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News from Tallahassee for 12/11/13
Environmental groups raise $400k more for conservation amendment posted on 12/11/13
by Aaron Deslatte | Orlando Sentinel
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida's environmental lobby has amassed another $700,000 last month to help land a billion-dollar conservation constitutional amendment on next year's general election ballot.
Environmentalists from Audubon of Florida, the Trust for Public Land, Sierra Club, Wildlife Federation and other groups have also mustered 446,912 valid signatures -- nearing closer to the 683,149 required to place a question on the November 2014 ballot -- for an amendment that would steer billions of tax dollars to conservation programs, including springs protection and the Everglades.
The groups raised just over $401,000 in November and got another $300,000 in loans. Its biggest contributors for the month were: the Florida and National Audubon chapters ($205,000); Trust for Public Land ($100,000); and the Florida Wildlife Federation ($67,000).
Weekly Roundup: A Week on the Battlefields of the Past posted on 12/9/13
by BRANDON LARRABEE | News Service of Florida
You could be forgiven for looking around and wondering whether you've stepped back in time a year or two -- or even further.
The gambling discussions that have tied the Florida Legislature in knots over the last several years keep coming up. Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner are still tangling with elections supervisors over voting procedures.
And, at least in one corner of the state, Union soldiers are still the least popular people around.
On most of the issues, there at least appears to be some movement. Suggestions by House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, on how to move gambling legislation forward might help prod his reluctant chamber to action. And Detzner and Pinellas County Superintendent Deborah Clark have defused their conflict over where absentee ballots can be returned in an upcoming congressional special election.
As for the Civil War? In some ways, it's still raging 150 years after it was fought for the first time. Why would it end now?
Fla. Panhandle Counties Close To Receiving $88M For Oil Spill Restoration Projects posted on 12/9/13
by Sascha Cordner | WFSU
Several Florida Panhandle counties are slated for about $90 million worth of early restoration projects to address areas impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil-spill. Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard, other Environmental leaders, as well as local officials made that announcement Friday in Panama City.
A total of 28 projects are slated to benefit an eight county area in the Florida Panhandle that Governor Rick Scott designated as hugely affected by the oil spill. Former Florida DEP Secretary Mimi Drew says the biggest amount of the $88 million will go to Escambia County.
Next House Speaker Wants Statewide Water Planning posted on 12/4/13
by JIM Turner | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
As the Senate pursues an ambitious $220 million plan to redirect water and reduce pollutants in South Florida, the next House speaker wants lawmakers to consider a broader approach to the vast water problems confronting the entire state.
Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, wants lawmakers to factor in water issues faced by the agriculture industry and drinking-water sources, as well as problems facing Florida's freshwater springs, the Apalachicola River region in Florida's Panhandle and the northern Indian River Lagoon, as they prepare to allocate money for water-resource projects in next year's budget.
"The water issues need to be approached in a comprehensive fashion," Crisafulli said Monday. "It's important we don't get too laser-focused on one region of the state, but look at it from the standpoint of the overall needs of the state."
DEP fines GRU $7,500 for sewage spill, but cost likely to be far greater posted on 12/4/13
by Christopher Curry | Gainesville Sun
July’s approximately 900,000-gallon sewage spill — and a smaller spill in August — will mean a $7,500 state fine for Gainesville Regional Utilities.
But utility officials say the full cost from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection enforcement action will be far more significant than that fine and $250 in related administrative costs.
A proposed DEP consent order would require GRU to prepare and implement a plan to test the working order of all valves in its sewage collection system. Tony Cunningham, a senior environmental engineer at GRU, said that means more than 500 valves and either hiring additional staff or contracting with an outside firm. Cunningham said at this point, without the plan in place, the rough cost estimate of that valve testing is $230,000 annually.
That cost projection does not include any repair, construction or maintenance work done in response to those tests, Cunningham said.
As for the moderate $7,500 fine, the DEP says it is in line with current state law. Florida Statute 412 says a sewage spill carries a fine of $5,000 and includes no language for increasing the size of the fine for larger spills.
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