FCC News Brief - May 22, 2019

Quote of the Day: "The enemy isn’t humanity; it’s hopelessness." - Bloomberg Editorial Board.

Read Governor must veto dangerous growth-mismanagement bill- “...You’d think the people we elect would empower us. But when we most needed to strengthen laws to protect our environment and sustain our growth, the Florida legislature limited citizens’ legal options to protect ourselves. In the final days of the 2019 legislative session, the legislature quietly passed a bill that would be the death knell for growth management in Florida. HB 7103 opens the door to unplanned, unchecked growth, ties citizens’ hands to the wills of reckless developers, and inevitably leads to increases in pollution fueling harmful algal blooms in our waters. One of HB 7103’s most dangerous provisions includes giving developers much more influence over comprehensive plans created by new municipalities. It also limits a citizen’s right to challenge comprehensive plans. Citizens need the ability to ensure developers are held accountable for higher density development, impact fees for public services, and concurrency concerns such as wastewater treatment capacity, class sizes, and traffic. As proposed, HB 7103 makes any citizen who challenges a developer and loses liable for the developer’s attorney’s fees. That provision will make it next to impossible for average citizens to hold developers accountable to the public interest...Please veto HB 7103, which will limit our freedom and deprive us of one of the best ways that we can make sure future growth doesn’t add to our pollution problems…” Martha Collins writes Opinion for the Orlando Sentinel.

Read CDC to study how inhaled algae toxins affect Lake Okeechobee fishing guides- “Federal scientists plan a first-ever study of Lake Okeechobee fishing guides to help understand the long-term health effects of the lake’s cyanobacteria blooms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention intends to recruit 50 volunteers for the research, people “likely to be highly exposed to the blooms on Lake Okeechobee … fishing guides (and) people who do charter fishing expeditions,” said Lorraine Backer, senior scientist and environmental epidemiologist at the National Center for Environmental Health, in an exclusive interview with The News-Press. Backer was one of the officials at Rep. Francis Rooney’s closed-door roundtable on harmful algal blooms earlier this month. With some studies pointing to dire health consequences following exposure to the blooms including liver cancer and neurodegenerative diseases like ALS and Parkinson's, concerns loom, but much research remains to be done, Backer said...News of the research came as a surprise to Mary Ann Martin, whose popular Clewiston Marina is a hub for the people the CDC’s study targets, but she welcomes it. Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani does as well. “I recently came across a PowerPoint presentation from a leading researcher on inhalation toxicity, from the Geisel School of Medicine at New Hampshire's Dartmouth." Delivered last month, the Ivy League study is sobering, Cassani said. “It’s scary stuff.” Which is why he wants to see more such research. “Apparently nasal inhalation is the quickest form into your bloodstream … It’s just a mind-boggling issue,” he said. “I think it’s appropriate because there are established cancer clusters around Lake Okeechobee … but the puzzle is coming together…” Amy Bennett Williams reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.

Read New roads keep coming despite backlog of road repairs- “It’s Infrastructure Week in America again. That time of the year when politicians wax poetic about America’s need to invest in infrastructure. They’ll tell us we need Broadband For Everybody. And we must repair our aging water pipes before we all become Flint. And invest in next-gen airports, and bullet trains, and smart power grids and all of the other things America requires to compete in the 21st century economy. But they’ll be kidding. When American politicians talk about infrastructure they mostly have new roads in mind. What government spends on all of that other infrastructure-related stuff pales in comparison to the auto-American imperative to lay down hot asphalt: To Whip Congestion Now... Apropos of nothing at all, the Natural Resources Defense Council recently released a study indicating that Florida has an unsafe drinking water problem. “The problem is two-fold: there’s no cop on the beat enforcing our drinking water laws, and we’re living on borrowed time with our ancient, deteriorating water infrastructure,” says Erik Olson, NRDC’s health program director. But that’s why God gave us water in plastic bottles. America has a $2 trillion road habit to support, and we’re not even halfway there to paying for it...Florida has historically done a better job of road maintenance than many states. But now that Gov. Ron DeSantis has given in to pressure from the Chamber of Commerce, road builders and other special interests and authorized a massive expansion of the state’s turnpike system, we might as well start calling this The Pothole State. “Florida taxpayers will pay over $1 billion for these needless roads over the next decade,” warns the Florida Sierra Club. “Money that could be spent on relieving our actual highway congestion issues will now instead be funneled into 320 miles of toll roads that will create massive sprawl and traffic.” Unfortunately, DeSantis could not allow Infrastructure Week slip by without signing the most fiscally irresponsible and environmentally destructive highway expansion bill to come out of the Legislature in decades. DeSantis fancies himself a Teddy Roosevelt-style Republican who cares deeply about Florida’s environment. But in signing the bill to open up hundreds of thousands of acres of sensitive rural lands to sprawl development, he well and truly put the lie to that carefully cultivated image…” Ron Cunningham writes Opinion from the Gainesville Sun.

