FCC News Brief - April 9, 2019

Quote of the Day: “The earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations.” - Pope John Paul II

Read Natural resources still being shortchanged - “It wouldn’t be accurate to say this year’s session of the Florida Legislature is doing nothing for the environment as it reaches the halfway point. But it is accurate to say legislators are still shortchanging Florida’s natural resources in many important ways. At the top of the list is the belated appropriation of the full amount of money an overwhelming majority of Florida voters directed legislators to do by amending the Florida Constitution to restart the Florida Forever program to buy already reviewed and recommended conservation lands. The amendment authorized $750 million a year. Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed $100 million. Legislators are proposing much less. Environmental groups say they are not willing to settle for crumbs...The reason legislators aren’t funding the program voters want is for the same reason other citizen-initiated constitutional amendments have often been ignored: legislators are sore losers who opposed the idea and are shamelessly thwarting its implementation. The underfunding of conservation acquisition purchases particularly affects Polk and neighboring counties because that’s where some of the top priority sites exist. That means the Lake Wales Ridge, the Green Swamp and the Kissimmee River Basin, all vital natural areas for Florida’s conservation future. But it gets worse. While legislators are skimping on conservation land funding, they are eagerly funding new road projects that would cut through some of the priority tracts of conservation lands. If the roads are built, they will doom any plans to preserve a statewide natural wildlife corridor whose importance has long been documented by scientists and planners…” Tom Palmer writes for The Ledger.

Read Roadbuilders drive massive highway expansion, while those in path of construction are left out- “The biggest expansion of the state highway network since the mid-1950s looks poised to gain approval from Florida lawmakers, pushed into action by roadbuilders and contractors eager for work. House leaders are joining Senate President Bill Galvano’s push for three major toll roads, which he says will bring jobs and fresh opportunity to overlooked regions of Florida. Environmentalists and many planners warn the move threatens waterways and will promote sprawl. But those in the paths of the proposed roads have been mostly left out of the debate in Tallahassee. Some aren’t sure if mass ribbons of asphalt will equal prosperity. “I think a lot of people here aren’t sure about the idea that if you build it, they will come,” said Wilbur Dean, coordinator of Levy County, through which a lengthy expansion of the Suncoast Parkway is likely to course under the plan. Roadbuilders, though, are convinced the massive highway plan is a game-changer...Most environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Florida Conservation Voters and 1,000 Friends of Florida, have pushed against the road-building. The Suncoast expansion would bring damaging sprawl to rural counties in its path and slice dangerously close to the Ichetucknee, Santa Fe and Suwannee rivers and the springs feeding into them, opponents say. Galvano said he doesn’t have particular routes in mind for the highway expansions and denies that landowners with eyes on future development are driving his proposal. But a FDOT Interstate 75 Relief Task Force recommended in 2016 that rather than new roads, a better approach was expanding the vehicle capacity of the interstate and connecting highways…” John Kennedy reports for Gatehouse Capital Bureau.

Read Explore Offshore visits Pensacola to build support for offshore oil industry- “Citing a need for "energy independence," President Donald Trump's administration has released a draft of a five-year plan that is expected to open up new areas of the U.S. coastline to offshore oil exploration and drilling. It's a notion that has been unpopular in many tourism-dependent coastal states, and is particularly incendiary here in Pensacola, which took the brunt of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Still, representatives of the American Petroleum Institute visited Pensacola on Thursday to start drumming up support for a Florida resurgence of the controversial industry. Representatives of API's "Explore Offshore" coalition — a self-described "bipartisan coalition dedicated to safe and environmentally responsible access to our offshore energy resources" — held a luncheon in a Pensacola Bay Center conference room attended by about two dozen local business owners, political players and interested citizens…” Kevin Robinson reports for the Pensacola News Journal.

Read A greed-driven scheme to spawn more sprawl- “On Tuesday I sent 500 cyclists to Crystal River. And why not? What we try to do at Bike Florida’s annual spring tour is show our riders the very best this state has to offer. And Crystal River is a treasure. A cluster of 50 springs that discharge 64 million gallons of water daily, it is a refuge for all manner of wildlife. It plays host to hundreds of manatees and draws fishermen, kayakers and snorkelers by the thousands. Still, I had some doubts about sending my cyclists there. And not because I thought Crystal River itself would disappoint. No, it was having to send them through 20 miles of urban dreck that gave me pause. Because we — Floridians and snow birds alike — have larded Crystal River with subdivisions and strip malls and fast food restaurants and gas stations and motels and condos. Now you can barely see the water for all the steel and concrete. And we let pesticides, fertilizers and the detritus of “civilization” wash into those crystal waters. And we wonder where the algae blooms come from...the main driver of all this ugly sprawl is a network of high-capacity highways that tie into the Suncoast Parkway and Interstate 75. The Suncoast is a money-losing toll road and I-75 is habitually congested. (Our staff went into near panic on Sunday when a pile-up on the interstate spilled thousands of trucks, trailers, SUVs and pickups onto the rural Hernando County road that we had just put our cyclists on.) The movers and shakers in the Florida Legislature say the way to “fix” this traffic mess is to build still more of the same. More high-speed, toll-financed interstate-scale highways up and down the western side of the state. The better to tie the Suncoast and the Florida Turnpike and I-75 together all the way from Collier County to Georgia…” Ron Cunningham writes Opinion for the Gainesville Sun.

