David Pendered writes for Saporta Report – “The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the water war litigation between Florida and Georgia is expected by June 30… During the arguments, Associate Justice Elena Kagen questioned the degree to which Florida had established the extent of harm suffered and what benefit would accrue to Florida if a consumption cap were placed on Georgia. Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg observed that Georgia’s expert had testified that Florida’s problem would not be cured by any amount of water saved. One of Florida’s attorneys contended that it was up to Georgia to prove that its extent of harm would outweigh any benefits that accrued to Florida if Florida received more water. Gorsuch countered: ‘Look, I thought the burden ultimately was for the plaintiff who wishes to alter the status quo to show that the benefits he wishes to obtain significantly outweigh the harms that the relief he seeks would cause.’ The case contains quirks that add complexity. For starters, the special master’s ruling did not analyze the harm to Georgia and the benefits to Florida if additional water were directed from the Chattahoochee basin into the Apalachicola River… On March 30… the corps’ Brigadier General David Turner… approved the Water Control Manuals for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin.” Read Florida-Georgia before the Supreme Court: Three possible scenarios for outcome
Eve Samples writes for the TC Palm – “Some environmental problems are tough to tackle. They require complicated or expensive solutions (see: Everglades restoration and sea-level rise). Plastic pollution is not one of them. There’s a straightforward way to stem the problem. What’s lacking is the will from Florida lawmakers to do so. Vero Beach resident Megan Hoots is working to change that. The 30-year-old is one of the people behind Plastic Free Florida… that’s pushing for limits on single-use plastics, including shopping bags and straws. The effort faces serious headwinds in Florida. The state Legislature has moved in the opposite direction in recent years, preempting municipal governments from adopting local bans on single-use plastic containers. ‘We should be given the opportunity to vote on this measure at a municipal level, and Tallahassee won’t let us,’ Hoots said… The typical plastic shopping bag has a useful lifespan of about 20 minutes… It may eventually head to the landfill, where it takes hundreds of years to biodegrade. Worse, it may end up drifting into the ocean and breaking into small pieces that are eaten by marine animals… Plastics can remain in the ocean for hundreds of years in their original form, and even longer in small particles, according to a 2016 report from the World Economic Forum which estimated there is more than 150 million tons of plastic waste in the ocean. ‘Without significant action, there may be more plastic than fish in the ocean, by weight, by 2050,’ the report stated.” Read It’s time to dump Florida’s policy on plastic bags
Martin Merzer reports for Florida Politics – “Maggy Hurchalls is on the hook for $4,391,708 in a court-ordered judgment… The trial and many other elements of the case were overseen by Circuit Judge William Roby, who seems enduringly hostile to Hurchalla and curiously friendly to her opponents. In March, Lake Point lawyers obtained from Roby orders to freeze and garnish Hurchalla’s bank and other accounts. The orders also require her to produce countless tax returns, bank statements and many other personal documents. Interestingly and rather uniquely, similar orders were filed against her defense attorneys… Hurchalla and her attorneys say they were summoned into a meeting with [Roby] after just one day of testimony in her trial and before her side presented any testimony at all. They say he told her that she likely would lose and that she should sign a letter he presented to her – a letter in which she would apologize for her previous comments about Lake Point and promise not to criticize it in the future. She refused, and her lawyers say the offer revealed her opponents’ true motivation. ‘The judge sought resolution… through an agreement for steps that would intrude on Mrs. Hurchalla’s right to free discussion of public issues, past and future.’ They wrote in an appeal. Her legal team is trying to get Roby removed from the case, demanding – among other things – a new trial before a different judge… [S]ome of Florida’s foremost legal minds have joined Hurchalla’s legal team. These include Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte…, a former president of the American Bar Association and former president of Florida State University, and Richard Ovelmen…, one of the nation’s most prominent First Amendment lawyers… ‘Honestly, so much has been done wrong here,’ D’Alemberte said. ‘I’ve been practicing law since 1962, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. If we can’t win this case, I should be disbarred.’