “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and state officials spoke at the University of Florida Tuesday morning about the state’s efforts to protect Florida’s waterways. DeSantis, flanked by Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein, Chief Scientific Officer-designate Tom Frazer, UF President Kent Fuchs and environmental officials, spoke at UF’s Steinmetz Hall Courtyard atrium about his recommended $625 million environmental budget for Everglades restoration efforts and protection of the state’s water resources. Before he spoke, DeSantis participated in a roundtable discussion with Fuchs and UF student researchers about red tide, issues facing coral reefs and the creation of a new state blue-green algae task force. DeSantis said Tuesday the state is looking for blue-green algae task force members and a governor’s office spokeswoman said DeSantis is expected to make an announcement about it within a few weeks. Fuchs, Frazer and Valenstein all commended DeSantis’ efforts. Frazer, director of the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment and previous acting director of the UF Water Institute, was appointed as the state’s first scientific officer on April 1. Frazer’s appointment followed DeSantis’ January announcement of water policy reforms and his signing of an executive order that called for the appointment of a chief scientific officer. It will be Frazer’s job to coordinate and prioritize scientific data, research, monitoring analysis needs to ensure alignment with current and emerging Floridian environmental concerns…” Daniel Smithson reports for the Ocala Star Banner.
Read Lee County residents pack meeting to oppose changing mining rules- “One of the longest public hearings over land use issues in recent Lee County history began Wednesday morning at the Old County Courthouse in Fort Myers and could continue into the dinner hour. County commissioners are considering sending proposed changes to the county's land use plan affecting mining for state review, which is required before any changes can be approved. Residents from communities in southeast Lee County, primarily Bonita Springs and Estero, but including other incorporated and unincorporated areas, argued to stop the changes in their tracks. Wednesday's vote is the first stop in an effort that opponents say would make it easier for mines to be allowed in the county, and would "transmit" the proposal for mandatory state review...Estero City Councilman Nick Batos argued that there is an established public interest in regulating some industries and not others. "Mining is such a disruptive land use that we should require special requirements before they are approved," Batos said. "The same type of requirements we impose on other hazardous uses such as nuclear power plants." The vote expected Wednesday on whether to send the proposal to the state Department of Economic Opportunity for review is the first step in the process of changing the land use plan. It does not establish the right to build a mine, but it removes some impediments to approval. Once state agency comments are sent back to the county, commissioners can set another public hearing to decide whether to adopt the proposed changes…” Bill Smith reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.
Read Carnival is on probation for polluting the ocean. They’re still doing it, court records show- “In the year after Carnival Corporation was convicted of systematically dumping oily waste into the ocean and lying about it to regulators, its ships illegally discharged more than a half-million gallons of treated sewage, gray water, oil and food waste, and burned heavy fuel oil in ports and waters close to shores around the world, according to a court-appointed monitor. The findings are part of a pattern of illegal behavior during Carnival Corp.’s first of five years on probation that led U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz to publish a previously confidential report last week. In the 205-page report, the monitor overseeing Carnival Corp.’s environmental compliance flagged more than 800 incidents from April 2017 to April 2018. The Miami Herald reviewed each incident and found that 24 were for illegally dumping sewage, food waste or oil; 19 were for illegally burning heavy fuel oil in protected areas; and more than 150 were the result of items like furniture accidentally going overboard. Carnival Corp. reported the violations to authorities directly or noted them in their internal records. None of the violations was intentional, according to the report...” Taylor Dolven and Caitlin Ostroff report for the Miami Herald.
