FCC News Brief - February 13, 2019

Read Judge won’t end decades-old Everglades cleanup oversight - “A federal judge on Monday refused to end a decades-old court order that oversees water quality and environmental restoration in the sensitive Florida Everglades. Miami U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno rejected a motion by the South Florida Water Management District to end a decree signed in 1992. Among other things, the order sets thresholds for the amount of phosphorous in the Everglades, an ingredient in fertilizer from the vast sugar-growing regions to the north that promotes unhealthy plant growth in the sprawling marsh. Moreno said among his reasons for denying the water district's motion is that its governing board is being largely replaced by new Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has made the environment a top priority. The judge also said it would require a full evidentiary hearing on complicated scientific and environmental issues to end the decree. The order allows the water district to file the motion again in the future. The decree is not involved with other water problems that plagued Florida coasts last year, including red tide outbreaks and algae blooms. The water district and sugar growers say the decree is outdated, thwarts projects that would benefit the Everglades and has been superseded by subsequent state and federal laws that guarantee restoration would continue. The projects include vast reservoirs that cleanse water flowing south from sugar farms before it flows into the Everglades. "Twenty-seven years is enough. It's enough because it's unnecessary," said water board attorney Brian Accardo. The U.S. government, environmental groups and the Miccosukee Indian tribe disagree, saying the decree is key to pursuing potential violations and ensuring the cleanup projects get built. They say it should remain in place until the Everglades has achieved an environmental balance close to its historical makeup. The Miccosukee reservation is in the Everglades…” Curt Anderson writes for the Associated Press.

Read Everglades oil drilling plan denounced by members of Congress as County Commission prepares to discuss - “Two members of Congress on Tuesday denounced a proposal for oil drilling in the Everglades, as the Broward County Commission prepared to meet with attorneys to discuss how to stop the project. stop the project. “There is no place for oil drills in the Everglades,” Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-West Delray, said. “Drilling in the River of Grass is a huge setback for Everglades restoration, and an oil spill there would not only devastate this national treasure, but also the surrounding communities. This should be immediately appealed and overturned.” Kanter Real Estate LLC, which owns 20,000 acres in the Everglades, has proposed a single exploratory well about 11,800 feet below the surface, at a 5-acre site about 5 miles west of U.S. 27 and 10 miles south of Alligator Alley. The proposal inspired strong opposition from environmentalists, the city of Miramar and the County Commission. Although the Florida Department of Environmental Protection refused to issue a permit, an appeals court ordered the department to do so…” David Fleshler reports for the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Read Sierra Club starts campaign against Tampa Electric’s Big Bend updates- “ The Sierra Club has a message for Tampa Electric Co.: Drop the natural gas renovation plans at Big Bend Power Station. In its #TellTheTruthTECO campaign launched Monday, the environmental advocacy group urged the utility to be more transparent with the public about its plans for converting its Apollo Beach facility to natural gas. Namely, the group wants more emphasis on the impact natural — or fracked — gas has on climate change. "We're sounding the alarm today to let Tampa Bay residents know that (Tampa Electric) is planning to make the situation worse for residents when it comes to climate change," said Susannah Randolph, senior campaign representative for the club's "Beyond Coal" campaign. Tampa Electric, often referred to by the name of its parent company, TECO, announced last May that it would spend $853 million to convert Unit 1 at Big Bend from coal to natural gas and shut down coal-fired Unit 2. An accident at Unit 2 killed five workers in June 2017. The conversion plan drew opposition from environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, which want the utility to make a stronger commitment to renewable energy sources, such as solar power. The Sierra Club filed a motion with Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings in October 2018 trying to prevent Tampa Electric from going forward with the expansion...In a statement, Tampa Electric said the changes to the facility will "improve the land, water and air emissions at Big Bend." "Coupled with our significant increase in solar arrays, this project will make Tampa Electric substantially cleaner and greener than it is today," the utility said in a statement. "This is a win for customers and a win for the environment." Tampa Electric is currently halfway through its effort to build 600 megawatts of solar power by 2021. The goal of the newly-launched campaign, Randolph said in an interview Monday, is to get Tampa Electric to abandon its plans to add more natural gas to Big Bend, and instead commit to more renewable energy sources…” Malena Carollo reports for the Tampa Bay Times.