Read Mangrove-cutting developer on Hutchinson Island expected to pay $32,000 in mitigation- “The developer of an oceanfront subdivision is expected to pay about $32,000 to mitigate the loss of illegally cut mangroves. In a proposed consent order with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Lloyd S. Moody of Houston, owner of the proposed Sunset Beach development on Hutchinson Island, north of the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant, also will agree to pay: $250 to adjust his DEP permit to allow removing mangroves, $500 for the DEP's investigation into the illegal cutting. The DEP sent the proposed order April 23, and Moody's deadline to sign was Monday. "There were delays in the respondent signing the consent order," DEP spokeswoman Jill Margolius said in an email Wednesday, "however, the department expects to have it signed this week." After signing, Moody has 30 days to buy 0.2 mangrove wetland credits from the Bear Point Mitigation Bank, along the Indian River Lagoon on Hutchinson Island north of Sunset Bay. Based on the cost of mitigation credits there as of March 27, that would cost $32,000. Mangroves are protected by state law because of their benefit to the environment: stabilizing coastlines, protecting water quality, reducing coastal flooding and providing habitat and nesting areas for fish and wildlife, according to DEP. Mangroves also contribute $7.7 billion annually to Florida's economy and create 109,000 jobs in the state…” Tyler Treadway reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read Hillsborough County should stop subsidizing developers- “For too long, Hillsborough County has charged real estate developers absurdly low fees. The fees often don’t cover basic costs, including the time county employees spend reviewing development proposals. Thankfully, the commission appears ready to address this unneeded subsidy. The sooner the better. Taxpayers in a county with a growing list of needs shouldn’t pick up part of the tab for these for-profit projects. Take as an example a builder who wants to develop 100 acres in a way that is not outlined in the county’s land use plan. Hillsborough County charges $1,000 to have certified county planners analyze the project and process the application. In Pasco, developers pay $7,000, according to a consultant’s report. In Broward, it’s $17,500. In Manatee, it’s $20,000. Hillsborough last updated that fee in 1987, the year President Ronald Reagan urged the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” Andy Warhol died that year; so did Fred Astaire. The nation’s top selling car, the Ford Escort, sold for $6,895. That’s way too long to wait...So-called free-market conservatives on the county commission have often fought proposed increases to the development fees, saying developers would have to absorb the costs or pass them onto home buyers. That’s exactly what should happen. Current homeowners and other Hillsborough taxpayers shouldn’t shoulder the cost of overseeing new construction…” From the Tampa Bay Times Editorials.