Read Crist proposes extension of solar tax credit- “U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, announced introduction of the Sunshine Forever Act, legislation that would add another ten years of life to the Solar Investment Tax Credit. The bill would allow for an additional decade of increased solar power generation and innovation across the country, he said. “Sunshine is Florida’s greatest renewable resource, and the solar tax credit makes it cheaper and easier to turn our God-given sunlight into clean, endless energy,” said Crist. “If Congress fails to act, the Solar Credit will begin to sunset next year, fading away completely for homeowners by 2023. Now is the time to keep our foot on the solar accelerator. The Sunshine Forever Act will fight Florida’s greatest threat of climate change with our best resource – the sun!” The Solar Investment Tax Credit was established in 2006 to lower homeowners’ and businesses’ costs to install electricity-generating solar panels. Acting as a 30-percent-off coupon paid for by the federal government, the tax credit has experienced great success – with a 1,600 percent growth in solar installations and 374,000 jobs created as of 2017. Currently, solar capacity generates 64 Gigawatts of electricity, which is enough to power 12.3 million homes every year. This offsets 3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year, equal to planting 1.2 billion trees…” From the Tampa Bay Reporter
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events:
April 20 - 6:30 PM - Film screening of “Woman at War” - (Pensacola)- Join Earth Ethics, Inc, in partnership with Pensacola Cinema Art, for a viewing of “Woman at War”. This is a foreign Indie film based in Iceland that conveys a global message relatable to all Earth Warriors. “Woman at War is confronting some of the heaviest dilemmas of our time (e.g. how do we bring new life into a broken world).” Although fantastical, the climate change theme and how we deal with these issues is prominently displayed throughout the film.Join us at Studer Community Institute, 220 W. Garden Street (former Sun Trust building), Pensacola, FL. You must RSVP through Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/woman-at-war-movie-viewing-tickets-58810076522 in order to reserve your seating. Seating is limited to 30 spots. Tickets, to paid at the door, are $7 and includes free popcorn, wine or water, and light refreshments. There is free off-street parking for attendees. Contact Mary at email@example.com for more information.
April 27 - 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM - The Water Festival - (Deland) - The Volusia Water Alliance invites one and all to a street party celebrating water with a day of fun activities and performances in historic downtown DeLand. The festival will feature live mermaids, sidewalk chalk artists, dance and musical performances, a Blessing of the Waters (a Native American tradition), children’s games and activities, a Dog Zone, educational displays, and vendor booths. Visit VolusiaWater.org for more information. Admission is FREE. A few sponsorships and vendor spaces are still available. (West Indiana Avenue, DeLand, FL 32720)
April 27 - 12:00pm - The League of Women Voters Broward County Annual Luncheon featuring former Governor Bob Graham - (Margate) - Members and non-members alike are invited to join the Broward County chapter of the League of Women Voters on Saturday, April 27 at the Carolina Golf Club (3011 Rock Island Road, Margate, FL). Keynote speaker Bob Graham, former Florida Governor and US Senator, founder of the Save the Everglades movement, and a beloved figure in Florida politics, will speak about how and why we should participate in our democracy today. Reserve your tickets by April 19 by visiting this link: Order tickets here. Send questions or special needs to firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 16-19 - 39th Annual Florida Native Plant Society Conference - (Crystal River)- Our theme this year "Transitions" is pertinent to the Nature Coast region of Florida in a number of ways - sea level rise, migrations of ecosystems due to climate change, and the transition zone between north and south Florida. You will be delighted by mind-expanding experiences, tempted by sumptuous meals (including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free) and amazed by the networking and social opportunities. As always, we will offer an abundance of presentations and workshops. 9301 West Fort Island Trail, Crystal River, FL 34429 . Click here for attendee and vendor registration.
June 10-14, June 24-28, 2019 - Camp Kids in the Woods at the Austin Cary Forest - (Gainesville) - Is your 6th-9th grade child looking for fun adventure this summer? Consider Camp Kids in the Woods! Campers will conduct various field explorations led by local scientists from forestry, wildlife, and water resources. Highlights include: fishing, handling wildlife, exploring local ecosystems, a trip to a local spring, camping out one night at the Austin Cary Forest, building wildlife nesting boxes, and participating in games and scavenger hunts. After a week of fun in the forest, campers gain a better understanding and deeper appreciation of their natural world and what is required to be a good steward of the environment. Camp Kids in the Woods summer program is a collaborative effort between the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the USDA Forest Service. Session 1: June 10-14, 2019; Session 2: June 24-28, 2019. For more information and to register visit: www.campkidsinthewoods.org , or contact the Camp Director, Molly Disabb at email@example.com
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