FCC News Brief - June 6, 2019

Read Solving the septic tank dilemma will be a complex and costly challenge - “...Pervasive toxic blooms of red, brown and blue-green algae have united Florida like no other issue. A host of water quality issues contribute to the high nitrogen levels fueling the algae blooms. Aging and leaking wastewater lines. Discharge of treated wastewater into waterways. Stormwater runoff. Rampant use of fertilizers. Disposal of biosolids from treated wastewater...Efforts to write new regulations for septic tanks collapsed during Florida’s 2019 legislative session, but it’s expected to come up again when committees begin meeting this fall. State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs hopes the state can interject more forceful language into the requirements for basin management action plans for springs and other waterways. The state should be farther along in meeting the pollution criteria set for the state’s waterways, lowering nitrogen levels to 3 milligrams per liter of water or less, Simmons said….Earlier this year,  Lee Constantine, a former state senator and now Seminole County Commissioner, co-authored a sweeping set of proposed water policies for the state with former Gov. Bob Graham for the Florida Conservation Coalition. Among other things it called for prohibiting septic tanks on properties less than five acres or required advanced nitrogen-removing septic tanks, aggressive reduction of pollution sources, and restoration of water management district budgets slashed during Gov. Rick Scott’s administration. The groups in the coalition are among many across Florida demanding action. The Coalition wants legislators to create “a dedicated funding source for water solutions,” said Constantine. “But what we first want to do is get a group the legislature will trust to go out and actually look at everything that needs to be done to ensure our water resources are protected, not polluted and that we have quality and quantity, and at how much that will cost over the next 20 years. “The estimates are from $1 to $2 billion a year,” he said. “It’s not like we’re asking for the moon and stars. We have a $91 billion state budget…” Dinah Voyles Pulver reports for the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Read Sugar companies hit with federal class-action lawsuit over health effects of cane field burns - “A federal class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday seeks an as-yet unknown amount of money from a dozen sugar growers over the health effects of burning sugar cane fields, a practice that has been ongoing in northwest Palm Beach County for decades. There have been more than 100,000 cane field burns in Palm Beach County since 2004, according to former state Sen. Joe Abruzzo, who now serves as the director of government relations at the Berman Law Group, which filed the suit… A spokesperson for the United States Sugar Corporation issued a statement saying, “Our farming practices are safe, environmentally sound, highly regulated and closely monitored. Decades of independent air quality monitoring and data show that our communities, along with our counties of Palm Beach, Hendry and Glades, have some of the best air quality in the entire state, better than the state average, year after year.” The lawsuit accuses U.S. Sugar, Florida Crystals and other sugar producers of negligence, liability for any damages caused by the burning of the fields, and trespassing in that hazardous waste landed on the property of members of the class-action suit, among other things. The suit asks the court to institute a medical monitoring program for residents of Belle Glade, South Bay, Pahokee and nearby areas, as well as asking the court to force sugar companies to stop any future crop burnings…” Dan Sweeney reports for the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Read Carnival agrees to cut disposable plastic use in half under plea deal - “Carnival Cruise Line agreed to cut its disposable plastic use in half across its entire fleet by 2021 under a plea agreement entered in Miami federal court Monday. Carnival also has agreed to pay $20 million in additional fines for violating a pollution case that had already earned it a $40 million fine in 2016 and five years probation. The company had been ordered to clean up pollution violations after it was found trying to dodge expensive fuel disposal costs in the United Kingdom by dumping the waste offshore. Over the last two years, a court-ordered monitor found the company repeatedly violated the terms, falsified records and even ordered a SWAT-style clean-up team to visit ships before surprise visits, prosecutors said... Spokesman Roger Frizzell said the company had been considering reducing plastic use, but the plea deal forced it to commit to an amount and a deadline. He could not say how much plastic would be eliminated or how much the change would cost. Plastic pollution has become a growing threat in the ocean, forming vasts garbage patches, choking marine life and even heating up sand. The cruise line also agreed to cut food waste by 10 percent…” Jenny Staletovich reports for WLRN.

