FCC News Brief - May 17, 2018

Elizabeth Alt reports for Legal News Line – “The National Wildlife Federation, Florida Wildlife Federation and Apalachicola Bay and River Keeper sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in response to the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) the Corps issued that updated the master control manual, which governs the operation of federal dams and reservoirs in the Apalachicola Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, also known as the ACF Basin. Judge John D. Bates… granted [a] motion to transfer the lawsuit to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia… The plaintiffs are asking the court to reconsider that order or to reassign the case to the Northern District of Florida, ‘where the vast majority of the environmental harms are occurring,’ the motion states. The plaintiffs request a neutral forum and claim that the order to transfer to Georgia is prejudiced… The state of Georgia and the Atlanta Regional Commission moved to transfer the case to the Northern Georgia District Court or the Southern Alabama District Court… The D.C. court stated that… the case had ‘far stronger ties to the states that comprise the ACF Basin… than to the District of Columbia,’ and stated in a footnote that ‘the court is unconvinced by plaintiffs’ various arguments that this is a national, as opposed to local, controversy with a significant nexus to this district.’” Read Environmental groups challenge judge’s jurisdiction order in dispute over ACF Basin

Charlie Frago reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “Many of Tampa Bay’s most scenic and pricey waterfront neighborhoods were built by pouring soil into the open water. Known as “dredge and fill,” the practice largely ended in the 1970s as lawsuits and state and federal laws designed to protect marine environments made it difficult. Now, officials in Tampa may be turning back the clock… [T]he Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission approved a proposal to fill in 3 acres of open water north of Rocky Point Drive… An Albany, N.Y., developer wants to build 16 townhomes there, each 3 ½ stories high with a private dock… Opponents call it a precedent-setting decision that would harm marine life, limit public access to the water, and encourage people to move into a coastal flood zone… Kent Bailey, chairman of the Sierra Club’s Tampa Bay Group, said… ‘Clearly, the Planning Commission isn’t taking the threat of sea-level rise seriously. That area is plagued by serious flooding now.’… Surrounding hotels like the Westin Hotel and Hilton’s Doubletree Suites also protested, saying the project would hurt their business because guests rank water views and sightings of dolphins and manatees as reasons to book rooms. ‘Where does it stop?’ asked Steve Michelini, a Westin consultant.” Read Back to the future? Hillsborough Planning Commission okays filling lagoon for townhomes

Carlos E. Medina reports for the Ocala Star Banner – “The County Commission joined dozens of residents at its… meeting in condemning a state plan to bring a major highway through the heart of Marion County’s northwest horse country… The Coastal Connector plan had already met with resistance at Dunnellon and Ocala government meetings… Charles Lee (director of advocacy for Audubon Florida), who was a member of the I-75 Relief Task Force… said the proposed Coastal Connector plan is one they decided against in 2016… ‘We looked carefully at many of the routes which, inexplicably, the Florida Turnpike Enterprise has put back on a map today. We don’t know why they are doing that,’ he said. ‘There is no way to move this route one way or the other and make it better. It will simply move it from one sensitive environmental area to another or one farm to another.’ (Commissioner) Bryant said work on a resolution against the project is underway.” Read County Commission slams Coastal Connector

Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald – “[T]he energy industry has pushed for decades to open vast Gulf waters off Florida’s West Coast to exploration and drilling. But it’s far less likely for rigs to rise off Miami Beach, Islamorada or anywhere else along Florida’s heavily populated Atlantic coast…” Read If Florida’s offshore oil rush ever happens, only one side of the state is likely to see it

The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board writes – “What a difference a decade makes… Florida Republicans and Democrats alike are objecting to President Trump’s reckless push to expand offshore drilling and change safety regulations imposed after the BP oil spill… Even in the midst of the 87-day effort to stop the spill, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said he supported more offshore rigs to lessen our dependence on foreign oil… In December 2010, both Rubio and then Governor-elect Rick Scott opposed President Obama’s decision to halt plans for more drilling in the eastern Gulf and along the southern Atlantic seaboard… But oh how Florida’s political currents have changed… So what’s changed? Public opinion polls, lower gas prices… Surprisingly, a recent poll by Clearview Research shows just 54 percent of Florida voters support the proposed (constitutional) amendment to ban near-shore drilling. The amendment will need 60 percent voter approval for passage… Another reason for the changed political calculus is America’s growing energy independence. Our ability to better tap natural gas resources – through fracking and horizontal drilling – has made us less dependent on the Middle East for energy supplies… Plus, the oil industry showed only tepid interest during a recent auction of oil-drilling tracts in the Gulf…  So why is the president pushing for more offshore oil rigs if public support is against it, the industry isn’t demanding it and inland production is booming?... Boosting investments in renewable energy to avoid oil spills and reduce pollution is… the route this country should take… [H]ow can we trust an administration that is systematically wiping out the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to hold the oil industry accountable? And how can we trust Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who in January said Florida would be exempt from the effort to expand offshore drilling, but later backtracked? The answer is we can’t. That’s why we need Florida’s elected leaders to work in harmony against efforts to expand oil drilling or weaken the rules designed to prevent another catastrophe. And that’s why we need a ban on offshore oil drilling in constitutional stone, where it can’t be changed by politicians whose views change with the tides.” Read Florida’s new-found muscle against oil drilling

