FCC News Brief - June 20, 2019

Read House passes bill to prevent oil drilling in the Everglades - “An initiative to thwart an oil drilling plan in the Everglades passed the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday, putting a potential hurdle in front of a controversial project proposed for western Broward County. But not a single Republican voted for the larger spending bill of which the initiative was a part, making its passage in the Republican-controlled Senate appear uncertain. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat whose district covers parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, proposed the initiative as an amendment to a spending bill for federal agencies involved in energy and water. “We must do all we possibly can to protect our sensitive River of Grass,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement Wednesday. “Drilling within the Everglades Protection Area is reckless, rapacious and symbolizes just how much those who advocate for the senseless pursuit of fossil fuels will risk, even if it destroys our most treasured ecosystems. It’s absurd it even has to be said, but we must fight any drilling in the Everglades.”... The amendment would impose a one-year moratorium on the issuance of wetlands permits by the Army Corps of Engineers in the Broward portion of the Everglades. The moratorium would last from Oct. 1, 2019, to Sept. 30, 2020…” David Fleshler reports for the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Read Lee County approves scaling back limerock approval rules; Pendergrass rips foes - “Lee County Commissioners voted 3-1 Tuesday to wipe away a zoning map and a requirement to prove the county needs more limerock before new mines can be approved in the county. Commissioners voted after more than three hours of public comment on a plan from its staff that eliminated both a zoning map restricting where mines can operate and the requirement that there would have to be studies to demonstrate a need for new mines before more mines are allowed. More than 50 people weighed in with comments on the proposed changes. Most of those who spoke opposed the new rules...For much of the past decade, mining rules in Lee County have included specified rules for operating mines, a study of county limerock needs, and a zoning map that specified where mines could be dug. The zoning map died as Commissioner John Manning, who had earlier expressed reservations, joined Pendergrass and Brian Hamman in enacting the changes. Commissioner Frank Mann, who sat on the board that adopted the rules that have been in effect, and defended them during the hearing, voted against the change. Members of the public, including representatives of conservation groups, elected officials and neighbors, found a lot to dislike with the county's plans for future consideration of mine proposals...Some argued about the need to protect wildlife from mining, while others were more technical in support of keeping the zoning map known as Map 14 in place to require in-depth review of mine plans. "Map 14 is a critical locational restriction on the approval of new mines and removing it will remove this basic limitation that is part of the Lee Plan," said Meredith Budd of the Florida Wildlife Federation. "You have the legal authority and the requirement,  through the community planning act, to establish the extent, location and intensity of future land uses." Bill Smith reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.

Read Indian River County opposes SFWMD permit for Sunbreak Farms to spread biosolids on cornfield - “Indian River County has joined the effort to deny a permit for a proposed biosolids processing facility on a corn farm straddling the St. Lucie-Indian River county line. County commissioners voted Tuesday evening to intervene in a hearing over the South Florida Water Management District's denial of a permit for Sunbreak Farms. Indian River's action follows a similar move by St. Lucie County, which late Monday sent paperwork to the SFWMD supporting its permit rejection and seeking to be a party in the hearing before an administrative judge, which the farm's attorneys requested...The farm needs a district permit for its plan to fertilize crops, mostly corn, with a compost mixture containing 80,000 tons of composted sewage sludge on 6,580 acres each year...District engineers rejected the farm's permit, saying the infrastructure doesn't ensure heavy rains won't flush polluted stormwater into nearby canals leading to the Indian River Lagoon. "It's pretty obvious pollutants, particularly phosphorus, would be able to get into the groundwater and then into canals," O'Bryan said. "It's a lot like the situation where biosolids were being dumped near, and getting into, Blue Cypress Lake."...Last June, TCPalm reported thousand of tons of sewage sludge known as Class B biosolids were being on about 3,000 acres of pastures near Blue Cypress Lake in western Indian River County, and that it coincided with high levels of phosphorus and blue-green algae blooms in the lake. Since then, Indian River County has enacted moratoriums on biosolids use. Commissioners Tuesday extended its moratorium for six more months…” Tyler Treadway reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read June is black bear mating season in Florida - “The Polk County Sheriff's Office said it's already received two reports of black bears in the area. June is the start of black bear mating season in Florida, and the sheriff's office and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issued a reminder about not interacting with these animals. The sheriff's office said a black bear was reported near the airport in Lakeland and another was spotted near Drane Field Road. The FWC reminded residents that black bear sightings this time of year are not uncommon because young bears are leaving the family unit. June is also the start of the black bear mating season when the animals can travel farther to look for a mate. The FWC said residents should secure outside "attractants" like garbage, pet food and birdseed to keep bears away from homes. Wildlife officials said you should never approach a bear if you see one, and to keep a safe distance. "If you do encounter a bear at close range, do not run," the FWC said. "Remain standing upright, speak to the bear in a calm, assertive voice, and back up slowly while leaving the bear with a clear escape route.” Florida black bears are the only bear species in the state. These animals prefer habitats like forested wetlands, natural pinelands, hammocks, scrub and shrub lands. The FWC said bears will also congregate in areas with a lot of food, including human food…” From WTSP.

