FCC News Brief - February 6, 2019

Read When it comes to managing growth, it’s time for Florida to get back in the game - “In April 1984, an Orlando Sentinel editorial warned, ‘Growth is coming to Florida and if it’s managed no better than it’s being managed now, that growth will destroy the Florida we know.’ It was an early entry in editorial writer Jane Healy’s “Florida’s Shame” series on the imperative of growth management — a series for which she would win a Pulitzer Prize in 1988. Thanks in part to advocates like Healy, along with leaders like Gov. Bob Graham and legendary Florida environmentalist Nathaniel Reed, the state Legislature in 1985 passed landmark legislation to manage growth. The 1985 Growth Management Act established state review of all local government comprehensive plans — their blueprints for growth — to ensure they met statewide standards. A year later, Reed co-founded 1000 Friends of Florida to serve as a watchdog for growth management...Gov. Ron DeSantis has impressed Floridians across the political spectrum by unveiling an aggressive plan to fight the state’s water quality crisis. Up to now, however, he has not declared growth management to be among his priorities. Yet there’s a clear connection between failing to manage growth and the toxic algae blooms that have fouled Florida waterways and devastated local communities. Poorly managed, sprawling development adds to the nutrient-laden runoff from roads, lawns and septic tanks that pollutes our waterways and feeds algae blooms. It consumes open land where water would otherwise be naturally cleansed of pollutants and could recharge underground supplies…” Paul Owens writes opinion for the Orlando Sentinel

Read Court clears path for Everglades drilling - “Overturning a decision by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, an appeals court Tuesday ordered the state to issue a permit to a major Broward County landowner who wants to drill an exploratory oil well in the Everglades. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled the department improperly rejected a recommended order by an administrative law judge, who said in 2017 that a permit should be approved for Kanter Real Estate LLC. The 14-page ruling Tuesday said, in part, that Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein improperly rejected “factual findings” by Administrative Law Judge E. Gary Early. Those findings included that the site targeted for exploratory drilling was environmentally degraded and was isolated from surface water and groundwater. “Appellant (Kanter Real Estate) correctly asserts that (part of Early’s recommended order) is made up entirely of factual findings and that the secretary improperly relied upon or created an unadopted rule by basing its decision on a ‘long-standing policy to deny oil and gas permits within lands subject to Everglades restoration,’ ” said the appeals-court ruling, written by Chief Judge Brad Thomas and joined by judges Harvey Jay and Robert E. Long Jr. Kanter, which owns about 20,000 acres in Broward County, applied in 2015 to drill an exploratory oil well on about five acres of its land in the Everglades. The department denied a permit, leading Kanter to take the case to the Division of Administrative Hearings…” Jim Saunders reports for the News Service of Florida.

Read More oil drilling proposed for southern Florida - “ The boom in U.S. oil production may one day extend to southern Florida, where several companies have proposed operations to extract the valuable black liquid from some of the most sensitive habitats in the state. No drilling is imminent, since these projects require extensive permitting and preparation. And the plans come as the state looks more likely to pass a ban on fracking, a technique that has unlocked vast oil deposits at what many environmentalists see as an unacceptable cost to water supplies. But with or without fracking, environmentalists oppose the Florida projects as attempts to thrust unsightly, noisy and environmentally hazardous operations onto land that’s crucial to the state’s wildlife. “During the time of drilling, it’s extremely loud,” said Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association, who has visited existing oil operations at Big Cypress and gone to court to fight new drilling projects. “There are fumes. You’re putting a construction site in the middle of the Amazon of North America.The cumulative impact of oil, development, more people, more cars, is just overwhelming.”...Projects north of Big Cypress National Preserve, such as Tocala’s, could be particularly harmful because they would take place on critical land for Florida’s wildlife, Schwartz said. “Those uplands are some of the best habitat for bears and panthers,” he said. “If there’s a ground-zero for terrestrial wildlife, it’s there. There are bears, panthers, deer, fox squirrels, and now they’re bringing in this industrial activity…” David Fleshler reports for the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Read Florida energy choice amendment proposal could be headed to the 2020 ballot - “Florida consumers may be able to choose their own electricity providers if a proposed amendment to the state constitution is passed in 2020. The group pushing the initiative is Citizens for Energy Choice (CFEC). Alex Patton, the chairman of CFEC, told Florida Daily that “Floridians clearly want choice and competition.” Patton said that, if the amendment is passed, Floridians served by investor-owned utilities would be given the right to choose their own electricity providers and even generate and sell electricity from renewable sources. Utilities would continue to use the existing infrastructure for delivering electricity. They would also be responsible for updating and maintaining the electrical grid. CFEC decided to champion the amendment in Florida after seeing the success a similar proposal had in Texas. Patton pointed to the successful electricity choice market implemented in Texas in 2002 as a major inspiration for the proposed amendment in Florida…” From Florida Daily

