FCC News Brief - March 18, 2019

Read Florida lawmakers begin cracking down on polluters - “Whether it’s a sewage spill in the Suwannee, red tide in Southwest Florida, blue-green algae pouring into estuaries from Lake Okeechobee, algae-clogged freshwater springs or brown tide in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida’s waterways have been under assault. There has been a lot of big talk from elected leaders about taking action, and big questions about how far Florida’s GOP-controlled Legislature is willing to go. Last week provided an early glimpse of where the Legislature is headed when it comes to regulating the pollution sources that contribute to algae blooms and other water quality problems. Substantial — and potentially costly — new regulations on polluters are on the table, something that wasn’t clear in the run-up to the 60-day session as Republican legislative leaders and new GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis talked about increasing funding for environmental remediation efforts, but largely avoided diving into the details of regulatory changes they might support. Yet even as lawmakers began advancing tough new regulations last week on a bipartisan basis, the bills only address one of many pollution sources that contribute to algae problems. Environmental advocates continue to question whether the effort will evolve into something broader, or remain piecemeal and of limited effectiveness…” Zac Anderson reports for the Herald Tribune.

Read No go on offshore drilling - “How desperate are we for oil that we again ignore the potential perils of offshore drilling and again have to fight off the “drill baby drillers” who want to tap energy resources off the Florida coast? After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill spewed ugly tar balls on Florida shores and polluted massive amounts of the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, we thought offshore drilling was an idea best left in the past. We should have known better. Once again, Florida politicians are scrambling to ensure additional drilling does not occur off our lovely Florida shores. This development comes as a fracking bill under consideration in the Florida Legislature would alter the equation when it comes to fracking. Environmentalists are not in favor of the Senate bill (SPB 7064), arguing it provides a big loophole — it allows fracking when it involves “matrix acidizing,” which utilizes high water pressure and many of the chemicals used in traditional fracking, The News Service of Florida reported...It’s for those same reasons that we implore the Interior Department to exclude the Eastern Gulf of Mexico from offshore drilling, as outlined in Sen. Marco Rubio’s Florida Shores Protection and Fairness Act (S. 13), which would extend the drilling moratorium to 2027. It’s a measure all members of Florida’s Washington delegation should stand behind — not for partisan reasons, but because it’s the right thing to do to help ensure that 20 years from now we can look back at 2019 and remember we did something right by our children and grandchildren. If the United States were in need of new sources of fuel, then a reasonable argument could be made that Gulf drilling needs to be explored. But we are not at that point — just the opposite actually — and so this should be an easy decision for all Florida lawmakers: Keep the drilling away from Florida shores and move with extreme caution when it comes to fracking…” From the News Herald Editorial Board.

Read Clean Water Act must stay strong for our health - “...In 1972 when the Clean Water Act was passed, it made great advances in cleaning up our drinking water and waterways. But it only addressed navigable water. We now know that animal and human waste, industrial pollution, and waterborne diseases are found in smaller bodies of water not covered by the Clean Water Act. In our state, we've been hit hard by outbreaks of toxic red algae all along Florida’s coasts causing respiratory irritation. We have also seen an emerging class of chemicals, perflourinated chemicals (PFAS), found in local drinking water supplies. Exposure to these chemicals may be linked to a number of health impacts, including cancer, high cholesterol, thyroid issues, and developmental impacts. From Orlando to Ocala, our cities are not well-equipped to handle this emerging threat to clean drinking water. In February, the Trump Administration proposed a federal rule that would roll back protections to to the Clean Water Rule. We need strong federal policies to address public health related to contaminated water and to help guide local actions to address old and new chemical threats. Before the U.S. EPA April 15 public comment period ends, let the Administration and our local elected officials know — for our health, we need to keep our water clean…” Shirley Schantz writes Opinion for the Orlando Sentinel.