Lisa Broadt reports for the TC Palm – “Hurchalla, a well-known Martin County environmentalist,… was found liable of interfering in government contracts and ordered to pay nearly $4.4 million in damages to the owners of Lake Point, a mining and water-treatment project near Lake Okeechobee. Hurchalla appealed that decision… and asked the trial court to rule in her favor – despite the jury’s verdict – or to grant her a new trial… Hurchalla also argued that Judge William Roby, the trial judge, disqualified himself because of comments he made during the seven-day jury trial… [T]he Fourth District court of Appeal denied most of Hurchalla’s appeal, including her request for payment of attorneys’ fees. Lake Point, meanwhile, has begun the process of trying to collect attorneys’ fees from Hurchalla.” Read Maggy Hurchalla’s Lake Point appeal denied in part, but continues

Alex Hagan reports for WPTV – “For homeowners on the Treasure Coast, $11,000 is the price they have to pay (to protect the environment) and some of them are not happy about it. Don Bartz, who lives at North River Shores in Stuart, said the amount of money he’s putting into a sewer conversion is a huge burden… Melanie Peterson, Vice Chair of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board responded… saying homeowners will realize it’s worth it in the long run… Dr. Brian Lapointe’s research shows North River Shores is part of several hotspots on the Treasure Coast where fecal pollution is high. Which is why Martin County leaders are moving forward with conversion projects… Martin County leaders say they will go back to state lawmakers asking for more money to help homeowners pay for these conversions ultimately lowering the financial burden.” Read Septic-sewer conversions costing residents up to $11,000 in Martin County

Mark Chediak, Prashant Gopal, and Brian Eckhouse report for Bloomberg – “[T]he Golden State became the first in the U.S. to require solar panels on almost all new homes. Most new unites built after Jan. 1, 2020, will be required to include solar systems as part of the standards adopted by the California Energy Commission… California’s solar policy will exacerbate another critical issue in the most populous state, where high housing costs are seen as a drag on the economy that also contributes to rising social tensions. ‘With home prices having risen as much as they have, I think home buyers would find it a little distasteful to be forced to pay more for solar systems that they may not want or feel like they can’t afford,’ said Brent Anderson, a spokesman for homebuilder Meritage Homes Corp… Installing a solar system and complying with other energy-efficiency measures required will add about $9,500 to the cost of a new home, according to the California Energy Commission. That would be offset by about $19,000 in expected energy and maintenance savings over 30 years, the commission estimates.” Read California Becomes First State to Order Solar on New Homes

 

 

 

 

From Our Readers

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Job Openings

 

Administrator for the Florida Conservation Coalition

 

Operations Manager for the Everglades Law Center

 

Petitions

Another Gulf is Possible

Save the Serenova Tract in Pasco – Say NO to the Ridge Road Extension

Florida Solar Bill of Rights

Tell Congress to Stop Attacking Protections for Dolphins and Whales

Save Endangered Sea Turtles from Drowning in Shrimp Trawls

Defend Attacks on the Marine Mammal Protection Act

Protect Florida’s Gulf Coast from Offshore Drilling

 Protect Weeki Wachee Springs; Stop the 7 Diamonds Mine in Pasco County

Tell Congress to Stop Sabal Trail

Stop New Phosphate Strip Mining in Florida

 

 

Upcoming Environmental Events    

 

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

May 19, 10:00 am – Participate in Hands Across the Sand at Pensacola Beach. Hands Across the Sand is an annual gathering of people who come together to express their opposition to dirty fossil fuels and to champion a new era of clean, renewable energy. There will be speeches, snacks, live music, and more. For more information, click here.

May 19, 11:00 am – Participate in Hands Across the Sand at Fort Walton Beach. Hands Across the Sand is an annual gathering of people who come together to express their opposition to dirty fossil fuels and to champion a new era of clean, renewable energy. For more information, click here.

May 19, 11:30 am – Participate in Hands Across the Sand at Fernandina Beach. Hands Across the Sand is an annual gathering of people who come together to express their opposition to dirty fossil fuels and to champion a new era of clean, renewable energy. For more information, click here.

May 22 – 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 23, 5:30 pm – Attend Before the Flood at the Pensacola Public Library (239 N. Spring St.) in Pensacola. Before the Flood is a film that follows actor Leonardo DiCaprio to five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change firsthand. Following the film, 350 Pensacola and Northwest Florida Move to Amend will discuss how the influence of corporate money in politics is delaying action on climate change and how the public can take action to free the political system of that influence. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, email 350pensacola@gmail.com.

 

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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.

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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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