FCC News Brief - April 24, 2019

Quote of the Day: “It is time for us now as a nation to exercise the same reasonable foresight in dealing with our great natural resources that would be shown by any prudent man in conserving and widely using the property which contains the assurance of well-being for himself and his children.” - President Theodore Roosevelt

Read Environmental groups vow to ‘declare war’ on toll road bill- “On Earth Day, Florida environmental groups took dead aim at a plan by lawmakers to build three new toll roads through the heart of the state. Legislation is rolling through the Florida Senate that would fund a study of three toll expressways: An extension of The Suncoast Parkway from where it ends in Citrus County north to the Georgia border, an extension of The Florida Turnpike from the east to hook up with the Suncoast Parkway, which runs along the west coast; and another connecting Polk County to Collier County. Critics have decried the potential for sprawl and environmental impacts from building the roads through what is mostly rural countryside. Frank Jackalone said it's the worst environmental bill he's seen during his 20 years as director of Sierra Club Florida. "If this bill is passed, we will declare war on all of those who have sponsored it," he said during a news conference at the Sierra Club's St. Petersburg headquarters. "We will mount the most massive campaign Sierra Club has ever done in Florida in our history to stop those toll roads." The bill is being pushed by Senate President Bill Galvano of Bradenton. He says it would ease traffic on the state's major north-south highways and promote development of rural areas. Jackalone says targeting those rural areas is the wrong way to manage the state's inevitable growth. "The bill would fuel massive sprawl, which would destroy much of the natural and rural Florida," Jackalone said. "It would also increase water pollution, flooding and deplete our natural resources..." Steve Newborn reports for WUSF.

Read Florida supreme court asked to reject Everglades oil drilling plan - “Opponents of an oil drilling proposal have taken their case to the Florida Supreme Court, asking for a review of a lower court’s order that the state issue a permit for the controversial project. Broward County and the city of Miramar filed papers asking the court to review a decision by the First District Court of Appeal telling the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to issue a drilling permit to Kanter Real Estate LLC...The basis of the request for review is unclear. A short document submitted by the county and Miramar says the lower court’s ruling “expressly construes a provision of the state constitution and expressly and directly conflicts with a decision of another district court of appeal or of the Supreme Court on the same question of law.” The proposal sparked intense opposition among environmentalists and local governments. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection denied the permit. But a state administrative judge ordered the permit to be issued, finding that the land in question was already degraded and that the project would not pose a threat to water quality…” David Fleshler reports for the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Read Florida’s Chief Science Officer can help defend our paradise- “As a scientist with more than five decades of experience, I am heartened by the announcement of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ appointment of Dr. Tom Frazer to serve as Florida’s Chief Science Officer. This is good news for Florida — first that there is a chief science officer — in contrast to the recent past. That science is now recognized as a critical tool in understanding how to manage complex issues facing the state is vital. Frazer is well qualified. He is a professor and the Director of the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Florida. He is a well-published biologist who has done practical work on water and algae issues. Plus, Frazer has worked with the Florida Climate Institute – a consortium of universities working on climate issues. The Institute was established to encourage cooperation on issues of critical importance to the state of Florida. Algae infestation is one of them...The work of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force must be informed and driven by the latest scientific information available. We need a short-term remedial response and a long-term rethinking of the whole system, including our policy of addressing climate change issues, which are so critical to the state’s future. DeSantis acted swiftly to address the epic impact that harmful algal blooms took on our state last year. But if we are to truly solve the problem, we must follow where the science leads and tackle all of the puzzle pieces. Fingers crossed that this is just the beginning of science-based, well-informed policy decisions with statewide funding to address the impacts of climate change…” Leonard Berry writes Opinion for the Miami Herald.