Read Activists say power plant pollution laws in jeopardy - “Environmentalists and public health advocates across the state are encouraging Floridians to write the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and oppose a new cost-benefits analysis assessing the effectiveness of mercury and air toxic pollution standards- also referred to with the acronym MASTS - for coal-and-oil-fired power plants...Glenn Compton of the environmental group Manasota-88, who already has notified the EPA of his objections, said fish contaminated with mercury should be of special concern to Floridians because of the abundance of freshwater and saltwater sources in which the toxic heavy metal can accumulate. Mercury “rains down into reservoirs, rivers, lakes and the ocean,” Randolph said. ”... You can imagine what that does to the Florida lifestyle.” However, the EPA — now headed by Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the coal industry and President Trump appointee — contends that rules imposed by the Obama administration need fresh scrutiny…” Dale White reports for the Herald-Tribune.

Read A welcome change on water quality - “Whether it’s the severe impact red tide has had on tourism, or a sudden realization that environmental issues are crucial for Florida, a fresh breeze seems to be blowing through Tallahassee. As Zac Anderson, the Herald-Tribune’s political editor, reported this week, environmental bills that would increase water-quality regulations are gaining momentum in the Legislature. One bill would impose fines on municipalities for sewage spills. Another would improve regulations on the spreading of biosolids, the human waste left over from municipal sewage treatment. Nutrients in sewage can fuel toxic red tide and other algal blooms. What’s interesting is that the bills are sponsored by Republicans and backed by Democrats and environmental groups...Given the governor’s support and the local impact, it’s no surprise that state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, is sponsoring the bill that would fine municipalities $1 for every gallon of sewage spilled into local waterways. That could generate a lot of revenue. In 2017, Hurricane Irma overwhelmed sewage systems across Florida and led to discharges in 39 counties, including Sarasota and Manatee. About 30 million gallons of sewage were dumped into the Indian River Lagoon alone, according to Florida Today. The revenue resulting from those fines, as Sierra Club lobbyist David Cullen has proposed, should be devoted to helping local governments improve their sewage-treatment infrastructure. The bill regulating biosolids — also known as sewage sludge — would tighten the permitting process that governs their use as fertilizer on farms and their disposal by burning or dumping in landfills. The water-quality legislation so far targets municipalities in this nutrient-pollution crackdown, rather than corporate suspects such as Big Agriculture and the phosphate industry. But it’s a start, and a welcome change…” From the Herald-Tribune Editorial Board.

Read Paddling on Perdido River? Group pushes for kayak trail to highlight ‘unique and rare gem - “More than 60 kayakers from around the country are making their way down the Perdido River this week from the Florida-Alabama line to the Gulf of Mexico.  Along the way, the group from Paddle Florida is highlighting work by various organizations and government agencies to protect the critical watershed for generations to come.  The Nature Conservancy, an environmental nonprofit, is working with Florida and Alabama to develop a paddling trail on the river. The organization plans to use about $1 million in restitution money from the massive 2010 BP oil spill to place shelters and launches every six to 10 miles along the river.  "Our rivers are the life blood of the Gulf of Mexico," said Darryl Boudreau, spokesman for The Nature Conservancy Florida and an organizer of the kayaking trip. While so much of the region's tourism-driven economy is focused on the Gulf and its beaches, people tend to overlook the natural beauty of the river systems in the northern part of the county, Boudreau said.  "There is so much uniqueness starting from the state line and going through all the different habitats to the Gulf. We live in such a unique and rare gem. You have as much beauty and opportunity on the north end with our watersheds as you do on the south end with the Gulf," he said…” Melissa Nelson Gabriel reports for the Pensacola News Journal.

