From the Palm Beach Editorial Board – “A Tallahassee judge has affirmed what most of us already knew: Florida lawmakers have flouted the will of voters by failing to comply with a constitutional amendment meant to buy and preserve fragile lands…Spokesman for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, while indicating that the House and Senate would appeal, called Leon County Judge Charles Dodson’s June 15 ruling a ‘clear abuse of judicial authority.’…What is clear is that Dodson’s ruling from the bench is a win for voters who care about Florida’s endangered lands, rivers and springs. Voters, who, in 2014, overwhelmingly approved the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative- Amendment 1- by 75%. The program, funded by one-third of documentary stamp taxes on real estate transactions, is set to generate about $800 million a year over the next two decades. According to the amendment language, that money is used ‘to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands’ for things like panther habitats, tropical hammocks and the Everglades restoration. But Florida lawmakers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars of the funds on things like operational management costs and to offset cuts to other programs and agencies…An attorney for the Florida House and Senate said Dodson erred in not relying on the written text of the amendment, rather than engage in the ‘pure speculation’ of assessing the voters’ intent. Read Courts must protect Florida’s environment from lawmakers.
CBS Action News Jacksonville – "A real estate developer has decided not to pursue 400 acres of environmentally sensitive land in the Julington-Durbin Preserve. In 2001, Bartram Park developer Tom Dodson sold 2,000 acres of the preserve to the state, water management district and city of Jacksonville for nearly $17 million. The city’s share was about $4 million. In June, he proposed an even swap of 403 acres of the preserve for 403 acres of Black Hammock Island. The goal was to build 1,400 homes. The land is located next to State Road 9B, which is extending into St. Johns County. In the last 10 years, the area has exploded with growth, and residents have used the Preserve as a contrast to the concrete sidewalks and asphalt nearby. Eastland, the developer, said in a release Thursday that it decided not to pursue the land after the proposed exchange agreement generated a lot of discussion in the community. The company is now exploring the sale of the Black Hammock land to the state of Florida. Read Developer will not pursue Julington-Durbin Preserve.
Lloyd Dunkelberger reports for Sarasota Herald-Tribune – "The U.S. Supreme court ruled Wednesday that the nation’s third-largest state should be given another chance to prove its case that overconsumption of water in Georgia is damaging the Apalachicola River System. The 5-4 decision, written by Justice Stephen Breyer, overturned a 2017 recommendation by a court-appointed special master that found Florida had not proven its case 'by clear and convincing evidence' that imposing a cap on Georgia’s water use would benefit Florida water systems, including oyster-rich Apalachicola Bay in Franklin County. Breyer said the special master had 'applied too strict a standard' in rejecting Florida’s claim. Florida filed the lawsuit in 2013, although the case is only the latest iteration of a decades-old battle about the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system, which starts in Georgia and flows south to Florida. Among the key questions court-appointed special master Ralph Lancaster will have to settle is whether an ‘equity-based cap’ on Georgia’s water consumption in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint system would increase the water flow into the Apalachicola River and whether the amount of that extra water would ‘significantly redress the economic and ecological harm that Florida has suffered,’ the opinion said. Read Florida gets another chance to make case in ‘water wars’.
David Conway reports for Observer Media – “If you’re thinking about setting off fireworks at one of Sarasota’s beaches to celebrate this Fourth of July, Kylie Wilson would strongly encourage you to think again. First of all, it’s illegal. But if that’s not enough of a deterrent, Wilson also warns that it could have catastrophic effect on the birds that nest in the area. On Lido Beach, where a large colony of black skimmers includes more than 130 recently hatched chicks, the loud noises could cause the adults to abandon their newborns…Wilson is the shorebird monitoring and stewardship coordinator for the Sarasota chapter of Audubon Florida. In that role, she’s working to increase public awareness of how to interact with the birds that nest on Lido Key, Siesta Key, and Longboat Key.” Read Watch out for birds on beaches.
Reuters – “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief on Wednesday said he would eliminate regulations that allowed it to block permits for major projects that may pollute water, handing a victory to mining, oil and land development companies seeking to avoid delays over environmental concerns. In a memo, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said he is directing the agency's office of water to change current regulations under the federal Clean Water Act to eliminate the agency's power to preemptively or retroactively veto permits before or after they have been filed with the Army Corps of Engineers or state agencies. The action marked Pruitt's latest move to unwind regulations he has said were unfair to businesses. It would remove an important check on large projects that can adversely affect local water supplies, an environmental group said. Pruitt said EPA veto power is unnecessary because the National Environmental Policy Act already requires federal agencies to consider environmental effects from proposed projects, and offers a process for public comment…Environmental groups have criticized changes Pruitt has been implementing at the country’s environmental regulatory body, including weakening scientific advisory panels and proposed large staffing cuts, saying they threaten to weaken the agency in the long term.” Read U.S. EPA to undercut own power to block potential polluting projects.
Fatima Hussein and Amena H. Saiyid report for Bloomberg – “Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement June 27, played a prominent role in forming the nation’s environmental policies, including shaping the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. Kennedy was described by environmental lawyers as focused on states’ rights and centrism during his three decades on the high court. ‘His leaving will doubtless have a major bearing on the outcome of the litigation’ over the Waters of the U.S. rule, Pat Parenteau, professor at Vermont Law School, said. Kennedy ‘showed enough interest to learn something about the science underlying environmental problems and the complexity of trying to regulate the myriad activities that create them,’ Parenteau told Bloomberg Environment in an email. Kennedy’s concurrence in the 2006 case Rapanos v. U.S. is the most significant environmental opinion of his Supreme Court career, attorneys said. In the 4-4-1 decision, Kennedy concluded that a water or wetland is considered ‘navigable waters’ under the Clean Water Act if it has a ‘significant nexus’ to ‘waters that are navigable in fact or that could reasonably be so made.’ Kennedy’s opinion turned out to be the linchpin for the Obama administration’s attempt, through the Clean Water Rule, to define what is meant by ‘waters of the U.S.’ or WOTUS." Read Retiring justice Kennedy shaped Clean Water Act’s boundaries.
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Upcoming Environmental Events
June 29, 12:00 pm – Attend River Rising: Town Hall Series in Jacksonville to learn about rising waters in the St. Johns, how decades of dredging has increased water levels and storm surge, and what Jacksonville and coastal communities need to do to become more resilient. For more information, click here.
July 3, 12:00 pm - Attend Springs Academy - Class 4: Springs Biology at the North Florida Environmental Center in High Springs, FL. This Springs Academy class will be taught by Dr. Bob Knight, Executive Director of the Florida Springs Institute. Dr. Knight will be presenting an in-depth overview of Florida springs biology, covering topics such as springs algae, plants, and wildlife. For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org or click here.
July 11, 6:00 pm – Attend River Rising: Town Hall Series in Jacksonville to learn about rising waters in the St. Johns, how decades of dredging has increased water levels and storm surge, and what Jacksonville and coastal communities need to do to become more resilient. For more information, click here.
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