News from Tallahassee for 10/30/14

Florida Ballot Preview: Water And Land Conservation Amendment (Am 1) posted on 10/28/14


FL EvergladesNote: Every day this week, we’ll be taking a look at amendments on the Florida ballot.

We start with Amendment 1: the measure setting aside public money for environmental conservation. Supporters of the amendment say it’s a way to accomplish what the Legislature has failed to do. But opponents say the Constitution isn’t the place to write state budgets.

Natural Bridge Battlefield State Park is a half-hour southeast of the Florida Capitol building. Preston Robertson, the lawyer for the nonprofit Florida Wildlife Federation, is looking across the water.

“This tract that we’re looking at, which is part of what’s called the Upper St. Marks River Corridor, has been on the Florida Forever list for a long time, I think about 10 years,” he says.

Crickets chirp loudly as we stand on a roadway that’s been built over this natural “bridge” over the river. The water’s flowing slowly.

“In this case, the St. Marks River goes underground, it goes through the limestone and pops back up,” Preston explains.

The state owns and manages the park. But north of here, the river flows through land owned by the St. Joseph Lumber Company. Purchasing that waterfront land is among the top priorities for a council that recommends land purchases under the state program Florida Forever. The Yes on 1 campaign says the land-buying program is crucial to protecting the state’s drinking water and preserving natural beauty that attracts big tourism dollars. And they say the amendment will ensure it continues.

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Charlie Crist promises renewed focus on climate change, environment posted on 10/27/14

by craig pittman | tampa Bay Times

During a heated moment in the second gubernatorial debate, Gov. Rick Scott said of his opponent, "Charlie Crist never did anything for the environment."

"That's the most absurd statement anybody could make," Crist said in an interview afterward.

During Crist's term as governor, he took a number of actions on environmental issues:

• He blocked a coal-fired power plant from being built near the Everglades.

• He halted a drive to have manatees removed from the state's endangered list.

• He convened a summit on climate change, vowing to make it an annual event.

• He initiated an attempt to buy all of U.S. Sugar's land for use in Everglades restoration.

But when Crist ran for a U.S. Senate seat, he dropped most of his environmental initiatives.

He canceled his climate summit. He didn't fight the Legislature's move to cut funding for the popular Florida Forever environmental land buying program. And after spending years opposed to offshore drilling, he said he was open to the idea.

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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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