Saturday, August 15, 2015

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FCC News Brief
Florida's best environmental reporting, editorials, and op-eds
August 14, 2015

Kevin Spear reports for the Orlando Sentinel – “Fearing the state has sanctioned further harm to one of Florida’s first tourism treasures, Silver Springs, two environmental groups are seeking to overturn an aquifer pumping-permit issued to a ranch belonging to a Canadian billionaire…An appeal would stage a David vs. Goliath battle, with the grass-roots St. Johns Riverkeeper and Florida Defenders of the Environment facing off against the tax-funded district and global industrialist Frank Stronach. ‘Allowing our over-pumped aquifer and polluted waterways to be further degraded for the economic benefit of a private landowner is completely contrary to the public interest,’ said Lisa Rinaman, who serves as “Riverkeeper” for the Jacksonville-based group.” Read Environmentalists appeal to protect Silver Springs from aquifer pumping
Eric Staats reports for the Naples Daily News – “…[C]onservation and sportsmen groups on either side of the issue agree the new (panther policy) memo uses softer words but says the same thing as the memo that drew fire the first time around…some troublesome wording remains in the new memo, panther biologist Mark Lotz said…South Florida Wildlands Association Director Matthew Schwartz said…’Unless these two agencies (FWC and FWS) team up and stop habitat loss, we’re not going to have panthers…It’s all kind of semantics anyway.’” Read Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission revised panther memo doesn’t quell criticism 
Mary Ellen Klas reports for the Miami Herald – “The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) last December gave approval to FPL’s plan to ask customers to finance a venture into the controversial natural gas fracking business in Oklahoma…In July, regulators gave FPL permission to enter into agreements with other gas fracking companies and charge customers up to $500 million a year, without seeking regulatory approval…But the Office of Public Counsel, which represents the public in utility rate cases, as well as the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, oppose the ruling and each filed a notice of appeal with the high court…The PSC overruled its own staff when it approved the FPL request, allowing the company to become the nation’s fist utility to use ratepayer money for what the staff called a ‘non-regulated risk.’” Read Consumer advocate asks court to reverse FPL gas fracking fee
Susan Salisbury reports for the Palm Beach Post – “For the 20thstraight year, farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee have exceeded the phosphorus reduction requirements for water flowing from their farms to the Everglades, the South Florida Water Management District said Thursday.” Read Lake O farmers lauded for 20 years of beating cleanup goals
Charlie Frago reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “So far in August, the city (St. Petersburg) has dumped 16.5 million gallons of untreated, or partially treated, sewage into Boca Ciega and Tampa Bays. On Wednesday, officials conceded that dumpings could continue for at least a year because St. Petersburg’s aging and overloaded system can’t handle the rainfall. The admission comes four months after city officials closed a wastewater plant…” Read Recent rains expose a St. Pete wastewater system in disarray

Upcoming Environmental Events & Meetings
August 22, 11 am – Attend Past, Present and Future: Florida’s Water in the St. Johns River Basin at the Museum of Science & History inJacksonville. Learn from scientists, artists, and community leaders about the issues facing our water today. Find more info here.
August 28-30 - Attend The Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute's Wekiwa Field School in Apopka for lectures, guest speakers, fieldwork and fun regarding springs health. Find more info here.

September-December- Help Current Problems with their annual Great Suwannee River Basin CleanupFind more info here.
September 17, 6:30 pm - Attend the FREE Town Hall on Fracking to hear David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council, debate Jennifer Hecker, director of natural resource policy at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, on whether fracking is good or bad for Florida. Chuck O’Neal, first vice president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, will moderate. Event will be held at the Winter Park Garden Club building: 1300 S. Denning Drive (in Mead Botanical Garden) Winter Park, FL 32789 (no RSVP required).

September 25-26 - Attend the Florida Wildflower Symposium at Leu Gardens, Orlando for field trips, presentations, exhibits, workshops and demonstrations regarding topics including monarch butterflies, native and honey bees, landscaping with native plants, and state parks in peril. Find more info here or call (407) 622 - 1606.

October 8-9 – Attend the Annual Florida Remediation Conference in Orlando for 2 days of technical presentations on soil and groundwater cleanup, 75 exhibitors and a charity golf tournament before the conference. Find more info here.
October 23, 12:00 pm; October 24, 9:30 am - Attend the 2015 Audubon Assembly in Maitland for fieldtrips (early Friday), workshops, and more regarding topics including parks, sea level rise, diversity in conservation, and Amendment 1 activism. Find more info here.