Read Shark fishing from beach to be restricted in Florida - “Florida plans a crackdown on shark fishing from the beach, a controversial practice that yields hair-raising videos of writhing 12-foot hammerheads being hauled ashore. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will vote Feb. 20 on proposals to restrict the practice, in a plan intended to protect sharks and swimmers. Sharks, particularly great hammerheads, can die from the physical trauma of being hauled from the water for photos and videos. And swimmers complain that they feel unsafe when the shark-fishing enthusiasts spread bloody fish parts in the water to attract sharks, although a wildlife commission report says there’s no basis for that fear. The proposals would ban that practice, known as chumming. They would require that sharks be left in the water with their gills submerged, rather than dragged ashore. They would require a free shore-based shark fishing permit. And they would mandate the use of circle hooks, which tend to catch on the side of the mouth, rather than J hooks, which can hook a shark in the gut…” David Fleshler reports for the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Read DeSantis’ budget priorities address the right priorities for Floridians - “Nothing reveals a governor’s priorities more than his budget. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ first budget — a record $91.3 billion — addresses the right priorities for Florida. Whether it’s the environment or education, the opioid crisis or affordable housing, DeSantis is distancing himself from his fellow Republican predecessor, Rick Scott...Most notably, DeSantis has followed through on his campaign promise to deal with the state’s water quality crisis. The new governor proposes $625 million for the budget year that begins July 1 and wants the same amount over each of the next three years.….The last few years have shown that Florida’s economy depends on a healthy environment. The money DeSantis wants is not an expense. It’s an investment.” From the Orlando Sentinel and Sun Sentinel editorial boards.

Read There’s a whale baby boom off Florida’s east coast; 5th North Atlantic right whale calf spotted - “There’s a whale baby boom taking place off Central Florida’s east coast for the ‘rarest’ of the world’s large whales. On Friday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported on its Facebook page that during the current North Atlantic right whale birthing season, a fifth calf has been spotted off Florida- this time near Sebastian Inlet State Park with a first-time mother... So, why do five right whale calves constitute a baby boom? National Geographic calls North Atlantic right whales “the rarest of all large whales.” It was estimated that there were only 440 of the whales in the ocean in 2012, and the marine mammals are listed among the most endangered whales in the world. “Each Fall, some right whales travel more than 1,000 miles from their feeding grounds off the Canadian Maritimes and New England to the warm coastal waters of South Carolina, Georgia, and northeastern Florida,” according to NOAA Fisheries. “These southern waters are the only known calving area for the species — an area where they regularly give birth and nurse their young.”...“Whaling is no longer a threat, but human interactions still present the greatest danger to this species,” NOAA Fisheries reported. “The leading causes of known mortality for North Atlantic right whales are entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes…” Roger Simmons writes Opinion for the Orlando Sentinel.

Read We have a new global tally of the insect apocalypse. It’s alarming - “Insects are the most abundant animals on planet Earth. If you were to put them all together into one creepy-crawly mass, they’d outweigh all humanity by a factor of 17. Insects outweigh all the fish in the oceans and all the livestock munching grass on land. Their abundance, variety (there could be as many as 30 million species), and ubiquity mean insects play a foundational role in food webs and ecosystems: from the bees that pollinate the flowers of food crops like almonds to the termites that recycle dead trees in forests. Insects are also superlative for another, disturbing reason: They’re vanishing at a rate faster than mammals, fish, amphibians, and reptiles. “The pace of modern insect extinctions surpasses that of vertebrates by a large margin,” write the authors of an alarming new review in Biological Conservation of the scientific literature on insect populations published in the past 40 years. The state of insect biodiversity, they write, is “dreadful.” And their biomass — the estimated weight of all insects on Earth combined — is dropping by an estimated 2.5 percent every year. In all, the researchers conclude that as much as 40 percent of all insect species may be endangered over the next several decades. (Caveat: Most of the data was obtained from studies conducted in Europe and North America.) And around 41 percent of all insect species on record have seen population declines in the past decade…” Brian Resnick reports for Vox.


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Pinellas County Sustainability & Resiliency Coordinator

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Upcoming Environmental Events:

February 22 - 6:30PM - 9:30PM - Lectures on the Lawn: The Florida Wildlife Corridor’s ‘The Forgotten Coast’ - (Odessa) - Pasco County Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources is hosting part two of a cultural event in the Lectures on the Lawn series. Join us Friday, February 22, 2019, at the newly-developed Starkey Ranch District Park for a special screening of The Florida Wildlife Corridor’s “The Forgotten Coast.”
The keynote presentation for this free event will feature Mallory Dimmitt, a seventh-generation Floridian and expedition team member, who is working to raise awareness for statewide conservation. “The Forgotten Coast” is a documentary film showcasing Florida’s wildlife corridor stretching from the Everglades to the northernmost part of the Florida Gulf Coast. The lawn-seating event also features live music, so bring your chairs, blankets and a picnic. For a printable flyer with complete details, including on-site food truck and local brewery offerings, click here: bit.ly/2Nb4PmC. Starkey Ranch District Park
11880 Lake Blanche Drive, Odessa, FL 33556

February 27 - 12:00PM-1:00PM - “What the Frack” - (Hialeah) - Communities across Florida have already made it clear they want fracking banned, passing 90 local measures against fracking in cities and counties that represent over 70% of the state population. It's time the Legislature stepped up and passed a statewide ban. Join Rethink Energy Florida, the Institute for Civic Engagement, YES! Club, Earth Ethics Institute and hear from knowledgeable panelists to discuss the impacts of FRACKING on our health, local economic development and communities. Miami Dade College -Hialeah Campus; 1780 West 49th Street, Hialeah FL 33012. For questions or more information contact Salome at 786-387-5111 or SaGarcia@fwwatch.org , stay updated on the event’s facebook page here.

