Danny Mcauliffe reports for Florida Politics – “On Friday night, budget chiefs Rep. Carlos Trujillo and Sen. Rob Bradley agreed to fund Florida Forever at $100.8 million for fiscal year 2018-2019 – a big jump from last year, when the Legislature did not appropriate anything to the trust. The provision will be included in the Legislature’s budget, which is expected to be completed by its Tuesday deadline… In negotiations, the House proposed about $36 million for programs funded by Florida Forever. The Senate offered $208 million ahead of Friday’s ‘bump’ deadline. Not a full day later, the House’s $100.8 million bump offer was accepted… The agreement marks a legislative success for Bradley, who in October filed a bill (SB 370) that provided for a $100 million yearly spend on Florida Forever… Bradley’s SB 204 sought up to $75 million for springs restoration projects… The budget conferences agreed to fund springs restoration at $50 million.” Read Budget leaders agree to more than $100M for Florida Forever
Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “The bills – HB 1149 and SB 1308 – encourage replenishing the fresh drinking water in the underground aquifer with treated sewage… The legislation notes that by injecting the effluent, the state could continue approving new water-use permits for developers as new residents continue flooding into the state… To inject it into the aquifer… would require cleaning the effluent to the point that it would meet federal drinking water standards… Those standards don’t require screening out antibiotics, antidepressants and other drugs that routinely wind up in the sewer system because they’re carried in human waste… Young (of Clean Water Network of Florida) joked that if the bills pass, the state could launch a new ad campaign to attract tourists: ‘Hey guys, did you leave home without your Viagra? Not a problem! We provide plenty in your drinking water in Florida!’… Cynthia Barnett,… an environmental fellow in residence at the University of Florida’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service, said the bills are based on a faulty assumption concerning how much water Florida needs for its future growth. The bills say that Florida will need 7.7 billion gallons of water per day by 2030… That, Barnett said, ‘would only be true if we live wastefully with water and irrigate as profligately as we have in the past, and all signs are pointing in the opposite direction. The most important things we can do going forward are to use less and pollute less – not plan for using more and more.’ During a January committee hearing on the Senate bill, Sierra Club lobbyist David Cullen warned legislators that if the bills pass it could harm the aquifer, ‘and once the aquifer is contaminated, it’s broken.’… So far both bills have passed all their committee stops and are awaiting a floor vote.” Read Bills to let treated sewage get pumped into aquifer close to approval by Legislature
The Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board writes – “Almost two years ago, a divided Orange County Commission voted 4-3 to breach the natural boundary between urban and rural zoning in the eastern part of the county, the Econlockhatchee River, and change Orange’s comprehensive plan… to make way for a pair of 2,000-home mega developments. Citizen advocates from the area east of the Econ, to their credit, wouldn’t let four commissioners have the last word. The activists challenged the decision before an administrative law judge, and scored a stunning victory in August 2017… But the fate of the judge’s ruling – and the future of east Orange County – now rest with Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet, who are scheduled to consider the ruling Wednesday. Will [they] side with the judge and the community in upholding Orange County’s vision for growth that protects both the environment and taxpayers? Or will they yield to lobbying pressure from deep-pocketed developers and bulldoze community opposition by rejecting the ruling? The area east of the Econ is precious not only to its residents, but also to the rest of Central Florida. Much of it is unspoiled wildlife habitat and a recharge area for the region’s groundwater supply. Surrendering the area to urban development would deplete those environmental assets while introducing more pollution and congestion. It would also stretch public services – including roads, schools, public safety, water and sewer – raising costs for Orange County taxpayers… Scott, an undeclared candidate for U.S. Senate; Putnam, running for governor; and Patronis, an appointee seeking election to his first full term as CFO,… would be wise to heed the voices of the people. Voters will be watching.” Read It’s up to Florida’s leaders to heed the will of the people and protect the future of east Orange County
Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch writes for the TC Palm – “I have introduced a proposed change to the Florida Constitution that would prohibit oil drilling in Florida’s territorial waters, which are the waters under our state’s jurisdiction… Formally referred to as Proposal 91, my proposed change would amend the constitution’s Section 7 of Article X to prohibit drilling for exploration and extraction of oil and natural gas in specified coastal waters. This proposal is pending approval before the Constitution Revision Commission, which only meets every 20 years to examine the Florida Constitution and propose changes for voter consideration on the ballot… If Proposal 91 makes it to the ballot, Floridians will have the opportunity to vote on a proposal making Florida the only state in the nation to have such a provision in its constitution. Florida is a leader on the national stage and passage of this proposal would sound a loud environmental message… I invite you to join me in this effort and be part of a legacy that has the potential to benefit our state for decades to come. To voice your support for CRC Proposal 91, visit flcrc.gov to contact commissioners and find out how you can participate in upcoming public hearings we are holding across the state.” Read Let’s work together to ban oil drilling off Florida’s coast