Read County commission to consider limiting fertilizer use - “While the coasts of Florida dealt with red tide, Alachua County’s waterways face their own issues. Orange Creek, the Santa Fe River and Silver Springs are bloated with nitrogen and phosphorous, falling below water quality standards. And Poe Springs is teetering on the edge of the same fate. The County Commission is considering revising parts of its water quality code to tackle the issue. And key among the changes is a limitation on fertilizer usage, which is proving to be a contentious point for many. The potential ordinance would limit citizens to distributing fertilizer on landscapes only from the months of April to June, taking effect the first day of October. The county will decide whether to adopt the changes at a public hearing on Tuesday at 5 p.m. The state has placed the impetus on local governments to alleviate nutrient loading within their waters. And the county’s EPD maintains that landscaping fertilizers made with nitrogen or phosphorus are one way to eliminate the multi-faceted issue. Because fertilizer is dissolvable with water, heavy rains flush the chemicals out and into nearby water streams... But lawn care companies are among those strongly opposed to the summer ban, arguing the ordinance will harm business and take fertilizer distribution out of the hands of professionals. “Blackouts prevent plants from getting the nutrients they need to grow,” said Mac Carraway, president of Carraway Consulting. “If you’re going to regulate us, provide some scientific evidence that this works...” Sarah Nelson reports for the Gainesville Sun.

Read Bradenton demonstrators seek total ban on fracking - “A group of local citizens gathered at Senate President Bill Galvano’s downtown Bradenton office on Thursday morning to voice their support for banning all forms of fracking in Florida. Bills banning some forms of fracking have been moving through the legislature, but do not include a process called “matrix acidizing,” in which chemicals are poured into the ground to stimulate oil and gas removal. The demonstration was organized by Food & Water Watch — a Washington D.C.-based organization. The demonstrators brought a letter to Galvano’s office pushing for a complete fracking ban during this legislative session and to let him know “we have your back,” said Brooke Errett, Florida organizer for Food & Water Watch...In the letter presented to Galvano, the group described fracking as a “risky drilling technique that sends millions of gallons of water, sand and a mixture of dangerous and carcinogenic chemicals deep underground to break or dissolve rock to release oil and gas. “Floridians depend on aquifers as their main source of drinking water. Fracking requires several millions of gallons of water for each well and is a significant threat to water quality and availability in Florida.” Errett said 93 percent of Floridians depend on aquifers for water…” Chris Anderson reports for the Herald-Tribune.

Read Confusion deepens over WOTUS; Congress eyes ‘navigable’ meaning - “Until recently, the Trump administration has been fighting on multiple fronts to do away with the 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule, promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during the Obama administration. The WOTUS Rule arguably expands the categories of water features that qualify as “waters of the United States,” over which the agencies can assert jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. As a consequence, and at the direction of the Trump administration, the agencies proposed both a rule postponing its implementation until February 2020, known as an applicability rule, and a rule to replace it. The idea behind the applicability rule was to preserve the status quo across the entire country while the agencies adopted a replacement rule. But the administration recently abandoned that effort. In response to legal challenges to the applicability rule, the district courts enjoined and vacated it. And, just a few weeks ago, the Trump administration threw in the towel and dropped its appeals. Where does that leave the regulated community today? They must contend with a patchwork of regulatory standards for identifying jurisdictional waters under the act. In 22 states—mostly the Pacific Coast states and the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states—the 2015 Clean Water Rule prevails. In the remaining 28 states, the more business-friendly regulations and agency guidance in effect before the 2015 rule’s promulgation apply…” Paul Beard writes for Bloomberg Environment.