Read Groundwater withdrawal makes no sense - “One of the reasons it has been so difficult to keep the water of Crystal River clean is because the flow from the freshwater springs has been reduced. Fertilizer, stormwater runoff and septic tanks all contribute to the pollution of our water, but a reduced flow of water from the springs is at the heart of the problem. That flow of water from our underground aquifer has been slowed because water withdrawals keep increasing to satisfy the growing population in Florida. That is why it is absurd for local government to permit a private company from Ocala to pump an additional 177,300 gallons of water each day from a well in the city of Crystal River so then can meet consumer demand for bottled water. Heatherwood Investments LLC, headed by Frank A. Scudder Sr., continues to fight the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the City of Crystal River and county government for a permit to ramp up production at property on NE 11th Street in Crystal River. The company claims it needs up to 254,000 gallons per day to meet its consumer demand...Both the county and city have objected to the permit being expanded to allow the additional pumping. While SWFWMD officials might have their personal views about the resource, they have few options other than following the laws approved by the Florida Legislature. The issue points out a statewide problem involving the use of water — our most valuable resource. Pumping fresh water near spring-fed Outstanding Florida Waterways that are on the environmental critical care list makes absolutely no sense and needs to be changed...Crystal River is doing the right thing in fighting this detrimental activity. At the same time, the Florida Legislature needs to look at the absurd laws that permit private companies to enrich themselves while depleting a public resource near an environmentally sensitive site. Water management districts should have the power to reject such permits. How about at least creating some geographic boundaries that bar such activity around the most sensitive springs in our state? We elect the people who create these laws that are not in the best interest of Floridians. It’s time to change the laws.” From the Citrus County Chronicle Editorial Board.

Read Government argues for halt to youth climate lawsuit, saying there is no constitutional right to a stable climate - “A group of young Americans who have spent nearly four years trying to compel the federal government to take action on climate change found themselves back in court Tuesday, arguing that their unprecedented lawsuit should move forward. And the Trump administration, like the Obama administration before it, was there to argue once again that the lawsuit should be tossed out before it ever goes to trial, both because the plaintiffs do not meet the legal requirements to bring such a suit and because “there is no fundamental constitutional right to a ‘stable climate system.’... Julia Olson, the attorney for the plaintiffs and executive director of Our Children’s Trust, insisted that her clients — a majority of whom are now old enough to vote — had been deprived of their fundamental rights as a result of government policies that fuel global warming. The group’s goal is to compel the government to scale back its support for fossil-fuel extraction and production and to support policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “When our great-grandchildren look back on the 21st century, they will see that government-sanctioned climate destruction was the constitutional issue of this century,” Olson said. “We must be a nation that applies the rule of law to harmful government conduct that threatens the lives of our children, so that they can grow up free and pursue their happiness. That is what the founders intended... ” Brady Dennis reports for the Washington Post.

Read U.S. House approves Bill Posey’s bill to research estuary acidification - “House Resolution 988, which was co-sponsored by a bipartisan group including fellow Indian River Lagoon-area U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, a Republican from Palm City, directs the Ocean Studies Board of National Academies to conduct a two-year study examining the science of ocean acidification and its impact on estuaries. The goal of the “National Estuaries and Acidification Research Act of 2019” is to create better understanding of coastal acidification to better manage and mitigate its effects on the nation’s estuaries and other natural treasures. The Indian River Lagoon system, running 156 miles from Volusia County through St. Lucie County, is one of the longest and most biodiverse estuaries in North America. But it’s also one of the most-landlocked salt-water systems; it flushes very slowly, meaning there’s not a big flow of fresh seawater coming through; and it’s environmentally sick. Besides Mast, cosponsors of HR 988 include Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg; Republican U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz of St. Augustine Beach, wbho also represents a portion of the Indian River Lagoon; and several Democrats and Republicans from other coastal states and Puerto Rico, notably U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, a Democrat from Oregon. Posey, Mast, and Bonamici are co-chairs of the Congressional Estuary Caucus...There is no clear companion measure in the U.S. Senate…” Scott Powers reports for Florida Politics.

