FCC News Brief - January 23, 2019

Read Groups say funding executive order is crucial to Florida’s ailing waters - “Environmental groups say a recent $2.5 billion executive order may sound expensive but not addressing Florida's ailing waterways actually costs more.  Gov. Ron DeSantis last week issued the order, which, if executed, will fund water quality projects not included in Everglades restoration plans. Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani pointed to a 2015 Florida Realtors report that showed Lee and Martin county property values are suppressed by about $900 million a year because of poor water quality as proof that the order is needed...A blue-green algae bloom started on Lake Okeechobee in June and quickly spread to the Caloosahatchee River.  The big project in the order for Southwest Florida is the addition of a water quality treatment component to the Caloosahatchee River reservoir, often called C-43. Water quality scientists have long argued that the reservoir needs a treatment component, a way of removing nutrients from the reservoir before the water is released back into the Caloosahatchee River. Eric Eikenberg with the Everglades Foundation said it and other projects in the executive order would be funded with the $2.5 billion.  A lot of the money will come from a 2014 amendment passed by more than 75 percent of Florida voters that says one-third of documentary taxes be set aside for land acquisition and management…” Chad Gillis reports for the News-Press.

Read Administration delaying Endangered Species Act and protections on Florida’s gopher tortoise, non-profit says - “The Center for Biological Diversity sent a notice to file suit earlier this week against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, saying the agency is dragging its feet on animal issues. "The Trump administration is delaying badly needed protections for threatened and endangered species, and it’s putting them at serious risk of extinction," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species specialist for the Portland, Oregon, nonprofit. The gopher tortoise is one of the nine species highlighted in the notice to file.  Protected under the Endangered Species Act in parts of its range, tortoises in Florida are not yet federally listed. "The gopher tortoise is a keystone species, and it creates burrows that are used by hundreds of species," Greenwald said. "So it’s really important that we protect them." Melinda Schuman, a biologist with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, said the gopher tortoise provides habitat for hundreds of plants and animals and that protecting the animal protects its habitat. "Gopher tortoise are known as ecological engineers because of the burrows they dig," Schuman said. "They actually change the habitat dramatically, and they can be several meters deep…” Chad Gillis reports for the News-Press.

Read State funding for lagoon will be regional, not partisan battle, as Fine’s bill gaines momentum - “Cleaning up the Indian River Lagoon is the most important issue to the Space Coast’s future, Florida Rep. Randy Fine told community leaders. So keeping our sewage out of the browned, befouled estuary, and repairing old sewage infrastructure is the key to lagoon recovery, he and other leaders agreed at a meeting of the Brevard delegation to the Florida Legislature...There were lots of positive comments at Tuesday's meeting about Fine's proposal for the state to provide $50 million a year in matching funds for certain categories of Indian River Lagoon rehabilitation projects. The bill also calls for significant increases in the fines for illegal raw sewage spills. But there also was a warning during the meeting from Fine, a Republican from South Brevard. Fine said Brevard and other Indian River Lagoon counties will face intense competition from other regions of Florida for state money to help waterways. "It's my belief that the water battle this year is not going to be a partisan one," Fine said. "Democrats and Republicans agree. We all want the lagoon cleaned up. What it's going to be is it's going to be a regional one" — pitting sections of the state against one another…” Dave Berman reports for Florida Today.