… Lake Point attorney Ethan Loeb… also went after [Nathaniel Reed], trying to compel Reed by written notice to alter previous testimony in a deposition or retract statements that tended to support Hurchalla and express opposition to the rock pit project. Loeb allegedly did this without notifying Hurchalla’s attorneys, even though Reed was listed as a witness in the case. In response, Hurchalla’s defense team is seeking professional sanctions against Lindemann’s defense team, claiming attempted witness tampering and harassment.” Read Maggy Hurchalla’s free speech right just cost her millions
Chad Gillis and Andrew West report for News-Press – “‘You can’t have a watershed that’s that intensively developed and not have all kinds of water quality problems,’ said Linda Young, with the Clean Water Network. ‘It’s good that they restored the Kissimmee, but it would take a lot, billions and billions of dollars of replumbing all the way north to Orlando… to fix all the issues. Nitrogen, phospohorus and other excessive nutrients from the upper system and washing off the local landscape sometimes feed coastal algal blooms, which can shut down swimming beaches, cause fish and marine mammal kills and impact property values… ‘The wading bird population was reduced to about 98 percent cattle egrets (a non-native species) and now we have 13 species of wading birds back,’ said Lawrence Glenn, with the South Florida Water Management District. ‘We have the full complement of wading birds that were there historically.’… ‘I think the overall goal is 80 wading birds per square mile and there are already 100 per square mile, and we’re not even finished,’ Gray (with Audubon Florida) said… Another goal is to raise the levels of three lakes by about a foot-and-a-half, which will allow more water to be stored north of Lake Okeechobee… There are also plans to build water reservoirs and aquifer storage and recovery wells along the Kissimmee River and Chain of Lakes to help provide the needed water and the right times… ‘That’s why we’re trying to do these conservation easements because development is coming, and we want to lock up as much of this watershed in the habitat and condition it’s in,’ Gray said. ‘The cow pasture that’s there now, it’s only going to get worse with development.’” Read Polluted or pristine? Northern Everglades major factor in water struggles downstream
Alex Leary reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “Big-name politicians and environmentalists will gather… for a summit with an urgent message: “#NOWORNEVERGLADES.” The Everglades Summit, which seeks to call attention to funding and issues facing the national treasure in Florida, begins… with remarks from Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on Energy & Water Development. That will be followed by a keynote address from Sen. Marco Rubio… In the afternoon, Rep. Francis Rooney R-Naples, will speak as well as Sen. Bill Nelson.” Read Rubio, Nelson to speak at Everglades Summit
The Daily Record reports – “Two groups are suing JEA over the utility’s Distributed Energy Policy that replaced a nearly decade-old net metering program in April. Community Power Network Corp., also known as Solar United Neighbors, and the League of Women Voters of Florida Inc. filed the legal challenge… in the 4th Judicial Circuit claiming the new JEA policy violates state law, ‘by short-changing customers who want to use rooftop solar energy.’… A 2008 state law requires Florida utility companies to establish net metering policies to give customers who install solar panels the ability to sell energy back to the grid and to pay only for the net difference of energy they receive back from it… JEA began net metering in 2009, allowing customers to recoup the retail rate of about 10 cents per kilowatt-hour of excess energy they produce… Under the new Distributed Energy Policy, instead of being credited at 10 cents per kilowatt-hour for excess energy, solar panel owners are credited at the company’s fuel rate, or about 3.25 cents per kilowatt-hour… The net metering policy is no longer offered. Existing customers who participated before March 31 are grandfathered into the old program for 20 years. Community Power Network Corp. claims JEA’s new policy reduced the potential financial incentive to set up a rooftop solar cooperative it planned to install in Jacksonville last year. ‘As a result, SUN lost profits that it would have otherwise received from the installation of rooftop solar for the cooperative,’ the complaint states.” Read Groups say utility is ‘short-changing customers who want to use rooftop solar energy.’