March 2nd & 3rd - Florida SpringsFest 2019 - (Ocala) - Since 2000, Florida SpringsFest has been educating visitors about the importance of Florida’s springs. In 2019, Florida SpringsFest will be held on Saturday March 2 and Sunday March 3, at Silver Springs State Park, with the theme sustainability. This two-day event will feature everything that Silver Springs has to offer- Glass Bottom Boat tours, canoe, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard rentals, interactive education center, ranger programs, and trails through beautiful gardens, overlooking the crystal-clear spring. In addition, SpringsFest includes environmental speakers, educational displays, artists, crafters, demonstrators, food vendors, live entertainment, a student art show, a silent auction, and more! Join us for this two-day event to learn about Florida Springs! History, science, fun, music, food, and friends- all for $2/person park admission! Glass bottom boat rides are not included with your park entry, but will be HALF-OFF all weekend! Follow the Florida Springsfest Facebook for more information!

March 11 - 6:00 PM-7:30 PM - ‘Environmental Justice: What, Why, You’ discussion - (Pensacola) - Join Earth Ethics, Inc. in welcoming Wilma Subra, environmental scientist and advocate, guest speaker for Earth Ethics Environmental Education Series for March. Ms. Subra will discuss Environmental Justice issues in our community and across the state and nation. Subra served for seven years as vice-chair of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, for six years on the EPA's National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and for five years on the National Advisory Committee of the US Representative to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. She appeared in the 2010 documentary Gasland. The event is being held at Ever’ man Educational Center, 327 W Garden Street, Pensacola, FL. RSVP on Facebook here, or get your free event ticket from EventBrite here. Light refreshments will be served.

March 13 - 10:00 AM-4:00 PM - Reclaiming Florida’s Future For All: Clean Water, Clean Air, Clean Energy - (Tallahassee) - Rethink Energy Florida is hosting an advocacy day at the Florida State Capitol (400 Monroe Street, Tallahassee FL 32301)! We are advocating to protect Florida’s clean water, support renewable energy, and BAN Fracking! We will be talking with our legislators about these critical issues. This event is co-sponsored by Floridians Against Fracking, Sierra Club Florida, Physicians for Social Responsibility Florida, Environment Florida, ReThink Energy Action Fund, Food and Water Watch Florida, Center for Biological Diversity, Ignite Change, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. RSVP here or check out the Facebook event for more information.

March 13 - 7:30AM-6:00PM - Ride the Bus for Clean Water! - (Jacksonville-Tallahassee) - St. Johns Riverkeeper and fellow river advocates are joining partners on March 13th for Reclaiming Florida’s Future for All Advocacy Day at the Statehouse in Tallahassee. During our bus ride from Jacksonville, St. Johns Riverkeeper staff will provide training and talking points to help bus riders become effective advocates. At the Capitol, you will have the opportunity to meet your state legislators and ask them to protect all of St. Johns River’s waterways, including its springs and tributaries. Bring family and friends with you to support water conservation efforts. 2019 is off to a clean start for our state’s waters, but we need to ensure the St. Johns River is not forgotten! Bus Meeting Location: Lowe’s, 5155 Lenox Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32205. For more information and to register (FREE), visit the website here.

Register by Friday, March 8, 2019. Registration is FREE but seating is limited.

March 27 - 12:00 PM -1:30 PM - Free 2019 Florida Legislative Update Webinar - This free webinar is scheduled for a little more than three weeks into the 2019 Florida Legislative Session. The actions taken during the session likely will have significant public policy impacts for planning, conservation, transportation, community design and other issues of concern to many Floridians with myriad impacts for concerned citizens, professionals, local elected officials and others. 1000 Friends President Paul Owens, Policy and Planning Director Thomas Hawkins, and Board Member Emeritus and Past Chairman Lester Abberger will discuss key growth management, design, conservation and related bills including budget recommendations that are being considered during the 2019 Florida Legislative Session and other legislation that may surface as the session progresses. This event has been approved for 1.5 AICP CM LEGAL CREDITS for planners (#9162194). 1000 Friends has applied for professional certification credits for Certified Floodplain Managers, Florida attorneys, Florida Environmental Health Professionals, and Florida DBPR Landscape Architecture but cannot guarantee credits will be approved. Register at www.1000friendsofflorida.org/webinar/.

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) 

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.

Petitions

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

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