Read Fort Myers sludge still coming to Polk County despite local outcry - “Polk County residents spent two hours Tuesday airing their worries with their elected officials about the 30,000 tons of sludge coming from Fort Myers to a landfill near their homes. Trucks have already deposited over 4,000 tons of sludge there since December, when the state Department of Environmental Protection said "yes" to Fort Myers’ disposal plan.   The plan calls for the goop to be dried and blended at Clark Environmental, then laid to rest at Cedar Trail, a landfill bounded by more than 400 homes..."We have a lot of communities that border this landfill,” said Magnolia Walk resident Lynette Ball. "I know the landfill has already received pesticides. We have black slime coming out of the faucets and odors on weekends."...DEP records show Cedar Trail has tested above the federal standard for other dangerous metals besides arsenic, including cadmium: a highly toxic metal that causes cancer and other serious illnesses over long periods of low exposure.  The landfill sits on the Peace River aquifer, which supplies many Floridians’ drinking water. The DEP allowed it to expand as a Class 1 facility – one that can handle treated wastewater sludge – over residents' ardent opposition. Like their Fort Myers counterparts, Polk's residents fear the impact of low levels of groundwater contamination on their children and grandchildren...The Polk County solution is the second try for Fort Myers officials. Citrus County, where the sludge was headed before this, threatened to file an injunction if the city sent the sludge there. It was enough to send Fort Myers looking for other options…” Patricia Borns reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.

Read EPA criminal action against polluters hits 30-year low- “The Environmental Protection Agency hit a 30-year low in 2018 in the number of pollution cases it referred for criminal prosecution, Justice Department data show. EPA said in a statement that it is directing “its resources to the most significant and impactful cases.” But the 166 cases referred for prosecution in the last fiscal year is the lowest number since 1988, when Ronald Reagan was president and 151 cases were referred, according to Justice Department data obtained by the nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility advocacy group and released Tuesday. “You don’t get closer to the core of EPA’s mission than enforcing the law,” Jeff Ruch, PEER’s executive director, told The Associated Press. “We’re reaching levels where the enforcement program is lacking a pulse.” EPA efforts to prosecute polluters reached 592 criminal referrals under President Bill Clinton in 1998. Criminal referrals have been on a downward trajectory since then, especially under the Trump administration. A supporter of deregulation, President Donald Trump as a candidate called for doing away with all but “little tidbits” of the federal environmental agency…” Ellen Knickmeyer reports for the Associated Press.

Read Key West takes first step in banning some sunscreens that experts say damage coral reefs - “The Key West City Commission on Tuesday unanimously voted to ban the sale of sunscreens that contain two ingredients — oxybenzone and octinoxate — that a growing body of scientific evidence says harm coral reefs. “This ordinance is just one other thing we can do to help improve and protect our water quality,” said Mill McCleary, of the nonprofit environmental protection group Reef Relief. The measure, which passed 7-0, isn’t law yet, though. The commission must review it a second time and pass the measure again before it would become law. The second vote is scheduled for Feb. 5. Nearly 100 people turned out for the debate, and 50 people — including dermatologists, boat captains and schoolchildren — signed up to speak on the proposal…” Gwen Filosa reports for the Miami Herald.

Read How to make sure DeSantis follows through on his shock-and-awe environmental agenda - “If we had to describe former Gov. Rick Scott's environmental strategy in a couple of words, it would be safe to go with "defund and deregulate." In these early days as his successor, Gov. Ron DeSantis' strategy is more "shock and awe" ... in a good way. So far, DeSantis is holding up his end of the bargain for voters who chose him based on his environmental credo. And he's pleasantly surprising some environmental-minded voters who didn't vote for him. Now, the onus is on citizens, taxpayers, business owners — and, especially, journalists — to make sure DeSantis follows through...I asked the governor's office for ETAs on these pledges, as well as guidance for citizens who want to follow the progress. The answer I received from the governor's press office was ... vague:  “Governor DeSantis knows the protection of Florida’s water resources is one of the most pressing issues facing our state and that’s why issuing this executive order was one of his first actions upon taking office. We look forward to working with the Department of Environmental Protection to carry out the goals of the order. Additional information will be provided online on the DEP website as updates become available.” Fair enough. These are early days of the DeSantis administration. It would be unreasonable to expect a locked-in timetable for this environmental agenda. Still, it shouldn't take much longer to identify target dates and articulate a clear philosophy for implementation…” Eve Samples writes for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read Is Ron DeSantis really that pro-environment?- “As a candidate, Ron DeSantis toed a line on climate change, promising to prioritize the environment and acknowledge the problems posed by sea-rise without bowing to "the church of the global warming leftists." On Thursday, Florida's newly anointed Republican governor put his words to action, announcing plans to open a new resiliency office as part of a sweeping environmental roll-out that includes an extra $1 billion for Everglades restoration and water cleanup — without mention of climate change or carbon emissions...For some environmentalists and Democrats, the proposal fell short of hopes. But even so, DeSantis still managed to exceed critics' expectations by indicating that a state where former Gov. Rick Scott banned environmental regulators from using the phrase "climate change" is now willing to work to at least combat the symptoms of an existential problem. During three stops around the state Thursday, DeSantis never said the words "climate change," and they weren't included in his executive order. Nor were there any references to humans' role in rising temperatures, which scientists project will cause several feet of sea rise before the end of the century and contribute to extreme weather events. But by including a nod to rising seas and increased flooding as part of a platform intended to bring real-time solutions to existing problems, DeSantis seemingly put the state on a path it has largely avoided. "This is a wonderful model to the Republicans to acknowledge this issue in a sober way without alarming people and using it as an excuse to massively expand government," said Carlos Curbelo, a two-term Republican congressman who introduced a carbon tax bill shortly before losing his Miami seat in November…” David Smiley reports for the Tampa Bay Times.

