FCC News Brief - June 26, 2019

Read Florida is climate change ‘ground zero.’ So why isn’t it a presidential campaign hot topic?- “Miami will hold the gaze of the national political realm next week, as the two-night Democratic presidential debates will kick off at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. Just three miles away, across the Venetian Causeway that spans over the glittering Biscayne Bay, is Miami Beach — what some activists and officials call “ground zero” for sea-level rise, one of the many indicators of climate change. About three-quarters of Florida voters either felt “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about climate change, according to a March poll from Quinnipiac University. Sixty-six percent were “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” that climate change will personally affect themselves or a family member. Yet, when candidates take the stage in Miami on Wednesday and Thursday night, media analysts and policy advocates worry that issues like rising sea levels won’t get more than passing attention in a debate hosted in a coastal state where climate change arguably poses an existential threat. “I wish every single candidate would make that their highest priority,” said Yoca Arditi-Rocha, executive director of The CLEO Institute, a Miami-based nonprofit that educates the public about climate change. “The crisis really deserves it.” Yet a poll released by Quinnipiac last Tuesday suggests that if the presidential election were held today, Democratic Florida voters wouldn’t pick the one candidate who has made climate change the platform of his campaign, Jay Inslee…” Hannah Morse reports for the Daytona Beach News-Journal

Read Here are six questions about our climate crisis that the Democratic candidates for President should answer- “There may be no higher test of leadership than the kind of world we leave our children. We have an obligation to protect them from the mounting costs and widening dangers of climate change. That’s not something that should divide us, red state and blue. It should unite us, as American people. As the Democratic presidential hopefuls gather in Miami this week for their first nationally televised debate, here are six questions every serious candidate for high office should be asked – and should be able to answer. — We just wrapped up the five hottest years since global record-keeping began in 1880. Heartland croplands are washing away. Wildfires burned enough land last year alone to cover the southern fifth of Florida. We’re losing entire species faster than at any other time since the dinosaurs died off some 60 million years ago. And seven in ten Americans say they want the government to do more to fight climate change. Why, in the face of all this, haven’t we yet mobilized, as a nation, to fight this grave and gathering threat, and what’s the first thing you would do, as president, to rally the country around the need to act? — Largely by burning coal, oil and gas, we’ve raised the carbon dioxide level in the Earth’s atmosphere by 45 percent. By 2050, we can get to 100 percent clean energy, by getting most of our power from clean sources and strengthening the capacity of our forests, farms and wetlands to lock carbon away in healthy soils. What are the three most important things we can do, as a country, to cut our carbon footprint, and what, specifically, would you direct your administration to do to advance this vital work?...” Rhea Suh writes for The Invading Sea

Read Everglades wildfire spreads to 31,500 acres- “More than 31,500 acres have burned in the Everglades since a lightning strike two days ago started the blaze. On Tuesday, an ominous line of red and orange flames charred the ground and the thick black smoke that rose from it blocked the sky in western Broward County. A firefighter in a Florida Forest Service plane flew over the blaze Tuesday afternoon to survey the damage. Authorities warned about potential breathing problems for South Florida residents from the fire’s smoke...The skies were clearer Tuesday. Still, “if we don’t get rain, this thing will keep going,” said Scott Peterich, a spokesman with the Forest Service’s Everglades District. Peterich was at a rest area at Exit 35 on the Alligator Alley portion of I-75 on Tuesday morning, and said the fire appeared to be about a quarter mile north of the highway...Firefighters’ goal is to keep the blaze where it began, with a 165,000-acre conservation area that is surrounded by canals, Peterich said. Known as Water Conservation Area 3, it spans Broward and Miami-Dade counties and is state land, managed by the South Florida Water Management District…” Linda Trischitta reports for the South Florida Sun Sentinel

Read Florida newsrooms will partner to report on the state’s biggest threat-climate change - “Climate change is the story of Florida’s future. No other state has as much at risk. That’s why six of the leading news organizations in Florida have formed a partnership to share stories and work together to report on the complex challenges of climate change. The founding members include the Miami Herald, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Tampa Bay Times, the Palm Beach Post, the Orlando Sentinel and WLRN Public Media...The initiative was born out of another successful partnership between news outlets — the award-winning editorial collaboration “The Invading Sea.” Opinion editors at the Miami Herald, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Palm Beach Post and WLRN Public Media shared editorials and featured columns from residents and experts on the topic of sea level rise adaptation. More newsrooms are expected to join The Florida Climate Reporting Network, and partners have already begun sharing stories and ideas to strengthen climate reporting in the state. “The network will expand the initiative to the entire state, lead with a news reporting focus and broaden the topic to other climate change effects beyond rising seas,” Aminda Marqués González, publisher and executive editor of the Miami Herald, said in a statement. “In addition to sharing our stories written by our own staffs, our hope is that we will collaborate directly on some enterprise projects…” Alex Harris reports for the Miami Herald

Read Gov. DeSantis visits Stuart, announces plan to crack down on environmental crimes - “Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a new plan on Tuesday to crack down on environmental crimes during a visit to South Florida. The governor held a news conference at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center in Stuart where he signed a bill that creates a Division of Law Enforcement within Florida's Department of Environmental Protection. This will allow the DEP to conduct criminal investigations into environmental crimes, instead of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. "We wanted to align resources that are focused on environmental protection," said Gov. DeSantis. "That's the agency's mission, so it made sense that the agency in charge of protecting our natural resources is where you'd have the criminal enforcement." Officials said the DEP's Division of Law Enforcement will be made up of sworn officers. "We understand clearly the governor expects us to enforce the laws we have," said Noah Valenstein, the Secretary of Florida's DEP…” Sabirah Rayford reports for WPTV

