FCC News Brief - April 2, 2018

Rep. Bobby Payne and Rep. Kristin Jacobs write for the Tallahassee Democrat – “Dr. Ron Saff’s column about HB 1149… is so far off… As the proud, bipartisan co-sponsors of House Bill 1149, we want to set the record straight on our commonsense water legislation. Florida is already a national leader in recycling treated domestic wastewater, commonly referred to as reclaimed water. This is a good thing. Every drop that is beneficially reused is not discharged as wastewater into Florida’s rivers, streams or estuaries…. And it has nothing to do with ‘drinking poopy water’ at the behest of greedy ‘developers.’… HB 1149 notably does address ‘poopy water,’ just not in the way the author suggested. A different section of the bill creates a utility management program to limit sanitary sewer overflows and the unauthorized discharges of pathogens.” Read Letter on new water legislation just plain wrong

Jake Martin reports for The St. Augustine Record – “A report released… by Environment Florida Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group ranks the states with the worst industrial pollution of waterways in the nation and ranks the top 10 polluters in each state. The report, “Troubled Waters: Industrial Pollution Still Threatens American Waterways,’ says the nation’s major industrial facilities released pollution exceeding the levels allowed under their Clean Water Act permits at least 8,100 times between January 2016 and September 2017, and often faced no fines or penalties. In Florida alone, industrial facilities dumped excessive pollution into waterways at least 270 times over that 21-month span. The state ranked tenth in the nation for the most exceedances by major industrial facilities… The report notes that the number of permit exceedances on its own ‘dramatically under-represents the amount of time these facilities spent in violation of the Clean Water Act.’ The St. Johns Riverkeeper says the Troubled Waters report comes as the federal government tries to weaken clean water protections and slash enforcement funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the states… The Troubled Waters report called the passage of the Clean Water Act ‘a turning point…’ but said ‘a closer look at compliance with and enforcement of the law reveals an overly lenient system that too often allows pollution without accountability.’… [T]he report recommends policymakers ensure the Clean Water Act applies to all waterways; restore and increase funding for state and federal enforcement, such as water pollution control grants; issue timely penalties that are ‘sufficiently high’ to deter companies from polluting waters; and boost compliance and enforcement by increasing the number of on-site inspections at major facilities, among other measures.” Read 3 of Florida’s top 10 industrial polluters discharging into St. Johns River

Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald – “The record rain that pounded South Florida… last spring had a silver lining: an explosion of wading birds. Threatened wood storks, which nearly disappeared in the early 1980s, doubled their 10-year nesting average. Little blue herons and snowy egrets were up 62 and 54 percent, respectively. Even roseate spoonbills fell just slightly below a dismal average, which is better than plunging even lower. But while the numbers were up, nesting patterns revealed that a troubling pattern continues. The birds appear to be giving up on the southern Everglades, once the bread basket for the state’s wading birds… The report is meant as an assessment of Everglades restoration, with birds January through May nesting season as a measuring stick. If restoration works, it should bring the birds home… With so little restoration work complete, the birds remain at the whim of weather. The record rain that fell in the winter of 2016 left many areas too deep, with high water levels throughout the Everglades, the Fakahatchee, Big Cypress and farther north producing the lowest nesting season in a decade. But the high water also produced an abundance of fish… As global warming drives up sea levels, scientists are also finding they need to tweak Everglades restoration… The birds’ successful responses last year… serve as a lesson for restoration efforts, Cook (lead author on the SFWMD’s annual wading bird report) said: ‘It’s a good sign the Everglades is fixable.’” Read Record rain led to bonanza year for Florida’s wading birds. Just not in the right places

Timmel Gomes reports for the Public News Service – “Conservationists are sounding the alarm over a new report showing one-third of species in the U.S. are vulnerable to extinction. Groups in Florida say that can change by adequately funding the state’s Wildlife Action Plan. The report shows many wildlife species are in danger of being wiped out if steps aren’t taken to conserve and protect their habitat. Manley Fuller, president and CEO of the Florida Wildlife Federation, says state officials have a comprehensive plan to do that – but it’s just a plan without any dedicated funding to implement it, and the state’s wildlife is under siege from habitat loss, disease and more… A resolution by the Florida commission asks the state’s congressional delegation to fund conservation programs…. [T]he National Wildlife Federation, American Fisheries Society… the Wildlife Society… and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have endorsed a bill in Congress. The “Recovering America’s Wildlife Act” would increase funding for state-led wildlife conservation efforts.” Read Conservation Groups Urge More Funding to Fix Wildlife Crisis

Adam Allington reports for Bloomberg – “Candy companies and food manufacturers have been trying to strike sugar supports from the farm bill for about 80 years, with no success. They could have a powerful new ally with environmentalists, however, who view the sugar industry as a threat to both air and water quality… Together with major industry players such as Hershey, the American Beverage Association, environmental groups also are pushing for the passage of the Sugar Policy Modernization Act, a proposal that seeks to reform the program to bring sugar prices closer to the world market rate… ‘Big sugar is physically and politically blocking the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee,’ said Kimberly Mitchell, executive director of the Everglades Trust, an environmental advocacy group. Mitchell [said] that the powerful sugar lobby has repeatedly blocked plans to convert government-owned land for wetland conservation, while also diverting more than half the water the Everglades needs to remain healthy. ‘Because of where they’re situated, they [sugar farmers] get as much free water as they want – and when there’s too much water, it gets shunted to other parts of the state to keep their fields dry,’ said Mitchell… Everglades restoration is not the only issue animating environmentalists. Preharvest cane field burning is a source of air pollution, particularly in poorer, inland communities. ‘In South Florida, if the wind is blowing west toward Mar-a-Lago cane burning permits are not allowed,’ said Costello (of the Sierra Club). ‘But, if the wind is blowing east toward Pahokee, or Belle Glade, it’s ‘burn away.’ It’s an outmoded practice that just isn’t necessary. They do better in Brazil.’… ‘We have an extensive air quality monitoring network to make sure emissions limits aren’t exceeded,’ said Barbara Miedema, vice president of communications for the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative. Miedema [said] that the air quality in the Everglades Agricultural Area is actually much better than urban areas… As for previous decisions to drain central wetlands in favor of agriculture, Miedema said it’s not fair to blame farmers whose livelihoods depend on the lands they’ve held for generations. ‘If you want to go to predevelopment Florida, back to the 1800s, there wouldn’t be a Gold Coast or Miami-Dade County,’ she said. ‘They wouldn’t have built the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee to prevent people from dying in floods.’” Read Hershey, Environmentalists Push to End Sugar Subsidies

