Read 2019 Legislative Session Preview: Focus on Central Florida, Space Coast - “From the aquifers of the Wekiva forests to the Kissimmee River basin to the Indian River Lagoon, no issue is uniting more Central Florida and Space Coast lawmakers this year than a shared urgency to improve and protect the quality of area waters. “You’re seeing a more heightened awareness over environmental issues, and rightfully so because we’ve had a lot of environmental issues in our state. And it’s no longer a Republican or Democratic issue,” said state Rep. Rene Plasencia, a Republican from Orlando. “It is the priority for just about every Republican.” “The number one issue in Brevard County is saving the Indian River Lagoon, by far,” said Broward County Republican state Rep. Randy Fine, echoing his colleagues from Volusia County. “Politicians have talked about it for years but they never get anything done. I’m going to do everything I can to get something done.” Throughout the region, lawmakers have two or three major bills in the works as well as a handful of more specific and local proposals, primarily addressing septic runoff and other pollutants entering the waters. Fine is proposing a bill to provide $50 million in matching money for sewage upgrades and penalties for municipal overflows. State Sens. David Simmons of Altamonte Springs and Debbie Mayfield of Vero Beach, both Republicans, are working on a comprehensive waters bill that would expand the Basin Management Action Plan concept. It would establish new standards and goals for wastewater treatment and septic tanks. Orlando Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart is pushing her anti-fracking bill, Senate Bill 146, along with Democratic state Sen. Victor Torres of Orlando and others, in addition to a bill restricting certain sunscreens. State Rep. Geraldine Thompson, also of Orlando, also has a bill regulating home fertilizer use, which seeks to limit runoff…” Scott Powers reports for Florida Politics.
Read DeSantis could come up short on environment money - “Gov. Ron DeSantis’ request for $625 million next year for environmental projects, including Everglades restoration, may be “pushing” the limits of a budget expected to be taxed because of the response to Hurricane Michael. Senate President Bill Galvano said Tuesday he supports environmental efforts that include combating a potential return of red tide and helping communities shift from septic tanks to sewers. However, the Bradenton Republican said the governor’s “big numbers” proposed for the 2019-2020 fiscal year will require lawmakers to determine what is “realistic and what is the most effective and efficient means of pursuing” some of the ideas. “It’s pushing it a bit giving the challenges we have budget-wise with Hurricane Michael and the impact of Hurricane Michael and what we’ve spent there already,” Galvano told reporters. Florida has spent at least $1.13 billion responding to the storm that hit the Panhandle in October. Galvano said Tuesday the number could grow by at least $750 million. Galvano also noted that a lot has been done in recent years to address toxic algae blooms on both coasts and to store and treat water as it moves in South Florida. “These are important issues, but a lot has been done already, and it’s just a question of having it move up in the queue,” Galvano said. “It’s not an issue of, these are issues that we are starting out with this session. We’ve been working on these for quite a while...” From GateHouse Media’s Daily Commercial.
Read Senate panel postpones vote on fracking ban bill - “After passionate testimony both for and against the bill, the Senate Agriculture Committee postponed a proposal to ban fracking in the state. The opponents who packed the committee room Monday scorned the bill, citing an “enormous loophole” in excluding matrix acidizing from the ban. Matrix acidization is an oil extraction method performed by pumping acidic fluids into a well at a low pressure. Operators use acid to dissolve minerals and bypass formation damage around the well. The House version of the bill also does not include matrix acidizing, and an amendment to add the language didn’t pass. Because Florida is largely a porous plateau of limestone, matrix acidizing could be the most likely fracking technique to be used in the state. Michelle Allen of Food & Water Watch called the loophole a "failure by leadership." "It seems legislators have been duped by the oil industry’s claim that matrix acidizing is just a simple, routine clean up technique," Allen said. "Matrix acidizing is not used to clean the oil pipes ... matrix acidizing uses toxic acids powerful enough to dissolve rocks deep underground in order to create pathways to oil deposits.”...The first time a similar bill in the Senate was heard — Sen. Bill Montford’s SB 314 — environmentalists cheered. It had more inclusive language than the House version of the bill, and included matrix acidizing as a form of fracking…” Samantha J. Gross reports for the Tampa Bay Times.
Read Florida Senate considering adding Everglades protections to controversial anti-fracking bill - “Increased protections for the Everglades could be added to a controversial measure that would ban the oil- and gas-drilling technique known as fracking. After about 90 minutes of public comment, the Senate Agriculture Committee delayed a vote until at least next week on the latest Senate anti-fracking proposal (SPB 7064). The delay will give time to consider changes based on testimony Monday, committee Chairman Sen. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, said. Environmentalists raised concerns about part of the bill, saying it would leave open the possibility of a drilling technique that uses many of the same chemicals as fracking. Albritton made clear after the meeting that, while he’s “open to discussions about changes” to the bill, the main issues raised by opponents wouldn’t be part of the revisions. “I did hear a couple of times, I wrote it down, it was in my notes, they’re concerned about the safety of drilling for oil in the Everglades,” Albritton said. “So, I’m open to suggestions on how we could make that process safer for that natural environment.” Albritton declined to expand on his comment, which came after the 1st District Court of Appeal last month ruled that a Broward County landowner should receive a permit for exploratory drilling on about five acres of land in the Everglades. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration, Broward County and the city of Miramar are asking for a rehearing in the appeals court…” Jim Turner for the News Service of Florida.