Read Hundreds gather at Waterkeeper event in Fort Myers to discuss toxic algae and public health - “After months of uphill battle, a recent Calusa Waterkeeper public health town hall started with a victory. As he took the stage at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Fort Myers on Monday night, Waterkeeper John Cassani gave the nearly 300-member crowd some news: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will begin considering safety standards for harmful algae toxins as it makes rules in the future, as the nonprofit and the Center for Biological Diversity had petitioned the agency to do. It’s not a done deal, but even advancing the idea that far felt like a win to a group that’s been battling to get the potential dangers of harmful blooms taken seriously by the government. For more than two decades, Waterkeeper has worked to fill gaps not covered by state agencies by testing and monitoring water quality, then sharing that data with the public. Another area where the state could be doing more, members say, is public health. So far, the Florida Department of Health’s response to toxic algae has been sharply criticized, with widespread confusion about the department's role, its duty to communicate with the public and its position on the potential risks of algae exposure. So, equipped with a $20,000 Southwest Florida Community Foundation grant, the Fort Myers-based Waterkeeper decided to shoulder some of that responsibility. Monday’s event was the initial part of what it plans to do with the money. The goal is to engage frontline healthcare professionals and leaders about the effects of the harmful algae blooms that ravaged the region’s fresh and saltwater in recent years. Red tide in the Gulf and toxic cyanobacteria inland created an ecological and economic crises, coupled with what some fear are short- and long-term health problems…” Amy Bennett Williams reports for the Fort Myers News-Press

Read Utility ballot measure sparks battle in Florida- “State leaders and powerful business groups are trying to kill a proposed constitutional amendment that would lead to major changes in the way Floridians get electricity. Opponents, including Attorney General Ashley Moody, legislative leaders, business groups and utilities, filed 13 briefs late last week at the Florida Supreme Court arguing that the proposal should be blocked from going on the November 2020 ballot. The briefs were the latest batch of arguments about the proposal, which would uproot the long-established regulatory structure that leads to residents and businesses in much of the state receiving electricity from four utilities: Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric Co. and Gulf Power. The proposal, backed by a political committee known as Citizens for Energy Choices, calls for creating “competitive” electricity markets in which customers would have the right to choose electricity providers or to produce their own power. Supporters, including companies that want to supply electricity in Florida, point to a similar structure that Texas has used for nearly two decades...But the opponents contend that the measure should never reach the ballot because it violates legal standards for citizens’ initiatives, such as tying together multiple subjects in a proposed constitutional amendment. A brief filed Friday by the Senate alleged that the initiative includes a “Frankenstein’s Monster of policies.” In part, those arguments stem from the effects of the proposed amendment on FPL, Duke, Tampa Electric and Gulf Power, which are known in the industry as investor-owned utilities, or IOUs. The amendment would limit the companies to building, operating and repairing electrical transmission and distribution systems, a far-smaller role than they now play in generating, transmitting and selling power…” From CBS Media/ The News Service of Florida.

Read Supreme Court overturns precedent in property rights case - a sign of things to come?- “A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that property owners can go directly to federal court with claims that state and local regulations effectively deprive landowners of the use of their property. The 5-4 decision overturned decades of precedent that barred property owners from going to federal court until their claims had been denied in state court. Federal courts are often viewed as friendlier than state courts for such property claims. The decision, with all five of the court's conservatives in the majority, may have particular effects in cities and coastal areas that have strict regulations for development. Property owners and developers often have complained that zoning rules and other state and local regulations effectively take their property for public benefit, and that the Constitution requires that they be paid just compensation..."We now conclude that the state litigation requirement imposes an unjustifiable burden" on a property owner's claim that his or her land has been effectively taken for public benefit without the government paying just compensation, wrote Chief Justice John Roberts. In essence, Roberts said, property owners are entitled to the same rights in federal court that other citizens have if they can prove that their constitutional rights have been violated. Justice Elena Kagan, joined by the court's three other liberal justices, dissented in furious tones. Friday's decision, she said, "rejects far more than a single decision in 1985." That decision, Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, "was rooted in an understanding of the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause stretching back to the late 1800s, Kagan wrote. On that view, a government could take property so long as it provided a reliable mechanism to pay just compensation, even if the payment came after the fact," Kagan said, adding, "No longer…” Nina Totenberg reports for NPR


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Upcoming Environmental Events:

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.

September 30th - October 2nd- Public Land Acquisition & Management (PLAM) Partnership 2019 Conference - (St. Augustine) - The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is proud to announce the Public Land Acquisition and Management (PLAM) Partnership Conference. This statewide conference focuses on public land acquisition and management issues in Florida. PLAM has typically been hosted on a rotating basis by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the five water management districts. The conference will be held at the World Golf Village Renaissance Resort (500 S Legacy Trail, St. Augustine, FL 32092). WHO SHOULD ATTEND: Local, regional, state, federal, non-profit and private land managers; Land acquisition specialists and agents; Water managers; Engineers, planners, attorneys, surveyors, appraisers, architects; Public officials; Non-profit groups; Consultants; Others interested in conservation land planning. Registration coming soon. For more information, click here.

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We hope you enjoy this service and find it valuable. Our goal is to provide you with the latest and most relevant environmental news for Floridians. Our hope is that you will use this information to more effectively and frequently contact your elected representatives, and add your voice to the growing chorus of Floridians concerned about the condition of our environment and the recent direction of environmental policies.

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