November 6, 8:30 am registration - Learn from scientists and students about the Indian River Lagoon, its drainage basin, and how you can help at the ShORE (Sharing Our Research with Everyone) 2015 symposiumFind more info 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 environmental news from around the state. 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 encourage your friends, family, and co-workers to join the FCC and subscribe to the Daily News Brief (both free). 
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Please send all suggestions, comments and criticism to Gladys Delgadillo 
About the FCC: The Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) is composed of over 60 conservation organizations and a thousand individuals devoted to protecting and conserving Florida’s land, fish and wildlife, and water resources.   
For more information on the FCC

Founder and Chairman, Bob Graham; Vice-Chairmen, Nathaniel Pryor Reed & Lee Constantine

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Times Like These

In Times like these, it pays to take time out and spend time with friends and family in our parks and preserves.
Creeping charlie, or fog fruit. native and a great ground cover for swales. Usually available at native nurseries.

A walk in Prairie Pines Preserve.

More from Prairie Pines.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Collier County Commissioners Save One (Tyler) Screw Over the People They Supposedly Represent

Thanks to Karen Dwyer for letting us know what happened and sharing...

Karen Dwyer5:28pm Apr 14
REPORT BACK ON COMMISSION MEETING: We've been fracked and now we've been "screwed" as one Commissioner put it in a text message...

How far will the Collier County Commission go to shut up the public? First they took our signs. Then after we submitted forms to speak on Item 10.A. regarding oil legislation, they pulled Item 10.A off the agenda and refused to hear comment on it. After we resubmitted forms to speak during Item 7 Public Comment, which the Agenda said would be heard, per standard policy, no sooner than 1:00 pm, they rushed through all the agenda items, including dropping five Agenda items, and ended the meeting before noon so that they would not have to hear our comments at 1:00 p.m. We’ve been fracked and now we’ve been “screwed,” as one Commissioner put it a text message.

I find it beyond belief that in a participatory democracy elected officials would go through so much trouble to silence the public. With the exception of Commissioner Penny Taylor, the Board has betrayed the public trust. Below is the speech I was prohibited from presenting. My current position is that no amount of regulation will ever make this new type of irresponsible Everglades oil drilling and fracking safe. It’s time to kill the bills. It’s apparent that SB 1468 and HB 1205 have been written by and for the gas industry and would provide us with nothing more than the appearance of new oil and gas regulations. They do not address the concerns of Collier County and would not even regulate the unauthorized fracking that occurred at the Hogan well. We need to close up not create more loopholes for industry.


What happened? Where are the strong oil and gas regulations we were promised in November after unauthorized fracking hazarded our water supply and led to State fines, revocation, and a still pending lawsuit for cleanup.

In June you sued DEP; in October you relinquished your lawsuit since DEP agreed to work with you to secure stronger oil and gas regulations; in October you adopted Inland Oil Drilling and Fracking as your top 2015 Legislative Priority; and in November you accepted a report by AECOM that included 18 recommendations to strengthen Florida oil and gas laws.

Our point is that Collier County is a MAJOR stakeholder and ground zero for fracking in Florida. Yet we have not seen the county lobbyist address the oil regulation bills, even though S.B. 1468 and H.B. 1205 do not, I repeat, DO NOT address County concerns and priorities and would not even regulate the fracking that occurred at the Hogan well.

With only two weeks left in the legislative session, we urge the County to lobby for stronger oil and gas laws. We know the County provided recommendations to DEP, but DEP ignored them. Out of your 18 AECOM recommendations, only one was addressed. Out of your 4 Senate and House bill recommendations, none. We find it beyond belief that DEP would ignore the county for whom these bills were written. We urge the County to address their recommendations to the bill sponsors and all the legislators who can introduce desperately needed amendments. DEP cannot be trusted to protect our underground sources of drinking water; their negligence is close to criminal. Talk with everyone. Our number one concern, like you, are the regulatory loopholes in the proposed bills that would enable industry to repeat the fracking that occurred at the Hogan well and keep secret the chemicals and concentrations used. We need to close up not create more loopholes.

To conclude, please direct your lobbyist to secure stronger oil and gas laws—like those you recommended or the ones I’m submitting. Weak bills will not protect our water and community from irresponsible oil drilling and fracking. We need strong laws and a DEP that will enforce them. If you can’t get the bills amended, withdraw support from them and instead adopt local resolutions to prohibit new irresponsible Everglades oil drilling and fracking.