Read Pinellas county town Safety Harbor becomes the latest Florida community to pledge to 100% clean energy goal - “The City Commission of Safety Harbor voted unanimously this week to be the ninth Florida city pledging a goal of  100 percent clean, renewable energy. The Commission approved a resolution to eliminate fossil fuels for town operations by 2035, and for everyone in the community by 2050. The campaign to get local governments to commit to a clean energy portfolio that eschews the use of fossil fuels is led by the Sierra Club, and now includes over 120 cities in the U.S. Six of those cities, including Burlington, Vermont and Boulder, Colorado, now generate 100 percent of the energy used community-wide from clean and renewable sources. Of the nine cities that have approved such goals in Florida, four are in Pinellas County. They include St. Petersburg, Largo, Dunedin and now Safety Harbor. Tallahassee, Orlando, Sarasota, Gainesville and South Miami have also made the commitment…” Mitch Perry reports for the Florida Phoenix.

Read UF study: Battling invasive plants good investment, more funding needed - “For decades, Florida communities have battled invasive plants on land and water. These plants disrupt native ecosystems and livelihoods, and more arrive each year. Now a new study from the University of Florida and The Nature Conservancy shows that nearly $45 million in state and federal funding per year is spent in Florida to gain the upper hand on invasive plants in natural areas and waters, and that success depends on how well control efforts are funded. Florida consistently ranks among the top three states most affected by invasive plants, said S. Luke Flory, associate professor of ecology with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and one of the study’s authors. “Most plants have what we call ‘natural enemies,’ which are pests, diseases or predators that keep plant population at stable levels. When a plant is introduced into a new area, the natural enemies that used to keep them in check in their native habitat may not be present in that new area. Without any natural enemies to stop them, these new plants may dominate, negatively impacting existing plants, wildlife and the people who use those areas,” Flory said. For instance, aquatic plants such as hydrilla and water hyacinth clog waterways and drainage canals. Cogongrass increases fire risk and decreases pasture for cattle. Air potato can engulf natural areas with its fast-growing vines, and Brazilian peppertree can alter habitat and diminish recreational value...“Our findings demonstrate the need for continued and sustained funding to efficiently address and manage the growing problem of invasions,” said Kristina Serbesoff-King, a scientist with The Nature Conservancy and one of the study’s co-authors. “Florida has a relatively high level of commitment to invasive management – but it is unclear if current spending is sufficient to prevent the establishment of new non-native species or dampen the spread of current invaders,” Serbesoff-King said. “Consistent management with sufficient and sustained funding is more effective than only increasing spending when invasive plant populations become highly problematic…” Samantha Grenrock writes Special to the Star.

Read Proliferation of plastic is a growing problem - “The League of Women Voters’ June 7 column presented a convincing endorsement of the City Commission’s ban on plastic straws and single-use plastic bags, while Jake Fuller’s cartoon in the same issue ridiculed that decision. But the column understated the need for action to address the widespread discarding of plastic, especially single-use plastic. Although banning plastic straws may seem like overkill, a five-year cleanup project found 7.5 million plastic straws littering U.S. shorelines. Banning them won’t solve the growing problem of plastic proliferation, but switching to paper straws offers an easy way to start. Anyone who has been paying attention knows of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, one of several in the Pacific Ocean, and has seen photos of decomposed sea birds displaying the many plastic bits they have ingested. Dead whales have also been found containing large quantities of swallowed plastic...Of even greater concern is the finding in a new report by the Center for International Environmental Law that the worldwide spread of single-use increases climate change and undermines world efforts to combat it. Plastics are primarily made from coal, oil or natural gas chemicals. The study finds that plastics emit heat-trapping gasses at every stage of their life cycle: 1) fossil fuel extraction and transport, 2) plastic refining and manufacture 9these rank among the most greenhouse-gas-intensive industries in the manufacturing sector, with over 300 new and expanded petrochemical projects underway in the US, mostly to produce plastic and plastic feedstocks), 3) plastic waste management [frequently done by burning, with only 9 percent recycled], and 4) plastic’s continuing impact when it reaches our oceans, waterway, and landscape. (In particular, it may interfere with the ability of the ocean to remove CO2, which requires the aid of microscopic aquatic plants and animals, now being contaminated by microplastic.)...” John Ward writes Opinion for the Florida Times-Union.

