Andy Mele and Justin Bloom write for the Bradenton Herald – “At trial, we, as the plaintiffs, were not allowed to enter into evidence the fact that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration all examined Carlos Beruff’s proposal for a mitigation bank and deemed it unworthy of processing as a credible permit application. And yet, there was our own Florida Department of Environmental Protection standing beside Beruff’s attorneys, zealously defending the extraordinarily inflated number of wetland mitigation credits (18.01, probably representing more than $2 million in profits) that it said could be allowed for that site. The same credits that three federal agencies rejected out of hand. Credits that will allow for the destruction of other wetlands, on other sites. And, quite possibly, allow Beruff to bury wetlands on the Aqua site itself, on the cheap… Unfortunately, the combination of barred evidence,… a dense thicket of arcane rules for determining the value of banked wetlands, and a judicial system that will invariably offer deference to state and federal agencies, all added up to a miscarriage of justice. The losers are the people of Florida. There has been a steady, cumulative erosion of this beautiful state’s environmental quality by economically driven events impacting its rivers and springs, its lakes and coastlines, its native habitat and biological diversity… [A]ll of these events have one thing in common. In every case – thousands of them, large and small – the destruction and degradation are accompanied by an FDEP permit. And now the Florida Legislature has passed a bill granting FDEP approval to take over federal jurisdiction of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which regulates the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, including wetlands. Considering FDEP’s role as willing handmaiden to the forces, both market and political, that are draining and polluting our aquifers, despoiling the state’s water, and encouraging the wholesale destruction of native habitat, does it make sense to give that agency the power to do even more damage?” Read Whatever the judge said, the Aqua mangrove mitigation bank is still a bad thing. Here’s why.
Chad Gillis reports for News Press – “Astronauts… drink reclaimed wastewater, but that idea isn’t sitting so well with some environmental groups. Often called ‘toilet to tap’ legislation by critics, a bill that’s sitting on Gov. Rick Scott’s desk could soon allow utilities and water managers in Florida to… treat and recycle wastewater in a similar fashion. ‘My prediction is he’ll let it go to law without signing it so it won’t have his fingerprints on it,’ said Linda Young, with the Clean Water Network… Gov. Scott has until April 10 to sign the legislation, but he could choose to veto the bill or simply let it pass unsigned. Young said she’s embarrassed that Florida is turning to these relatively expensive water treatment methods while getting nearly 5 feet of rain a year… Young said she’s also concerned that water treatment methods may not remove pharmaceuticals, chemicals and other pollutants… Brad Baird, Tampa’s administrator for public works and utilities services, said reclaimed wastewater could provide water for the growing city for years… Nations in the Middle East and Southeast Asia have used the technology for decades, some providing the vast majority of drinking water through reclamation… ‘The water that comes out of an advanced wastewater treatment plant is highly treated and much cleaner than the zones in the aquifer that we’re talking about performing the recharge,’ Baird said. ‘It’s not the exact same water. For our project, we’re recharging at 800 to 900 feet and recovery at 300 feet. So you have soil aquifer treatment for 500 feet, and that provides some natural treatment and can metabolize CECs (Contaminants of Emerging Concern) and can remove nutrients such as phosphorus. We expect it to be able to move that.’ Contaminants of Emerging Concern include pharmaceuticals and personal care products… Young said Florida should have focused for decades on conserving water that falls here during the rainy summer season. Instead, much of that water is sent to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.” Read ‘Toilet to tap’ bill waiting for Gov. Scott’s signature
Tania Galloni and Manley Fuller write for the Tampa Bay Times – “President Donald Trump and Gov. Rick Scott have been working on a play to make it easier and faster for developers to wipe out our natural wetlands. Seizing on a political opportunity, the state is moving swiftly to take over a longstanding federal program that protects wetlands under the Clean Water Act, something that only two other states have ever done. We know wetlands preserve our fresh drinking water supplies. We know they buffer our coasts from hurricane damage. And we know they are Florida’s true wild heart, home to thousands of plants and animals – many of them found nowhere else on the planet… Florida’s record of protecting wetlands is abysmal. The state’s environmental agencies are in the worst shape they’ve been for years – experienced staff has left in droves and environmental budgets have been starved by politicians who do the bidding of well-heeled industry and developers. The state Department of Environmental Protection doesn’t have the capacity to take over the wetlands permitting that has been run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for decades – not if the goal is environmental protection… Powerful developers and lobbyists got their political friends to come up with a similar scheme back in 2005, but the state walked away after state analysts produced a report advising against it, given the cost and complexity of federal wetlands protection. This time around, the state is not even bothering with a serious analysis. It’s up to all of us to expose this scam and hold every state lawmaker who supports this wetland death sentence accountable.” Read Beware of Trump-Scott scheme to kill Florida’s wetlands
Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald – “A third of the nation’s wildlife, from common birds and butterflies to more uncommon salamanders and frogs, are at risk of vanishing as habitats shrink and threats from climate change, invasive species, disease and pollution expand exponentially, according to a new report… The report makes the case for a bill now making its way through Congress to dramatically increase money for state programs that have identified species at risk but not yet federally protected, from about $60 million a year to $1.3 billion. The money would come from gas and mineral development on public lands and provide, for the first time, a dedicated source similar to the steady flow game species now get from hunting licenses and taxes on guns and other sporting goods… In Florida, wildlife biologists have identified 1,036 species in danger of disappearing, including 90 that are federally listed. In the past, the state received about $2.2 million each year for its conservation plan, said Kevin Kemp, a FWC biologist coordinating the state’s Wildlife Legacy Initiative… Such a significant increase would make an enormous difference, he said. ‘It would mean $49 million for Florida instead of $2.2 million,’ he said… ‘Frankly, we’ve done a good job of saving species we fish and we hunt, but the others have languished,’ said National Wildlife Federation president Colin O’Mara. Saving animals before they make the list could be cheaper and easier, avoiding regulations that stir controversy, he said. Work could also move faster than the sluggish pace set by the federal bureaucracy… Loss of habitat remains the leading threat… Half the wetlands have vanished (in the country), with rising seas expected to shallow even more. Even undisturbed land has become less hospitable with the cycle of natural wildfires interrupted and rivers and streams dammed. Splintered habitats have left many animals, like Florida panthers, stranded in just part of their historic range… States would need to match 25 percent to receive money, [O’Mara] said, but could tap outside partners like universities or nonprofits. The Florida Forever program could be a suitable source, he said.” Read Florida has 1,036 animals scientists think could vanish. Will this plan save them?