Read Army Corps plans to halve discharges from Lake Okeechobee into St. Lucie River - “For the west coast, the Corps plans to continue discharging lake water into the Caloosahatchee River estuary at the same rate is has for the past three weeks. However, the Corps said it will cut in half the discharge rate heading into the St. Lucie River estuary in an effort to accommodate oyster spawning. Typically, oysters in the St. Lucie River spawn in March and April. Beginning Saturday, the Corps will reduce the flows to the St. Lucie River estuary down to an average seven-day pulse release of 250 cubic feet per second, or 161 million gallons per day, as measured at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam. Since Feb. 23, discharges have been flowing at an average rate of 500 cubic feet per second, or 323 million gallons per day. The Corps said it will maintain the current pulse release to the Caloosahatchee River estuary at a seven-day average rate of 1,800 cubic feet per second, or 1.16 billion gallons per day, from the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam…” Ed Killer reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read More evidence of nitrate cancer risk in drinking water - “The U.S. drinking water standard for nitrate was set decades ago at a level to prevent infant deaths. But recent research suggests that the standard, decided in 1991, is out of date. Scientists are accumulating evidence that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s nitrate limit may need to be lowered because it does not account for potential long-term health damage, including the risk of cancer, that harms people into their adult years. Even as farmers and lawmakers struggle to stanch the flow of the plant nutrient into waterbodies, studies in the United States and Denmark suggest that they ought to do more in order to protect public health. The research calls into question the current EPA nitrate standard of 10 parts per million, and indicates a higher risk of bladder, ovarian, and colorectal cancer from nitrate levels half the legal limit. The EPA, for its part, has initiated its own health assessment of nitrate, the results of which will inform any agency attempt to strengthen the drinking water standard. Though the studies are peer reviewed and comprehensive, using decades of data on nitrate exposure and cancer outcomes for thousands of people, researchers caution that more assessments will be needed before they can make definitive claims about the health risk at lower levels of nitrate in drinking water…” Brett Walton writes for Circle of Blue.


From Our Readers

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Job Openings:

Manatee Conservation Contractor - Defenders of Wildlife

Digital Marketing Specialist - Miami Waterkeeper

Development Coordinator - Conservation Florida

Sustainability Administrator - City of Fort Lauderdale

Marine Science Faculty Position- Florida Keys Community College

Communications Coordinator - Florida Sea Grant

Pinellas County Sustainability & Resiliency Coordinator

Education Specialist - Nature’s Academy

Gulf Research Program’s Science Policy Fellowship

Executive Director - Friends of Gumbo Limbo

Upcoming Environmental Events:

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/.

March 30 - 7:00 PM - Films for the Sea - (Pensacola) - Join Healthy Gulf for their Films for the Sea screenings related to the environment, surfing, and the health of our oceans. We’ll watch films that take us around the world to beautiful coastal places and the people who love them, from British Columbia and Hawaii to the Gulf of Mexico and Pensacola Beach. The work of local photographer and filmmaker Sean Mullins is included. Before and after the films there will be plenty of educational information on how citizens can take action to help to protect the Gulf of Mexico and local waterways. Beverages and food from Café Single Fin will be available. For much more information about Films for the sea please visit Healthy Gulf on Facebook or call 850-687-9968 or christian@healthygulf.org (Waterboyz, 380 N. Ninth Ave., Pensacola).

April 4 & 5 - International Conference on Climate, Nature, and Society - (Miami Gardens) - At the second International Conference on Climate, Nature, and Society hosted by St. Thomas University and The Nature Conservancy, a diverse group of leaders from multiple faiths and sustainability focused organizations will gather in South Florida to discuss our changing climate, implications and solutions. The conference will explore how participants and communities of faith can take action to address climate challenges. Together, we can implement solutions that are respectful and supportive of the nature that sustains us and must sustain future generations, and preserve the environment that renews our spirits. Registration and agenda.  Moot Court, School of Law, St. Thomas University, 16401 NW 37th Avenue, Miami Gardens, FL 33054    View Map - Directions. Thursday, April 4 from 9am-5pm and Friday, April 5 from 9am-12pm.

April 8 & 9 - Everglades Action Day - ( Tallahassee) - The Everglades Coalition is hosting an advocacy day at the Florida State Capitol (400 Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32301). !Join fellow advocates from all corners of the state and meet with legislators to discuss the importance of a healthy Everglades ecosystem for a clean water supply and for a strong economy. Your voice on Everglades Action Day ensures that the famed ecosystem remains a top priority for elected officials! New to advocacy? No problem. Training and materials will be provided. Register to save your spot, see you in Tallahassee! Follow this link to register: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/T83FL2D. The Everglades Coalition will sponsor group transportation to make it easy for all to get to Tallahassee (we have an east coast and a west coast bus). We reserved a block of hotel rooms at a discounted rate of $109 at the Wyndham Garden Tallahassee Capitol (hotel booking link forthcoming). We will also be offering a limited number of scholarships to cover lodging for students and other individuals. Please email info@evergladescoalition.org with any questions or concerns. 