Malena Carollo and Emily L. Mahoney report for the Miami Herald – “State regulators… determined that one of the country’s largest residential solar companies, San Francisco-based Sunrun, is allowed to lease solar energy equipment for homes in Florida. The decision, solar energy advocates say, could open the door to making solar more widely available throughout Florida… In Florida, a company must be a regulated utility – governed by the PSC – if it charges for electricity. In this case, if Sunrun had charged for the energy its solar equipment generated, it would have been considered a utility and subject to regulation. But Sunrun doesn’t fall into this category, the PSC said, because it charges customers a fixed amount for the equipment. Even though that has been legal, it was highly expensive until a measure was passed in August 2016 to roll back taxes on solar equipment. A proposal to amend Florida’s constitution to allow consumers to buy electricity from a third party died in committee before ever reaching the Constitution Revision Commission’s final votes as a full body… A major obstacle for Floridians installing solar has been the up-front cost… But under this ruling, Sunrun will allow no money down at the start of renting.” Read State regulators give major residential solar company good news in the Sunshine State
Susan Glickman writes for the Orlando Sentinel – “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will roll back fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks that were agreed to by the auto industry six years ago. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt declared the standards too tough to meet – but didn’t provide any evidence… The EPA’s short-sighted favor to the oil industry at the expense of average American families will hurt U.S. consumers, damage our position in the competitive global clean-energy economy and put our fragile environment at risk… Driving farther on a tank of gas plainly saves money over the long haul. It also insulates consumers from fuel price spikes… Plus we can all agree that it is in our national interest to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by cutting U.S. oil consumption… With current standards, a family with a new 2025 gas vehicle would pay one dollar per gallon less over the car’s life and slash carbon-dioxide pollution by about 6 billion tons. That’s important, since U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions from transportation have surpassed emissions from electricity generation… Meanwhile, the rest of the world will move forward on more efficient gas vehicles and zero-emission electric vehicles. The European Union, China, India, South Korea and Japan, all have more stringent fuel-economy standards right now. By going backward while the rest of the world plows forward, U.S. car manufacturers will be less competitive.” Read A dumb retreat on fuel efficiency
From Our Readers
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Volusia County Manatee Program Associate – Contact Debbie Wingfield for info.
Upcoming Environmental Events
April 27-28 – Attend the Florida Wildflower Symposium in Orlando. For more information, click here.
April 27 – June 23 – 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.
May 1, 12:00 pm – Join the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute at the North Florida Springs Environmental Center in High Springs for Springs Academy Tuesdays; a lunchtime lecture series on Florida’s springs. May’s lecture is on “Springs Hydrogeology: Floridan Aquifer, Groundwater Recharge, Spring Flows” with FSI Executive Director, Dr. Robert Knight. All lecture are free and open to the public. A recommended donation of $5 is appreciated. For more information, click here or call (386) 454 – 9369.
May 3, 6:30 pm – Watch Mac Stone’s TED talk on “the Amazing Everglades” at the Harvey Martin Democratic Center (3432 Deltona Boulevard) in Spring Hill. After the TED Talk, Dr. Tom St. Clair will comment on Everglades ecology and restoration. For more information, email email@example.com or call (352) 277 – 3330.
May 9, 12:44 pm – Attend the Villages Environmental Discussion Group at the Belvedere Library Community Room (325 Belvedere Blvd.) in The Villages. Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, Sierra Club Organizing Rep., will make a presentation entitled “Urban Fertilizers… Connections to Our Lawns, Landscape, and Florida’s Waters”. Shari Blissett-Clark, Pres. Of the FL Bat Conservancy, will make a presentation entitled “Bats in Florida’s Backyards.” For more information and to RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 11, 8:30 am – Attend the Save Our Water 2018 summit in Bonita Springs. For more information, click here.
May 17-20 – Attend The Florida Native Plant Society’s 38th Annual Conference in Miami. For more information, click here.
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