On back of my speech...some recommendations to the Commissioners....
Support an Amended SB 1468 and HB 1205

SB 1468 and HB 1205 has been written by and for the gas industry and would provide us with nothing more than the appearance of new oil and gas regulations. It does not address the concerns of Collier County and would not even regulate the unauthorized fracking that occurred at the Hogan well. With only two weeks left in the 2015 legislative session, the only way we'd recommend the County support SB 1468 and HB 1205 (sponsored by Senator Richter and Rep. Rodrigues respectively) would be if they were amended to include the following modifications.

Broaden the definition of “high pressure well stimulation” to include all well stimulation.
The proposed definition in SB 1468 and HB 1205 excludes operations that use under 100,000 gallons of fluid and dissolve rather than fracture rock. Consequently this definition would not capture acidizing proposals which are common in Florida, involve the injection of toxic chemicals, pose a risk to drinking water, and can be pursued without a permit.
Include language to prohibit the use of drinking water supplies for well stimulation.
Well stimulation operations rely on hundreds of thousands of gallons of water. After being injected into the ground, this water cannot be reused as drinking water and is permanently removed from drinking water supplies. SB 1468 and HB 1205 should require the use of alternative water instead of drinking water.
Require potential pathways for contamination be addressed prior to well permitting.
Improperly plugged and abandoned wells provide a pathway for fluids injected into nearby production wells to migrate into water supplies. SB 1468 and HB 1205 must require all production wells be sited at least two miles from improperly plugged abandoned wells or those abandoned wells re-plugged to current standards.
Require well operators hold liability insurance and be responsible for all remediation.
Many other states require well operators hold liability insurance to cover the cost of remediation in the event of an accident on site. SB 1468 and HB 1205 does not, nor does they require increased bonds for all projects using riskier well stimulation treatments. Further, drillers should be held accountable for any and all remediation associated with contamination. Without these requirements, the state may be responsible for expensive site cleanup in the event of an accident.
Establish buffers from residential areas, schools, and environmentally sensitive lands.
Well sites can release harmful air and water pollutants and thus are not compatible with all land uses. SB 1468 and HB 1205 should require a 1 mile buffer between an oil well and any source of drinking water, wildlife preserve, residential area, or school.
Require chemical information be disclosed to the public on a state-maintained database.
DEP should disclose the chemicals used in a well stimulation to the public on state-maintained database — not only on the FracFocus industry site. Relying solely on a third-party industry site for disclosure does not provide the same assurances or accountability that state public records laws are being properly upheld.
For the record, the Stonecrab Alliance supports a ban on all forms of extreme extraction AND stronger oil and gas regulations. We need both as well as local ordinances and conditional land use resolutions to protect our water and communities.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

My Thoughts

seaside goldenrod (yellow) and blanket flower are VERY drought tolerant here in SW Florida, and can take sandy well drained soils. They both provide nectar for native and honey bees and loads of other important insects. Also, they really are beautiful!

As Bob Dylan wrote, "The times they are a changin'..." and our weather (daily) and climate (year to year trends) certainly are. We can no longer count on rain of a certain amount at certain times of the year. We can no longer be sure we won't get a freeze or a drought only on rare occasions.

Mix all that with home landscaping and...what do we do?
The best answer for ALL landscaping issues in my mind will always be go NATIVE!
However, for your foundation plantings, the ones that are to survive if you could never water again, MUST be the toughest, most drought tolerant, AND most tolerant of temperature changes of any native plants you can get. No mater where you live, even in the golden range of 5-9, we all need to go this route to reduce our watering out in the yard. That's water we need for drinking!
And, in zones lower than 5 and in 10-11 where I am now, it's even more important to go native and tough. Our conditions are the harshest, so we need to access the native plant nurseries in our region. If that means driving for two hours to get to one, so be it. It really is that important.

This will also make our home landscapes hospitable to wildlife. If you love birds, be sure to create layers.  Take a look at the BTF plans. Even though created for Florida, the principles are the same. Plant should be no more than 15 feet tall at maturity, so no issues with power lines, or a need to have a tree trimmer. Use native shrubs that are tough and provide berries for birds and flowers for butterflies.  If you have room, a small, medium or large tree(s) to help provide shade, and a small sunny area for wildflowers and a place for native bees and other insects.  Do NOT amend the soil, use organic mulch and add compost if needed, that's all. The plants need to send their roots out into the surrounding soil to get anchored, and to find the water and nutrients they need.

I will try to share more ideas to help those of us in the toughest zones do better with what we have. Every time I watch a garden show, very little of what I see works for south Florida. They always seem to focus on zones 5-8, and the use of non natives is still predominant. My exception will be food plants, but please, if you live in zones 10-11, be sure the food plants you use are not listed as invasive in your area.