April 8 - 6:00 PM - Earth Ethics Environmental Education Series - (Pensacola) - Join us on Monday, April 8th beginning at 6 p.m. at Ever’man Educational Center, 327 W. Garden   Street, Pensacola, FL 32502 for Earth Ethics April Environmental Education Series.  Earth Ethics in partnership with Earth Day Network is celebrating and supporting those who “protect our species”. This month we welcome Dorothy Kaufmann, Director at the Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida. Ms. Kaufmann’s Giving Wildlife A Second Chance presentation will discuss the organizations care of injured or orphaned wildlife including medical care, fostering, rehabilitate and wildlife release. Stay up to date on the event on Facebook here. Or if your not on social media, let us know you’ll be joining us by getting your free tickets at Eventbrite here.

April 12-13 - 10th Annual Florida Wildflower Symposium - (Gainesville) - The Florida Wildflower Foundation’s signature annual event, focusing exclusively on the state’s native wildflowers and their ecosystems. The purpose of the event is to immerse participants in an educational experience that exposes them to the reality of Florida’s environmental challenges while giving them the tools to affect change. The symposium will offer field trips to local natural areas, hands-on workshops, and educational presentations by experts on planting and growing native wildflowers, creating habitat for pollinators, and much more. Straughn UF/IFAS Extension Professional Development Center 2142 Shealy Dr, Gainesville, FL 32608. For more information and registration, visit the website here.

April 13 - 11:00AM-3:00PM - Earth Day Celebration - (Fort Walton Beach) - Join Earth Ethics, Inc. for an Earth Day Celebration at Liza Jackson Park, 338 Miracle Strip Parkway SW, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548. The theme for Earth Day 2019 is  "to protect our species”. We will have vendors that will support the theme, but others will include recycling, hybrid vehicles, solar energy, water education, plastic pollution, and more! This year Earth Day FWB is partnering with Drive Electric Earth Day website. Interested in being a vendor? Click here. Interested in being a sponsor? Click here. Stay up to date on the event’s activities at the Facebook event site here,   and website here.

April 13 - 9:30 AM-4:00 PM - Recognizing the Rights of Nature in Florida Law - (Apopka) - Speak Up Wekiva has organized a workshop featuring the Executive Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund to discuss a campaign to bring Rights of Nature to Florida’s charter counties. This particular meeting is for community organizers who have an understanding about the Rights of Nature movement and are ready to take action in Florida.  Space is limited-please email ChuckforFlorida@gmail.com to RSVP and ask for more information.

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) 

May 16-19 - 39th Annual Florida Native Plant Society Conference - (Crystal River)- Our theme this year "Transitions" is pertinent to the Nature Coast region of Florida in a number of ways - sea level rise, migrations of ecosystems due to climate change, and the transition zone between north and south Florida.  You will be delighted by mind-expanding experiences, tempted by sumptuous meals (including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free) and amazed by the networking and social opportunities. As always, we will offer an abundance of presentations and workshops. 9301 West Fort Island Trail, Crystal River, FL 34429 . Click here for attendee and vendor registration.

Do you know of an upcoming environmental event or meeting you would like to include in the FCC News Brief? Send us a quick e-mail and we will include it for you.

Petitions

Save the Heritage Trees at Martin Luther King Jr. Park - Winter Park

No Fracked Gas in Tampa Bay

Help Save Our Panthers

End collection & removal of tropical marine life from Phil Foster Park

Thinking of going electric? Nextcar Pledge

Another Gulf is Possible

Save the Serenova Tract in Pasco – Say NO to the Ridge Road Extension

Florida Solar Bill of Rights

Protect Florida’s Gulf Coast from Offshore Drilling

Protect Weeki Wachee Springs; Stop the 7 Diamonds Mine in Pasco County

Stop New Phosphate Strip Mining in Florida

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.

Please encourage your friends, family, and co-workers to join the FCC and subscribe to the Daily News Brief (both free). Also, check out our FCC Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @FLConservation

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About the FCC: The Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) is composed of over 80 conservation-minded organizations and over two thousand individuals devoted to protecting and conserving Florida’s land, fish and wildlife, and water resources.  

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