Greg Stanley reports for the Naples Daily News – “A Texas-based oil company will restart seismic testing in Big Cypress National Preserve as soon as conditions are dry enough… Burnett started the survey for oil early last year but had to stop when the rainy season began. After the company’s permit expired in June, it was renewed by the Department of Environmental Protection over the objections of conservation groups that objected to the size of the ruts Burnett’s trucks left in the ground and the number and size of trees cleared to make way for the tests. ‘These trucks are just extremely disruptive,’ said Amber Crooks, policy advocate for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. ‘… They essentially turned the serene Big Cypress refuge into an industrial area.’ The National Park Service found that Burnett’s work would cause minor and temporary impacts to habitat for endangered species such as the Florida panther. The DEP permit defers to the federal approval and includes requirements that any damage be fixed.” Read Texas oil company to restart seismic testing in Big Cypress Preserve

Somini Sengupta reports for The New York Times – “Nuclear weapons? Famine? Civil war? Nope. The United Nations secretary general, Antoni Guterres,… called climate change ‘the most systemic threat to humankind’ and urged world leaders to curb their countries’ greenhouse gas emissions… Mr. Guterres is planning a summit meeting next year to goad world leaders to raise their emissions reductions targets. But few countries are even close to meeting the targets they set under the Paris agreement, which was drafted in November and December in 2015, according to independent analyses. His warning came a week after the World Meteorological Organization, a United Nations agency, reported that a barrage of extreme weather events had made 2017 the costliest year on record for such disasters, with an estimated $320 billion in losses.” Read Biggest Threat to Humanity? Climate Change, U.N. Chief Says

Ryan Grenoble writes for the Huffington Post – “In a perplexing decision earlier this month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency decided it will no longer take climate change into account as it plans ahead for the future... Rep. Keith Ellison… sent a letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long with some pointed questions seeking clarification. Of particular note is FEMA’s recently released 2018-2022 “Strategic Plan.” The document is crafted to prepare the nation for future catastrophic disasters’ in its latest iteration, it omits any reference to climate change. That stands in contrast to the 2014-2018 Strategic Plan, which identified climate change as a prime contributor to increasing disaster risk – and urged we take action. Rep. Ellison called the change ‘inexplicable,’ especially considering the plan’s stated goals include ensuring society is provided with the necessary information to prepare for future disasters… ‘The nation can neither be prepared for nor resilient in the face of climate-induced disasters if government leaders ignore the scientific information related to climate change and its risks,’ the representative’s letter reads… FEMA defended its decision to exclude climate change from the planning document…, emphasizing it’s focused more on the effects of storms than their causes. While omitting climate change, the agency did, however, identify several causes of rising damage, including ‘rising natural hazard risk, decaying critical infrastructure, and economic pressures that limit investments in risk resilience.’” Read Rep. Keith Ellison Demands FEMA Explain Why It Cut Climate Change from Strategic Plan





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Upcoming Environmental Events    


April 3, 12:00 pm – Join the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute for Springs Academy Tuesdays in High Springs. April’s lecture is a general introduction to springs with FSI Executive Director, Dr. Robert Knight. All lectures are free and open to the public. A recommended donation of $5 is appreciated. For more information, click here or call (386) 454 – 9369.

April 5, 6:30 pm – Attend the Sierra Club Adventure Coast Committee’s meeting at the Harvey Martin Democratic Center (3432 Deltona Boulevard) in Spring Hill. The meeting will feature the founder and national president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Lynn Ringenberg. Social begins at 6:30, followed by the meeting at 7. For more information, email sierraadventurecoastcc@gmail.com or call (352) 277 – 3330.

April 7 – 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.

April 7, 1:00 pm – Attend EarthFest at the Sustainable Living Center (10665 SW 89th Ave.) in Hampton. There will be Auntie Sage Eco Story Telling for Kids, Paul’s Amazing Eco Trail Hikes, Eco Arts & Crafts, and more. For more information, email Earthman.Ty@gmail.com or call (352) 231 – 1648.

April 11, 12:45 pm – Attend the Villages Environmental Discussion Group at the Belvedere Library Community Room (325 Belvedere Blvd.) in The Villages. Grant Wilson, J.D., Directing Attorney of Earth Law Center, will make a presentation via Skype on the rights of Nature and rivers. For more information and to RSVP, email resourcewisdom@gmail.com.

April 14, 11:00 am – Attend the Last Straw Campaign Kickoff in Pensacola. Learn how you can modify your lifestyle to say no to straws and what you can do to get others on board. For more information, click here or contact Mary Gutierrez at earthethicsaction@gmail.com.

May 17-20 – Attend The Florida Native Plant Society’s 38th Annual Conference in Miami. For more information, click here.


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