Eve Samples writes for the TC Palm – “Ninety members of Congress, from both major parties, have joined forces to fix what they see as overly generous support granted to sugar farmers via the federal Farm Bill. In the Senate, co-sponsors of the sugar Policy Modernization Act include Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Mark Warner, D-Virginia. In the House, the backing comes from 47 Republicans and 23 Democrats. It’s a rare bipartisan, bi-coastal showing. It has support from strange bedfellows: free-market capitalists and environmentalists… Yet not one representative or senator from Florida has gotten behind it. A group of Everglades and estuary advocates is pushing to change that… ‘The sugar industry has used this windfall to fund political candidates, campaigns, consultants, law firms and lobbying efforts in Tallahassee and Washington to monopolize water and drainage in the EAA, and to force taxpayers to bear the costs of cleaning up its pollution’ the letter to Nelson states.” Read Environmentalists ask Sen. Nelson: Will you support sugar policy reform?
The Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board writes – “[H]ere’s what Proposal 91 wouldn’t do: exempt Florida from the Trump administration’s plan to expand drilling in federal waters… Proposal 91 would apply just to Florida waters, which extend about nine miles from the state’s Gulf coastline and three miles from the Atlantic coastline. Florida law currently bars drilling in those state waters until 2022… Floridians would be foolish to count on their leaders to be forever opposed to near-shore drilling. Only a constitutional amendment would provide that certainty… Opening the door to drilling within a few miles of Florida’s shores would threaten the state’s tourism economy, now worth more than $100 billion a year, as well as its priceless environment… Proposal 91 would give Florida voters the chance to protect their state permanently from serious economic and environmental risks. The commission should make sure they get that chance.” Read Drilling ban deserves final approval from constitution panel
Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report for The Washington Post – “Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announced… that he would revoke Obama-era standards requiring cars and light trucks sold in the United States to average more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025, a move that could change the composition of the nation’s auto fleet for years… Mary Nichols, head of the California Air Resources Board,… argued that the move would ‘demolish’ the nation’s shift toward cleaner cars and that ‘EPA’s action, if implemented, will worsen people’s health with degraded air quality and undermine regulatory certainty for automakers.’… The efficiency gains that the U.S. auto fleet has made in recent decades have slowed since 2013, as gas prices dipped and the sale of pickup trucks and SUVs accelerated. In the document Pruitt signed Monday, he said EPA has been ‘optimistic in its assumptions and projections’ about the availability of technology to meet the standards and the agency recently had received substantial input from automakers that they need to be scaled back. He suggested that if cleaner vehicles are too expensive, consumers will hold onto older cars, thereby lowering the overall efficiency of cars on the road… McCarthy (EPA Administrator under President Obama) said that the standards set during the Obama era were based on extensive negotiations with states and the federal government, as well as the auto industry. ‘The decision I made was based on real information,’ while Pruitt’s decision seemed to have no factual basis, she said.” Read EPA to roll back car emissions standards, handing automakers a big win
Andrew Rhodes reports for phys.org – “The ocean is a major influence on the world’s climate and must be included in modelling to predict future climate change. But the ocean is complex, particularly the intricate biochemical processes that control the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere… In a new study published in Global Biogeochemical Cycles,… Pearse Buchanan… and his team integrated new, dynamic ways of representing marine ecosystem processes in ocean models. In applying them, they found that a more realistic representation of the marine ecosystem helped the ocean to take up and store carbon at similar rates regardless of global changes in physical properties, like temperature, salinity and circulation… ‘While we did not consider pH changes, we have shown that the strength of the ocean’s biological pump is probably more robust to physical changes than previously understood.’ Buchanan said.” Read Study reveals potential stability of ocean processes despite climate change
From Our Readers
The information in this section is forwarded to you at the request of some of our readers. Inclusion in this section does not necessarily constitute endorsement by the FCC.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 17-20 – Attend The Florida Native Plant Society’s 38th Annual Conference in Miami. For more information, click here.
Do you know of an upcoming environmental event or meeting you would like to include in the FCC News Brief? Send us a quick e-mail and we will include it for you.
We hope you enjoy this service and find it valuable. Our goal is to provide you with the latest and most relevant environmental news for Floridians. Our hope is that you will use this information to more effectively and frequently contact your elected representatives, and add your voice to the growing chorus of Floridians concerned about the condition of our environment and the recent direction of environmental policies.
Please send all suggestions, comments, and criticism to Gladys Delgadillo at email@example.com.
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.
For more information on the FCC visit https://www.wearefcc.org/