Read Central Florida 100: Attack the Tanks - “Nine years ago, my Springs Protection Act passed the legislature. One of the many provisions was a septic tank inspection program. After I left the Senate, it was brutally criticized as unnecessary and was rescinded. Today, it is widely accepted that aging and defective tanks are a major cause of water pollution creating the red tide/green algae economic and environmental calamity affecting our state. Although it is comforting to be vindicated, it is more important to take immediate steps to correct the problem. This session, the legislature must implement an inspection program and prohibit new septic tanks in developments under five acres. Otherwise, disastrous and expensive consequences are looming. Lee Constantine writes for the Orlando Sentinel.
Read Florida, Georgia square off again in Water War - “Florida says the case is the “last, best hope” to save the Apalachicola River region from destruction. Georgia says Florida’s arguments threaten to cause hundreds of millions of dollars in “real harm” to the Peach State. Now, a federal appellate judge based in New Mexico will have to sort out the long-running battle between Florida and Georgia over water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system, which starts in Georgia and flows south into the Florida Panhandle. Both sides filed briefs last week as they attempt to sway Senior U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Paul J. Kelly Jr. in the debate about whether limits should be placed on Georgia’s water usage in the river system. Kelly was named as a special master in the case after a divided U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned a 2017 recommendation by another special master, Ralph Lancaster, who said Florida had not proven its case “by clear and convincing evidence” that imposing a cap on Georgia’s water use would benefit the Apalachicola River region. Writing for a 5-4 majority, Justice Stephen Breyer said Lancaster had “applied too strict a standard” in rejecting Florida’s claim. The Supreme Court decision, however, did not resolve the water war between the neighboring states, kicking it back for additional arguments. In the brief filed last week, Florida’s attorneys said Kelly, who serves on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, should recommend that the Supreme Court issue a “decree equitably apportioning the waters” of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin. Florida contends, in part, that water usage by farmers in Southwest Georgia has reduced water flows in the river system, causing damage that includes major problems in the oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay…” The News Service of Florida.
Read Senate Panel approves 5-year delay on plastic straw bans - “A proposal from Sen. Travis Hutson to pre-empt local government from banning plastic straws (SB 588) was approved Monday by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee. Hutson, a St. Augustine Republican, sits on that committee. During the hearing, he explained that he was amending his bill to set up a study by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on the effects of single-use plastic straws. Local governments would be barred from passing a single-use plastic straw ban before July 1, 2024, during which time the DEP study would be conducted. A companion bill (HB 603) has also been filed in the House. Hutson said he was motivated, in part, to protect businesses from government intervention…” Ryan Nicol reports for Florida Politics.
Read Ban some sunscreens? Controversial ingredients not yet on Southwest Florida’s rule-making radar - “Some environmental advocates would like to add another item to Southwest Florida’s things-to-worry-about list: sunscreen. Actually, they’re specifically targeting octinoxate and oxybenzone, two common ingredients in many sun-blocking products. They’ve been blamed for harming the Keys’ cherished coral reef, the only one in the continental United States, and may also accumulate in plankton, the tiny organisms that are critical to the aquatic food web. That’s why even though Southwest Florida doesn’t have a barrier reef system, the substances don’t belong in its waters, said Mill McCleary, executive program director of the nonprofit Reef Relief. “One of the things we found in some of the research is these toxins could be getting into plankton,” McCleary said. “In intense concentrations, especially where there’s beaches, that means there’s the possibility for bioaccumulation with lots of different marine animals.” Earlier this month, Key West banned any products containing the two ingredients, after Hawaii did last summer. So far, neither Lee County nor any of its municipalities have taken similar action…” Amy Bennett Williams reports for the News-Press.
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events:
March 7 - 6:00PM-8:00PM - Youth Climate Coalition Workshop - (Pensacola) - 350 Pensacola is engaging with local youth to take climate action in Pensacola. Come learn about basic climate science, the most effective actions for reducing your carbon footprint, and how to take action in 2019. Our youth organizer--Jett Zhang--is leading the efforts, bringing together the generation that has the most at stake in the climate crisis. More information: firstname.lastname@example.org; find 350 Pensacola on Facebook. 1040 N Guillemard St, Pensacola, Florida 32501 .
March 11 - 6:00 PM-7:30 PM - ‘Environmental Justice: What, Why, You’ discussion - (Pensacola) - Join Earth Ethics, Inc. in welcoming Wilma Subra, environmental scientist and advocate, guest speaker for Earth Ethics Environmental Education Series for March. Ms. Subra will discuss Environmental Justice issues in our community and across the state and nation. Subra served for seven years as vice-chair of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, for six years on the EPA's National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and for five years on the National Advisory Committee of the US Representative to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. She appeared in the 2010 documentary Gasland. The event is being held at Ever’ man Educational Center, 327 W Garden Street, Pensacola, FL. RSVP on Facebook here, or get your free event ticket from EventBrite here. Light refreshments will be served.
March 13 - 10:00 AM-4:00 PM - 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 13 - 7:30AM-6:00PM - Ride the Bus for Clean Water! - (Jacksonville-Tallahassee) - St. Johns Riverkeeper and fellow river advocates are joining partners on March 13th for Reclaiming Florida’s Future for All Advocacy Day at the Statehouse in Tallahassee. During our bus ride from Jacksonville, St. Johns Riverkeeper staff will provide training and talking points to help bus riders become effective advocates. At the Capitol, you will have the opportunity to meet your state legislators and ask them to protect all of St. Johns River’s waterways, including its springs and tributaries. Bring family and friends with you to support water conservation efforts. 2019 is off to a clean start for our state’s waters, but we need to ensure the St. Johns River is not forgotten! Bus Meeting Location: Lowe’s, 5155 Lenox Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32205. For more information and to register (FREE), visit the website here. Register by Friday, March 8, 2019. Registration is FREE but seating is limited.
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/.
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.
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