Patrick Riley reports for the Naples Daily News – “[A] group of wildlife biologists… [found] an 11-foot Burmese python that had devoured a white-tailed deer fawn weighing more than the snake. The 2015 finding, which has since been peer-reviewed and is set to be published in the Herpetological Review this month, is believed to be the largest python-to-prey ratio documented to date, with the snake weighing 31.5 pounds and the deer 35 pounds, said Ian Bartoszek, wildlife biologist and science coordinator for the [Conservancy of Southwest Florida.]… ‘White-tailed deer are the primary prey for our state and federally protected Florida panther,’ [Bartoszek] said. ‘That’s panther food.’… ‘[This] showed my team and myself what we were actually dealing with out there, what this python is capable of,’ [Bartoszek] said… ‘We know that they’ll take adult deer now and then… If they’re tapping into young deer, then that just makes me a little bit worried that there will be additional impacts that we haven’t even considered yet.’… In the future, removal techniques could involve developing pheromones that could help attract the snakes in the wild, Bartoszek said. ‘I think that’s a promising field, and others are working on it in labs right now. We’re assisting them,’ he said. ‘We need to use this animal’s biologist against them.’” Read 31-pound Burmese python devours 35-pound deer at Collier-Seminole State Park
Susan Salisbury reports for the Palm Beach Post – “Despite opposition from residents, the Sierra Club and the Florida Public Counsel, the Florida Public Service Commission… determined there is a need for Florida Power & Light Co. to replace its power plant… The $888 million, 1,163 megawatt natural gas-fired plant is projected to begin service in 2022… Commissioners agreed that retiring FPL’s existing Lauderdale plant this year, and reusing its infrastructure for the new facility is the most cost effective way to meet customers’ increasing power needs… In January Dania Beach FPL customers traveled to Tallahassee to tell regulators they did not want a new plant in their city. Approximately 8,000 residents signed petitions and sent in comments. Most said they preferred a cleaner form of energy, such as solar power. Sierra Club officials had asserted that FPL had not proved that building the unit is the most cost-effective way to meet the need for more power… In other action…, the commission deferred a vote on solar energy company Sunrun’s request to allow leasing of solar panels in Florida. Sunrun had asked the commission to declare that leasing panels to residential customers would not constitute the sale of electricity and that leasing panels would not cause it to be deemed a public utility. Third-party sales of electricity are prohibited in Florida… Commissioners said they want to see a copy of a sample lease document before they allow Sunrun to move forward.” Read Regulators agree new FPL Dania Beach plant is needed
The Associated Press reports – “Scientists are seeing concerning levels of algae this year in Florida’s Indian River Lagoon… State biologists are measuring similar algae levels in the lagoon’s waters that they saw before the devastating 2016 blooms… The lagoon… is one of the most biologically diverse waterways in the nation. But sewage spills from the region’s growing communities and the legacy of pollution from farms has increased levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water, which algae feed on… Scientists say it’ll be three weeks or so before they’ll know if a repeat of 2016 is likely.” Read Algae again threatening Florida’s Indian River Lagoon
Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura reports for The New York Times – “Ever since China announced last year that it no longer wanted to be the ‘world’s garbage dump,’ recycling about half of the globe’s plastics and paper products, Western nations have been puzzling over what to do when the ban went into effect, which it did on Jan. 1. The answer, to date, in Britain at least, is nothing. At least one waste disposal site in London is already seeing a buildup of plastic recyclables and has had to pay to have some of it removed. Similar backups have been reported in Canada, Ireland, Germany and several other European nations, while tons of rubbish is piling up in port cities like Hong Kong.” Read Plastics Pile Up as China Refuses to Take the West’s Recycling
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
March 6 – April 17 – Solar United Neighbors is hosting several solar co-op information sessions around Florida throughout the next few months. Attendees will learn about solar equipment, financing, and the benefits of joining a solar co-op. For a complete list of sessions, click here.
March 8, 6:30 pm – Attend Newts of the Apalachicola National Forest in Tallahassee. Rebecca and Ryan Means will discuss the plight of the endangered newts of the Apalachicola Forest. For more information, click here.
March 14-16, 8:30 am – Attend The Endangered Apalachicola Conference in Tallahassee. The Apalachicola ecosystem has incredible biodiversity and once provided for a booming oyster industry. Unfortunately, this ecosystem is now struggling to survive due to a lack of fresh water. The problem is so dire, Florida is suing Georgia over its water use! The Florida Conservation Coalition invites you to come learn more about this endangered ecosystem. After Thursday’s overview of challenges facing the Apalachicola, FCC Chair and former Florida Governor, Bob Graham, will host a special keynote dinner. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.
March 13, 12:45 pm – Attend the Villages Environmental Discussion Group at the Belvedere Library (325 Belvedere Blvd.) in The Villages. Speakers include Chris Mericle, talking about citizen protests against phosphate mining in Union and Bradford Counties, and Hunter Miller, discussing current threats to our oceans and action steps the group can take. For more information and to RSVP, contact Mary Hampton at email@example.com.
March 13, 7:00 pm – Attend Get the Green Out: Algal Bloom Presentation in Orange Park. St. Johns Riverkeeper will explain what causes blue-green algal blooms and why they may be toxic for you and the St. Johns River. Then, learn how you can take action to reduce algal bloom occurrences. For more information and to register, click here.
March 17, 9:00 am – Participate in St. Johns River Clean Up & Celebration: Goodbys Creek Paddle & Clean Up in Jacksonville. For more information, click here.
March 26, 6:00 pm – Attend a talk by Maya van Rossum, Delaware Riverkeeper, on The Green Amendment: Our Right to a Healthy Environment at the Working Food Community Center (219 NW 10th Avenue) in Gainesville. Doors open at 5:30 PM.
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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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