Read Americans need more neighbors - “Housing is one area of American life where government really is the problem. The United States is suffering from an acute shortage of affordable places to live, particularly in the urban areas where economic opportunity increasingly is concentrated. And perhaps the most important reason is that local governments are preventing construction...Increasing the supply of urban housing would help to address a number of the problems plaguing the United States. Construction could increase economic growth and create blue-collar jobs. Allowing more people to live in cities could mitigate inequality and reduce carbon emissions. Yet in most places, housing construction remains wildly unpopular. People who think of themselves as progressives, environmentalists and egalitarians fight fiercely against urban development, complaining about traffic and shadows and the sanctity of lawns… Local governments regulate land use by chopping cities into zones, specifying what can be built in each area. This serves some valuable purposes, like separating homes from heavy industry. But mostly, it serves to protect homeowners. In many cities, including Minneapolis, more than half of the city’s land is reserved for single-family homes...The loose fabric of single-family neighborhoods drives up the cost of housing by limiting the supply of available units. It contributes to climate change, by necessitating sprawl and long commutes. It constrains the economic potential of cities by limiting growth…” From the New York Times Editorial Board.

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Upcoming Environmental Events:

June 24-June 25 - Miami’s Feeling the Heat & Paying the Price - (Miami) - Pay Up Climate Polluters Miami in collaboration with muralist @MDOTBlake present Miami’s Feeling the Heat & Paying the Price on June 24th and 25th. Concerned about the rising costs of flooding, sea walls & extreme heat? Join us as we raise awareness about costs, industry deception & making polluters pay. June 24 / 10 am-4 pm/ Mural-Making in Allapattah & Little Havana. June 25 / 10 am-4 pm/ Mural-Making in Liberty City & Little Haiti. For more information, click here.

June 26 - 6:00pm-9:00pm - Climate Action: Inform & Empower - (Miami) - Take the future into your own hands and join us for a discussion and hands-on activities designed to inform and empower locals around climate action. The Miami chapter of the United Nations Association, The CLEO Institute and Vizcaya have come together for this very special evening. The night begins with a discussion among experts about the state of our climate, the urgency for climate action, and solutions. All guests are welcome to submit questions for the panel during registration as well as talk with experts one-on-one throughout the evening.
Vizcaya’s gardens will be open for visitors to enjoy along with snacks provided by Hungry Harvest and beer courtesy of Saltwater Brewery. Click here for more information.

June 27, 6:00pm-7:30pm - Underwater Climate Rally - (Miami) - The first democratic presidential debate is our opportunity to let the candidates - and the world - know that Floridians want lawmakers to offer solutions for the #ClimateEmergency. Climate has got to be a central platform for any serious Presidential candidate. Come to the “Underwater Climate Rally” and add your voice calling for action on climate. Wear Blue - to signify the “underwater” theme. Bring blue tarps, snorkel gear, paper towels, masks, rainboots or umbrellas - whatever you have handy to let everyone know you do not want to be "underwater" and signify you're ready for the candidates to #ActOnClimate. Gather: 6:00 p.m. Press Conference: 7:00 p.m. March to Debate: 7:30 p.m. (The debate airs from 9pm - 11 pm) For more information visit Facebook event here.

July 8, 6:00pm - July Earth Ethics Environmental Educational Series - (Pensacola) -Join us at Ever'man Educational Center located at 327 W Garden Street. We will be viewing A PLASTIC OCEAN.  A PLASTIC OCEAN begins when journalist Craig Leeson, searching for the elusive blue whale, discovers plastic waste in what should be pristine ocean. In this adventure documentary, Craig teams up with free diver Tanya Streeter and an international team of scientists and researchers, and they travel to twenty locations around the world over the next four years to explore the fragile state of our oceans, uncover alarming truths about plastic pollution, and reveal working solutions that can be put into immediate effect. We'll discuss what you can do to help reduce your use of plastics! One lucky winner will receive a giftset to jump start a plastic reduced life. Check out the Eventbrite page here, and Facebook Event here. For more information, email earthethicsaction@gmail.com

July 11, 7:00pm - Toxic Puzzle Screening & Environmental Panel - (Orange Park)- TOXIC PUZZLE is a medical and environmental detective story where documentary filmmaker Bo Landin follows ethnobotanist Dr Paul Alan Cox and his scientific team around the world in a hunt for the hidden killer. The pieces come together in a toxic puzzle where cyanobacteria in our waters become the culprit. Are these organisms, fed by human pollution and climate change, staging nature’s revenge by claiming human lives? Join the St. Johns Riverkeeper at the Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts in Clay County (283 College Dr, Orange Park FL 32065) for a live screening and panel discussion on the issue of toxic algae blooms and the serious short and long-term health effects it’s having on our communities, wildlife, and habitats of our River and what YOU can do to help. For more information and to register, click here.

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