News from Tallahassee for 10/21/14

FPL wants customers to pay to fight water rules posted on 10/17/14

by Susan Salisbury | Palm Beach Post

Florida Power & Light Co.’s request to charge customers for “lobbying” against proposed revisions to the Clean Water Act is outrageous, an environmental coalition said Thursday.

FPL is asking the Florida Public Service Commission to allow it to collect $228,500 from its ratepayers for advocacy against the proposed water rules. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are in the midst of a rulemaking process that would more clearly define streams, wetlands and other bodies of water.

“ Florida Power & Light has the audacity to ask the Public Service Commission to use customer’s money to weaken clean water protections,” said Susan Glickman, Florida Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

The PSC is expected to hear Juno Beach-based FPL’s request Wednesday. A vote is scheduled in late November.

FPL spokeswoman Sarah Gatewood said advocating a position with the EPA is not considered lobbying. Laws specify that customer dollars cannot be used to pay for lobbying.

“We are not attempting to influence lawmakers or legislation. We are getting involved in the rule-making process with one of our regulators to protect our customers’ interests and prevent what could be extremely costly and unnecessary requirements,” Gatewood said.

The company’s analysis of four of its plants — Martin, Manatee, Sanford and Turkey Point — found that costs to retrofit the plants’ cooling ponds to comply with the proposed new standards could be $25 million or more per facility.

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Florida slowed down on new green jobs posted on 10/9/14

by Rob johnson | Pensacola News-Journal

A new study shows that the number of clean energy-related jobs in Florida grew about 6 percent last year to roughly 130,000, a total that the consortium of trade groups responsible for the report said should be much larger.

"We believe this is only a drop in the bucket of what this state could be," said Bob Keefe, executive director of Environmental Entrepreneurs, based in Washington, D.C.

The study's sponsors are advocating public policies that would generate more green jobs in the Sunshine State, such as requiring electric utilities to make solar energy larger segments of their power source portfolios.

But Florida Senate President Don Gaetz told the News Journal that state law and regulatory authorities already encourage utilities to be responsible in their choice of power sources. "We have created a highly regulated power industry in our state, and we make them accountable for the reliability of power, its availability and how it' delivered."

In response to the report released Wednesday, Gulf Power Co. issued a statement saying it "regularly reviews proposals for renewable energy and evaluates projects that will not increase energy costs to customers or shift costs from one group of customers to another."

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Florida conservation amendment faces hurdles posted on 10/6/14

by Kate Bradshaw | Tampa Tribune

ST. PETERSBURG — A proposed state constitutional amendment dedicating money for environmental preservation is yet another source of contention between Republicans and Democrats aiming to win, or keep, seats representing Pinellas County in the Legislature.

Amendment 1, which will be on all ballots in Florida, has gotten perhaps a fraction of the attention of Amendment 2, its medical marijuana-legalizing counterpart.

Those opposed to the amendment include industry and agriculture leaders, as well as many Republican candidates and office holders. Environmentalists, meanwhile, see it as a crucial measure with economic and environmental benefits.

The law, if approved by 60 percent of voters, would dedicate one-third of the documentary stamp tax, which the state collects on every real estate transaction, to environmental and water quality.

The money could be used, for example, to buy land that serves as recharge sites for the Floridan Aquifer, an underground layer of porous limestone that stores much of the state’s drinking water. It could be used to fund dune grass restoration on Florida’s beaches or management of state and local areas as well.

Such a provision was on the books as Florida 2000 and subsequently Florida Forever, but it lapsed in 2009 and has not been renewed. The amendment got onto the ballot by way of 1 million signatures on petitions.

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South Florida at forefront of climate planning, top U.S. scientist says posted on 10/2/14

by Jenny Staletovich | Miami Herald

A week before a seasonal high tide is expected to soak Miami Beach, the White House’s chief science adviser visited the city Wednesday to praise regional leaders for their work on climate change.

“What’s going on... here is really a model for what we need to see going on around the country,” John Holdren told an audience of about 650 at the Sixth Annual Southeast Florida Climate Leadership Summit at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Holdren, who last month landed on The Daily Show after skirmishing with the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology over polar ice melt, got a decidedly warmer welcome at the gathering that drew a wide audience from government, private industry and nonprofits.

The summit, part of a compact forged four years ago among South Florida’s four counties, serves as annual wrap-up and rallying cry for addressing threats from climate change. The two-day event features about a dozen panels on public policy and and planning.

This year, the conference coincides with a renewed push to address climate change. Activists descended on Manhattan last week for a march that preceded a United Nations summit where President Barack Obama singled out South Florida as one of the country’s more vulnerable regions. And on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson told trustees of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce that he planned to show a group of senators flooding on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale next week.

In his address, Holdren ran down a laundry list of climate-related risks from rising temperatures to worsening storms. Sitting just feet above sea level, South Florida is particularly vulnerable to both flooding and saltwater tainting water supplies.

Because porous limestone lies under Florida, controlling water can be tricky, Tommy Strowd, director of operations for the Lake Worth Drainage District and a former deputy director at the South Florida Water Management District, told the group. The system of canals and flood control structures built a half century ago to drain the Everglades that covered much of South Florida only made matters worse.

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Everglades Foundation offers $10 million water pollution cleanup prize posted on 9/23/14

by andy reid | Orlando Sentinel

Everglades advocates are dangling a $10 million prize to motivate scientists and businesses to solve a water pollution problem plaguing South Florida.

The Everglades Foundation on Monday unveiled a competition to find ways to remove excessive phosphorus from waterways and then recycle it to fertilize crops elsewhere.

Taxpayers have already spent nearly $2 billion trying to remove high levels of phosphorus from the stormwater that flows into the Everglades. The Everglades Foundation and its anonymous donor are banking that the $10 million prize will help offer new solutions.

"It is time for some competition and innovation to come forward," said Eric Eikenberg, Everglades Foundation CEO. "Things have to change. The private sector has to step forward to solve these problems."

Phosphorus is found in fertilizer, animal waste and the natural decay of soil.

Too much phosphorus washing off farmland and urban areas is causing problems in Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades and other Florida waterways, as well as waters around the world.

An overload of phosphorus can fuel toxic algae blooms that kill fishing grounds and make waters unsafe for swimming. Phosphorus-loaded water in the Everglades spawns the growth of cattails that force out sawgrass needed for animal habitat.

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