Read Using fertilizer and reuse water together wastes money and pollutes Indian River Lagoon- “Everyone agrees: Using reuse water is a great thing. Everyone also agrees: Using it incorrectly can harm natural water bodies, including the Indian River Lagoon. So Florida has designated May 19-25 as Water Reuse Week to educate the public. Perhaps the most important things people need to know about using reuse water is: Don't use fertilizer at the same time. Reuse water contains enough nitrogen and phosphorus to make your grass green, so all the nutrients in fertilizer will just wash off into waterways, wasting money and possibly causing toxic algae blooms. It's significantly cheaper than using potable water. It conserves drinking water reserves in our depleting aquifers. It's the most environmentally friendly way of disposing of wastewater..."Reclaimed water is absolutely essential because we're draining our aquifers, our sources of drinking water," said Edie Widder, founder and lead scientist at the Ocean Research & Conservation Association in Fort Pierce. Every gallon of reuse water used for irrigation, for example, is a gallon of potable water that's available for drinking. That's particularly important in South Florida, where a booming population is straining utilities' ability to provide enough drinking water…” Tyler Treadway reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers

Read One million species will disappear-if we let them - “When the findings of a landmark UN report on biodiversity came out last week, the headlines ran the gamut from depressing to apocalyptic. One million species face extinction, readers were told. Almost a third of the world’s reef-forming coral species, more than a third of its marine mammals, and 40 percent of its amphibian species could die out. And that’s just the number of species. Some 70 percent of all coral reefs could be affected by mass bleaching induced by climate change — in a scenario that isn’t even the worst case. These grim findings were all important and worthy of attention, of course. But amid the gloom, a major point of the report went largely unnoticed: It doesn’t have to be this way. Take agriculture, for example. Current farming practices have caused land degradation and species decline, which in turn threaten the crops themselves. Problems with bees and other pollinators alone put roughly $600 billion in global crop output at risk, the report notes… Taking action can make a difference, and already has. Lost amid the headlines, the report had some good news: Nearly 8 percent of the world’s ocean is now protected from overfishing and exploitation, an eleven-fold increase since 2000. Conservation efforts in 109 countries lowered the extinction risk for birds and mammals by 30 percent. More than 100 species of bird have been saved thanks to careful human intervention in island ecosystems. The successes are too few, and easy to overlook, but they point to what can be done. The challenges are immense, which makes giving in to despair all the more tempting — and unacceptable. The science shows that a better world is possible. And a new generation of environmental activists serves as an example for their elders. The enemy isn’t humanity; it’s hopelessness.” From the Bloomberg Editorial Board.

Read EPA plans to get thousands of pollution deaths off the books by changing its math - “The Environmental Protection Agency plans to change the way it calculates the health risks of air pollution, a shift that would make it easier to roll back a key climate change rule because it would result in far fewer predicted deaths from pollution, according to five people with knowledge of the agency’s plans. The E.P.A. had originally forecast that eliminating the Obama-era rule, the Clean Power Plan, and replacing it with a new measure would have resulted in an additional 1,400 premature deaths per year. The new analytical model would significantly reduce that number and would most likely be used by the Trump administration to defend further rollbacks of air pollution rules if it is formally adopted. The proposed shift is the latest example of the Trump administration downgrading the estimates of environmental harm from pollution in regulations. In this case, the proposed methodology would assume there is little or no health benefit to making the air any cleaner than what the law requires. Many experts said that approach was not scientifically sound and that, in the real world, there are no safe levels of the fine particulate pollution associated with the burning of fossil fuels. Fine particulate matter — the tiny, deadly particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream — is linked to heart attacks, strokes and respiratory disease…” Lisa Friedman reports for the New York Times.

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Upcoming Environmental Events:

May 29, 6:30pm-8:30pm - Film Screening & Environmental Panel: The Human Element - (Jacksonville) - Hurricane season officially starts June 1 and we need to activate our community and our leaders. Join St. Johns Riverkeeper, Groundwork Jacksonville, and local experts for a special screening of The Human Element. A new documentary from the producers of RACING EXTINCTION, THE COVE and CHASING ICE, you’ll travel with environmental photographer James Balog as he captures the lives of everyday Americans on the front lines of climate change. Immediately following the film, environmental and community experts will be on hand to discuss the impact of rising waters in our community and how you can help create a more resilient Jacksonville. Sun-Ray Cinema, 1028 Park Street, Jacksonville FL 32204. Visit the St. Johns Riverkeeper’s site here to get your tickets.

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 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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