Read Can the US’s unsafe water crisis unite Americans? - “Every day, millions of Americans wake up and drink tap water that is unsafe. According to one study, up to 21 million Americans are getting water from systems that violate health standards. Reporting by the Guardian shows that at least 33 major US cities have skirted water quality testing in much the same vein as Flint and the state of Michigan. Urban or rural, Republican or Democrat, we all want clean water. It’s one thing we can all agree on in this period of intense political division...While the exact cause of water quality issues might differ from place to place – fracking, mining, pipelines, corporate agriculture, toxic dumping or lead pipes – ultimately, the source can usually be traced back to corporate greed, lack of regulation and public disinvestment. People throughout the country are more concerned about water pollution than they have been in nearly 20 years. At a time when the role of government is fiercely debated in America, one thing people agree on is that government must ensure the quality of our water…” George Goehl writes for The Guardian.

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 8 & 9 - Everglades Action Day - (Tallahassee) - The Everglades Coalition is hosting an advocacy day at the Florida State Capitol (400 Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32301). Join fellow advocates from all corners of the state and meet with legislators to discuss the importance of a healthy Everglades ecosystem for a clean water supply and for a strong economy. Your voice on Everglades Action Day ensures that the famed ecosystem remains a top priority for elected officials! New to advocacy? No problem. Training and materials will be provided. The Everglades Coalition will sponsor group transportation to make it easy for all to get to Tallahassee (we have an east coast and a west coast bus). Click here to register, see you in Tallahassee! 

April 9 - Nationwide Youth Lobby Event - (Tallahassee) - Our Climate and NextGen Florida are participating in a Nationwide Youth Lobby Dayby organizing young people in Tallahassee on April 9. We'll head up the evening before to the Florida People's Advocacy Center (603 N Martin Luther King Blvd, Tallahassee, FL 32301), then . We have opportunities to attend lobbying webinars with our team: Distributed Youth Lobby Day -- How to Lobby Your Elected Official Webinar, and information on how to plan a Distributed Youth Lobby Day near you. Register for the Tallahassee trip at bit.ly/flyld and share the opportunity with any young people in your life!

April 10 - 1:00pm- 2:45pm - Villages Environmental Discussions Group - (The Villages) - Villages Environmental Discussions Group (VEDG) will hold its next program on Wednesday, April 10, from 1:00 to 2:45 p.m., at Belvedere Library Community Room, (325 Belvedere Blvd., The Villages, FL 32162.) The guest speaker will be Ryan Armstrong, Manager of Bargains & Blessings Resale store, which is located at 301 N. Main St., Wildwood, FL. Ryan will discuss the work performed in 2014 by volunteers of the United Methodist Church, New Covenant United Methodist Church of The Villages, and men from House of Hope, who helped to renovate and transform the 8,000 square feet to create the resale shop. He will also describe some of the most important successes of this community resale shop. One may purchase quality, affordable furniture, major appliances, clothing, and household goods at the shop. Proceeds of these sales benefit local families who are aided by the Helping Hands Ministry. This program is FREE and open to all. Bring your neighbor and some questions. For additional information, send your note to raivedg@gmail.com.

April 12-13 - 10th Annual Florida Wildflower Symposium - (Gainesville) - The Florida Wildflower Foundation’s signature annual event, focusing exclusively on the state’s native wildflowers and their ecosystems. The purpose of the event is to immerse participants in an educational experience that exposes them to the reality of Florida’s environmental challenges while giving them the tools to affect change. The symposium will offer field trips to local natural areas, hands-on workshops, and educational presentations by experts on planting and growing native wildflowers, creating habitat for pollinators, and much more. Straughn UF/IFAS Extension Professional Development Center 2142 Shealy Dr, Gainesville, FL 32608. For more information and registration, visit the website here.

April 13 - 11:00AM-3:00PM - Earth Day Celebration - (Fort Walton Beach) - Join Earth Ethics, Inc. for an Earth Day Celebration at Liza Jackson Park, 338 Miracle Strip Parkway SW, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548. The theme for Earth Day 2019 is  "to protect our species”. We will have vendors that will support the theme, but others will include recycling, hybrid vehicles, solar energy, water education, plastic pollution, and more! This year Earth Day FWB is partnering with Drive Electric Earth Day website. Interested in being a vendor? Click here. Interested in being a sponsor? Click here. Stay up to date on the event’s activities at the Facebook event site here,   and website here.

April 13 - 9:30 AM-4:00 PM - Recognizing the Rights of Nature in Florida Law - (Apopka) - Speak Up Wekiva has organized a workshop featuring the Executive Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund to discuss a campaign to bring Rights of Nature to Florida’s charter counties. This particular meeting is for community organizers who have an understanding about the Rights of Nature movement and are ready to take action in Florida.  Space is limited-please email ChuckforFlorida@gmail.com to RSVP and ask for more information.

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 earthethicsaction@gmail.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 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.

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.


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