Read Why you want oysters and a salt marsh between you and a hurricane - “As the Gulf coast and Eastern seaboard ready for the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, which began officially on June 1, more communities are trying to stabilize and fortify their coastlines against future storms, flooding, and sea level rise. The more than 120 living shorelines around the country are showing that a combination of oyster reefs, oyster shells, rocks, marsh plants, and other natural materials can be an effective alternative to seawalls. They’re also far less expensive. While environmental groups like the Nature Conservancy have promoted these soft solutions for years, a new federal law is also propelling living shorelines into the mainstream. The law, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, signed by President Trump in late October, requires the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to consider soft solutions such as living shorelines when planning to protect the coast against flooding. The Act is also aimed at improving water quality; marshes are known for their ability to filter and clean polluted water, including herbicides, pesticides, and heavy metals… A salt marsh projecting just 15 feet from the shore can absorb 50 percent of incoming wave energy. “Wetlands … absorb floodwaters by acting as a natural sponge,” explains Kate Brogan of NOAA’s Fisheries Department. Salt marshes prevented more than $625 million in direct flood damages during Superstorm Sandy in 2012, according to a 2017 study in Nature. Wetlands endure storms better than hardened shores; in one North Carolina study, 76 percent of bulkheads in the central Outer Banks were damaged during Hurricane Irene, compared with none of the coastal habitats studied. Yet rather than protecting these natural sponges, we’re destroying them. The US loses 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands each year, largely to development, drainage, erosion, and pollution. “That’s approximately seven football fields every hour,” according to NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation…” Anne N. Connor writes for Vox.

Read Remaining vigilant against EPA’s clean water rollbacks - “With the start of summer, America’s kids will be swimming, fishing and enjoying the great outdoors. An important federal rule ensures the safety of those local lakes that kids swim in and the nearby streams their drinking water comes from: the Clean Water Rule.  Signed in 2015, the Clean Water Rule clarified that the Clean Water Act protects small streams and wetlands, vital resources that had been vulnerable to pollution because of two confusing Supreme Court decisions. After an extensive public outreach effort by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — including a 200-day public comment period and more than 1 million comments — It was clear the rule had substantial public input and support. But like many other scientifically-based and popular programs, the Clean Water Rule has come under attack by the Trump administration. Since the beginning of his presidency, Trump has instructed his cabinet deputies to weaken, defund or otherwise gut numerous crucial environmental safeguards — all in service to industry polluters and special interests — and sadly, clean water protections were at the top of the list. In December, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler — a former coal lobbyist — proposed a radical reinterpretation of the Clean Water Act that severely limits protections for crucial streams and wetlands. Bipartisan stakeholders — including public health advocates, sporting groups, businesses, environmental justice activists and laborers — believe this “Dirty Water Rule” is one of the biggest attacks on the Clean Water Act in its history… Even worse, the administration has been frustratingly secretive in their proposed rule. Limiting the public comment period to a paltry 60 days, EPA held just one public hearing and did little to solicit opinions on a rule that would directly impact millions of Americans. Despite this attempt to exclude the public, opponents of the rule delivered more than half a million comments to the EPA. The Trump administration can try to hide preference for industrial polluters over families, but the American people were watching and made their voices heard…” Bob Wendelgass writes Opinion for The Hill.

Read After a biblical spring, this is the week that could break the Corn Belt- “Corn Belt farmers are used to being at the mercy of the weather. But they are not used to the weather being quite this merciless. Through all of April and all of May, wave after wave of rain hit the nation right in the breadbasket, with April capping the wettest 12 months on record for the continental United States. The past 60 days, in particular, have coincided with planting season in much of the country. States across the Corn Belt led the way, nearing or breaking previous precipitation records. Midwest cities from St. Louis to Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., have reported unprecedented rainfall. Data for May will be released later this week and can be expected to set more records. Farmers cannot plant in that muck. It fouls their equipment and strangles their seeds. It is not enough for the rain to stop. The soil has to dry for as much as a week before they can plant again. According to the latest forecasts from the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, that does not look likely…” Andrew Van Dam, Laris Karklis and Tim Meko report for the Washington Post.