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Upcoming Environmental Events:

January 23 - 7:00PM - GLADESMEN: The Last of the Sawgrass Cowboys - (Miami) - Come see the award-winning film, GLADESMEN, at MDC’s Tower Theater (1508 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33135). It could be the film’s final public screening in the city! See more about the film at www.gladesmenfilm.com. Tickets available here.

January 26 - 5:00PM - 10:00PM - 2nd Annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival - (Gainesville)- Join the Florida Trail Association for an outdoor screening of environmental and adventure films that illustrate the Earth’s beauty. There will be 14 films, live music, guest speakers, exciting raffle items, beverages including a special one-night-only Florida Trail Ale (courtesy of Swamp Head Brewery), and food vendors. Folks will also have the chance to interact with organizations dedicated to supporting outdoor recreation and environmental conservation. Purchase tickets here, and visit the Facebook event page here for more information. All proceeds go to support the Florida Trail Association. Come learn about the Florida Trail and discover how you can get involved with us! (Swamphead Brewery, 3650 SW 42nd AVE, Gainesville, Florida 32608)

January 26 - 10:00AM-3:00PM - Legislative Advocacy Workshop - (Jacksonville) - Join the Northeast Florida Sierra Club for a legislative training workshop where you can learn about the process of educating legislators, what are the important environmental bills, talking points on bills - all you need to know to be effective in influencing them. Lunch will be provided. Lakewood Presbyterian Church, 2001 University Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32217. For more information, email Janet Stanko janestan@bellsouth.net.

January 26-27 -Safe Water for Walton: Operation Medicine Cabinet - (Defuniak Springs, Santa Rosa Beach, Freeport) - Protect our waterways by keeping powerful pharmaceuticals and all medicines out of our water supply. This prevents them from reaching the aquifer system underground through septic tanks and other means. Bring us your old and unused medicines FOR FREE. We’ll dispose of them anonymously. Visit Safe Water for Walton’s website here to learn more.

January 28 – 2:00PM-5:00PM– Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation– (Boynton Beach)– Attend the Palm Beach County Delegation meeting at Lakeside Medical Center, (39200 Hooker Highway, Belle Glade). You are encouraged to speak on behalf of Florida’s land, wildlife and water resources!  To participate in the delegation meeting, complete this form and return by mail or email to Christine Shaw, Cshaw1@pbcgov.org.

January 28 – 2:30PM-6:00PM– Orange County Legislative Delegation– (Orlando)– Attend the Orange County Delegation meeting at the Orange County Administration Center, Commission Chambers (201 South Rosalind Avenue, Orlando, FL 32801). You are encouraged to speak on behalf of Florida’s land, wildlife and water resources!  To participate in the delegation meeting, email LD@ocfl.net to request an appearance form.

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 13 - 10AM-4PM - 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 - 12:00pm-1:30pm - 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/.

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