Read Florida must reduce water pollution- “The long, intense red-tide outbreak in the Gulf of Mexico that finally ended late last year, and the streaming waters filled with blue-green algae in South Florida, led to at least two beneficial results: It raised the consciousness of governments, businesses and residents in a state where environmental regulation had been devalued; it caused Floridians to ask whether they had contributed to the problems. During and after the nasty episodes — which killed marine life, depressed tourism and triggered respiratory and perhaps other illnesses in humans — the search for causes and solutions intensified.... Local communities leveraged outside investments to substantially reduce ongoing pollution. Incremental steps were taken to eliminate septic tanks in areas with high water tables that prevent the individual systems from functioning efficiently. What’s more, some Florida counties have in recent years approved meaningful limits on the use of nutrient-filled fertilizers during the rainy season when runoff into waterways accelerates. But, as reported by GateHouse Florida in a story published last week in The Sun, sporadic wastewater spills continue. And, perhaps just as damaging over the long term, municipalities such as Sarasota County have too many sewage plants that are not built to provide the highest levels of treatment that radically reduce nutrients in leftover wastewater… Prioritization of tasks will be important. But the most vital needs are political will and public support. These improvements will cost huge sums, and ratepayers and taxpayers will be the funding sources. Let’s hope that all the calls for action will be accompanied by a willingness of Floridians to pay for cleaner waters…” From the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Read Hurricane aftermath leaves Florida with years of major wildlife threat - “The surging seas and vicious winds that Hurricane Michael unleashed on the Florida Panhandle last October have long since died down. Yet the scars left by the strongest storm ever to strike the region have ramped up the risk of another type of natural disaster for years to come: across millions of acres of forest stretching into southern Georgia, the carcasses of pine trees—snapped like matchsticks by the storm’s winds—pose a major wildfire threat. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Kevin Hiers, a fire scientist at Tall Timbers Research Station in Tallahassee, after surveying the vast swaths of downed timber. As Florida enters this year’s dry season, one blaze has already broken out in Panama City, which is in the northwestern part of the state and still recovering from the storm. A minor fire that started in yard debris got into the fallen timber and grew overnight into a 600-acre-plus blaze that forced about two dozen homes to evacuate. Officials are working to reduce the threat of further fires, but are hamstrung by the huge numbers of downed trees and limited funding. And the problem is unfolding against a backdrop of rising temperatures, which are changing the conditions that affect wildfires in the region and posing challenges to existing disaster mitigation strategies…” Kevin Begos reports for Scientific American.

Read Demand an end to demand charge for solar- “The League of Women Voters of Polk County, Solar United Neighbors and several other local organizations have joined together to form the non-profit Polk County Solar Co-op...Unfortunately, Lakeland Electric has a solar rate plan which seems to be designed to curtail solar development and keep users tied to expensive energy sources. This plan places its solar customers at a significant disadvantage compared to Polk County residents living in Bartow, Lake Wales, Winter Haven or other areas outside the LE service area. LE does honor net metering, but with a big catch. Solar customers are forced onto their solar rate plan, which features a demand charge for usage during peak periods. This demand charge is not part of the rate policy of any of the other large Polk County electric utilities such as TECO, Duke Power or Florida Power & Light, and so LE solar customers are treated unequally and unfairly...It’s time for LE to repeal their charge to solar homeowners. LE has not provided the details of how their solar demand charge was arrived at and how the benefits that solar customers provide were calculated into that rate plan, if they were at all. It is time to consider a rate plan that treats solar customers in a more fair and equitable manner. This would be consistent with other Polk County electric providers and municipal power providers such as the Orlando Utilities Commission and the city of Bartow…” Rick Garrity writes Opinion for The Ledger.

Read Central Florida’s boom shows true picture of U.S. real estate trends- “Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released its 2018 local population estimates..among the list of 10 fastest-growing metros, two central Florida cities’ citations underscored that this booming part of the country has become a snapshot of U.S. demographic and development trends. The first, Lakeland-Winter Haven, a more remote, exurban, and rural area of former citrus groves between Tampa and Orlando, represents a geographic shift. Despite urban growth, especially in mid-tier cities, suburban and even exurban growth has bounced back since the Great Recession...Combine Greater Orlando with the Tampa region and everything in between, and you get an already-large area of 4.3 million people, that will soon top 5.2 million. The Orlando Economic Partnership’s 2030 report forecasts that the larger region will add 1,500 people per week within the large block of cities and towns including Polk Counties. As the region continues to become more racially diverse, including seeing a significant number of Puerto Ricans relocate due to the economic devastation of Hurricane Maria, central Florida is looking increasingly like the nation when it comes to its demographics. This influx of new Floridians will put strain on the environment, infrastructure, and roadways—Interstate 4, the main road connecting the two cities, is a common traffic choke point—while potentially turning the region into a political battlefield come the 2020 election. Tens of thousands of new arrivals will only reinforce its reputation as the “swingiest part of the nation’s biggest swing state…” Patrick Sisson reports for Curbed.


From Our Readers

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Job Openings:

Sustainability Administrator - City of Fort Lauderdale

Marine Science Faculty Position- Florida Keys Community College

Education Specialist - Nature’s Academy

Executive Director - Friends of Gumbo Limbo

Upcoming Environmental Events:

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 info@lwvbroward.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 kidsinthewoods@ifas.ufl.edu

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Petitions

Tell Florida Lawmakers: Stop Destructive Tollway Bills

Save the Heritage Trees at Martin Luther King Jr. Park - Winter Park

No Fracked Gas in Tampa Bay

Help Save Our Panthers

End collection & removal of tropical marine life from Phil Foster Park

Thinking of going electric? Nextcar Pledge

Another Gulf is Possible

Save the Serenova Tract in Pasco – Say NO to the Ridge Road Extension

Florida Solar Bill of Rights

Protect Florida’s Gulf Coast from Offshore Drilling

Protect Weeki Wachee Springs; Stop the 7 Diamonds Mine in Pasco County

Stop New Phosphate Strip Mining in Florida

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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