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June 10. 6:00pm - June Earth Ethics Environmental Education Series- (Pensacola)- Join us at Ever'man Educational Center located at 327 W Garden Street. This month we welcome Mr. Vernon Compton. Mr. Compton works for The Longleaf Alliance as Director of the Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership.  The Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership is a voluntary public/private landowner partnership formed in 1996 that now sustains over 1.3 million acres of diverse habitat in northwest Florida and south Alabama.  The partnership allows the partners to combine their expertise and resources to more effectively manage their individual properties and to meet the challenges of restoring and sustaining the larger longleaf ecosystem.  Vernon has a Bachelor of Science in Forest Management from LSU and prior to joining The Longleaf Alliance in 2010 worked for the Florida Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Florida Forest Service at Blackwater River State Forest.  Mr. Compton will discuss "The Importance of Trees." Check out the Eventbrite page here, and Facebook event here. For more information, email earthethicsaction@gmail.com

June 10-14, June 24-28- Camp Kids in the Woods at the Austin Cary Forest - (Gainesville) - Is your 6th-9th grade child looking for fun adventure this summer?  Consider Camp Kids in the Woods! Campers will conduct various field explorations led by local scientists from forestry, wildlife, and water resources. Highlights include: fishing, handling wildlife, exploring local ecosystems, a trip to a local spring, camping out one night at the Austin Cary Forest, building wildlife nesting boxes, and participating in games and scavenger hunts. After a week of fun in the forest, campers gain a better understanding and deeper appreciation of their natural world and what is required to be a good steward of the environment. Camp Kids in the Woods summer program is a collaborative effort between the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the USDA Forest Service. Session 1: June 10-14, 2019; Session 2: June 24-28, 2019. For more information and to register visit: www.campkidsinthewoods.org , or contact the Camp Director, Molly Disabb at kidsinthewoods@ifas.ufl.edu

June 12, 6:00pm - Know your GREEN - (Orange Park) - The St. Johns Riverkeeper is already getting several reports of algal blooms across the Lower Basin of the St. Johns River from Palatka to Jacksonville. Read WJCT’s recent news story covering the issue. Now’s the time to take action and help us raise awareness to get the GREEN out! Join St. Johns Riverkeeper staff for this evening presentation to learn what causes these blue-green algal blooms and why they’re harmful for you and our River. We’ll also teach you ways to help us reduce algal blooms by living a more River Friendly lifestyle. You’ll also learn: What happened on nutrient pollution bills in the 2019 Legislative Session, How to report algal blooms when you see them, and Upcoming algal bloom outreach events, summer volunteer opportunities, and more! Light snacks and drinks provided. RSVP here. Location: Orange Park Town Hall, 2042 Park Ave, Orange Park, FL 32073.

June 13, 6:00pm - Know your GREEN - (Palatka) - The St. Johns Riverkeeper is already getting several reports of algal blooms across the Lower Basin of the St. Johns River from Palatka to Jacksonville. Read WJCT’s recent news story covering the issue. Now’s the time to take action and help us raise awareness to get the GREEN out! Join St. Johns Riverkeeper staff for this evening presentation to learn what causes these blue-green algal blooms and why they’re harmful for you and our River. We’ll also teach you ways to help us reduce algal blooms by living a more River Friendly lifestyle. You’ll also learn: What happened on nutrient pollution bills in the 2019 Legislative Session, How to report algal blooms when you see them, and Upcoming algal bloom outreach events, summer volunteer opportunities, and more! Light snacks and drinks provided. RSVP here. Location: St. Johns River Center, 102 N 1st St, Palatka, FL 32177.

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.

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