Read After Margaritaville decision, critics take issue with claim impact fees could halt Volusia growth- “The Latitude Margaritaville developer’s termination of a deal to expand its wildly successful active adult community has taken Volusia County officials by surprise. It’s spurred concerns that it could be the first in a wave of project cancellations in the wake of the County Council’s decision to increase impact fees on new developments for the first time in 15 years by more than 100 percent in some categories. But some suspect developers are using threats to back out as a tactic to convince the council to renege on its new impact fee model...Frank Severino, president of the Volusia Building Industry Association, said it’s likely other projects will follow suit. But county and city leaders are struggling to address road needs at a time when construction costs, population and growth continue to swell. Volusia’s cities have unified behind a plan to support a referendum for a half-cent sales tax in the spring to generate $44 million a year toward infrastructure needs. Given that background Mori Hosseini, owner of Daytona Beach-based ICI Homes, said he understands why the council has to make tough decisions on impact fees. He feels the mindset is a little different between developers who call Volusia County home and those who don’t. “As much as I support Margaritaville, and I think they’re very important to our community, Minto is trying to get everything for free,” Hosseini said. The 55-and-older community is already exempt from paying school impact fees, and Minto made a request to the council last year that they be exempt from paying road impact fees too. That request was denied. “We have to protect our infrastructure for future generations,” Hosseini said. “Minto doesn’t live here. ... We do…” Clayton Park and Dustin Wyatt report for the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Read Trump to nominate David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist, as the next Interior secretary - “President Trump tweeted Monday that he will nominate David Bernhardt, a veteran lobbyist who has helped orchestrate the push to expand oil and gas drilling at the Interior Department, to serve as its next secretary. If confirmed, Bernhardt, a 49-year-old Colorado native known for his unrelenting work habits, would be well positioned to roll back even more of the Obama-era conservation policies he has worked to unravel since rejoining Interior a year and a half ago. He has helmed the department as acting secretary since Jan. 2, when Ryan Zinke resigned amid multiple ethics probes...A former partner at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, he walked into the No. 2 job at Interior with so many potential conflicts of interest he has to carry a small card listing them all. He initially had to recuse himself from “particular matters” directly affecting 26 former clients to conform with the Trump administration’s ethics pledge. While Bernhardt has deliberately adopted a low profile as he steers the 70,000-person department, he has used his expertise to promote the president’s agenda at every turn. He is working to streamline environmental reviews to expedite energy projects and has promoted overhauling the Endangered Species Act to provide more certainty to developers...” Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey and Darryl Fears report for the Washington Post.

Read Springs are beyond significant harm - “In December 2010, the governing board of the Suwannee River Water Management District published its Water Supply Assessment. This document concluded that “groundwater levels in the Upper Floridan aquifer have declined significantly during the past 75 years as a result of regional groundwater withdrawals” and that “unacceptable impacts to flows in the Lower Santa Fe River and springs were predicted for the 2010–2030 planning period ...”. In April 2014, in response to this unfolding tragedy, the district and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection jointly published the Santa Fe River Basin Recovery Strategy. Their recovery strategy concludes that groundwater from the Floridan Aquifer is the primary source of water for human activities throughout north Florida. The estimated average pumping rate affecting this region was 551 million gallons per day (MGD) in 2015. This pumping rate has been increasing throughout the previous century, resulting in significant regional groundwater declines and negatively impacting spring flows, their important contributions to stream and river base flows, and support of wildlife and recreational habitats...The environmental health of the Santa Fe River basin is significantly impaired, not only by flow reductions but also from ongoing groundwater pollution. Despite this evidence of increasing harm, the leaders of the water management districts and DEP continue to issue more groundwater pumping permits that inevitably reduce spring and river flows further and enable additional nutrient and pesticide inputs. The state agencies’ apparent disregard of their responsibility to protect the public’s interests is evidenced by their support of a recovery strategy and water supply plan that will continue to make a bad situation worse for the foreseeable future…” Dr. Robert Knight writes Opinion for the Gainesville Sun.

Read 1st endangered Florida panther death of 2019 reported- “An endangered Florida panther has been struck and killed by a vehicle. It’s the first panther death reported this year. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the remains of the 3-year-old male were collected last week on a state road in rural Hendry County. Florida panthers once roamed the entire Southeast, but now their habitat mostly is confined to a small region of Florida along the Gulf of Mexico. Up to 230 Florida panthers remain in the wild. In 2018, there were 30 panther deaths reported in Florida — a number that matched the death toll of 2017. Twenty-six of the deaths in 2018 were from vehicle strikes, according to state figures…” From the Associated Press.

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Upcoming Environmental Events:

February 7 - 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM - North Florida Land Trust’s Annual Meeting - (Jacksonville) - North Florida Land Trust is hosting their Annual Meeting Luncheon to present their accomplishments of 2018 and to show what they have planned for 2019. This is the nonprofit land conservation organization’s annual report to the entire community, including supporters, donors, volunteers and business leaders who help to support the mission of preserving natural areas, historic resources and working lands of North Florida. The annual meeting is open to everyone and is Thursday, Feb. 7 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. at Friday Musicale at 645 Oak Street in Riverside. Tickets are $45 each and can be purchased at https://904tix.com/events/2019-annual-meeting. For more information or to learn more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact Genevieve Fletcher at gfletcher@northfloridalandtrust.org or at (904) 479-1967.

February 11 - 6:00PM-7:30PM CST - “The Problem with Plastics” screening & discussion - (Pensacola) - Join Dr. Enid Sisskin Chair of the Natural Resource Committee for the League of Women Voters of the Pensacola Bay Area, as she discusses the “The Problem with Plastics”. The presentation is part of Earth Ethics Environmental Education Series on Monday, February 11th beginning at 6 p.m.at Ever’man Educational Center, 327 W Garden Street, Pensacola, FL. Stay up to date on the event or to RSVP at the Facebook event here. Or get your free event tickets from Eventbrite here. Light refreshments will be served.

February 13- 12:45PM-2:45PM - Villages Environmental Discussions Group meeting - (The Villages) -Villages Environmental Discussions Group (VEDG) will host its next meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 13, from 12:45 to 2:45 p.m., at the Belvedere Library, 325 Belvedere Blvd., The Villages, FL. Our guest speaker will be Lisa Sanderson, Sumter County UF/IFAS Residential Horticulture Extension Agent II and Master Gardener Coordinator. Lisa will discuss simple home vegetable gardens. She will also describe plants that can be used to attract pollinators. Beginning gardeners and Master Gardeners are welcome to this FREE program. Questions? Email:  raivedg@gmail.com

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 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) 

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