Legislators Use Back Door To Enact Straw Ban Moratorium

Legislation is moving ahead in Tallahassee that would place a five-year moratorium on the enactment or enforcement of local ordinances that ban single-use plastic straws.
The moratorium was added to another bill (HB771)dealing with contamination in local curbside recycling collection programs and how local governments have to deal with the issue in contract negotiations with haulers.
The amended bill has passed a House vote and is headed for a Senate vote.
Sierra has continued to support bans in an attempt to reduce unnecessary use of single-use plastic products because it contributes to litter and wastes resources.

Lakeland Coal Plant May Close

Lakeland Electric officials are recommending that the municipal utility close its last remaining coal-fired power plant, The Ledger of Lakeland reports.
The proposal, which would require approval by the Lakeland City Commission, is to use natural gas and solar farms to provide power to the city’s grid instead of coal.
Pending commission discussion and possible approval, there is no published timeline for implementing the conversion.
The pile of coal is a prominent part of the view by anyone passing the plant on East Lake Parker Drive.
Studies have pointed to the potential for groundwater contamination around the coal storage area, though no drinking water wells are located in the area. around the plant.
Nevertheless, getting rid of the coal stockpile will lessen the chances of future pollution. problems.
In addition, by increasing reliance on solar, the utility will move closer to the green energy goals being pursued in other Florida cities to reduce the impact of greenhouse gases that have been linked to climate change and sea-level rise.

Park Volunteer Bill Advances, But Questions Arise

Bills being considered by the Florida Legislature to provide free annual passes to anyone who contributes at least 50 hours a year to combatting invasive species is moving, but staff analyses raise questions about whether the threshold is too low.
A Senate analyses points out that park passes are already available to volunteers who contribute 500 volunteer hours a year in general efforts, not restricted only to removal or control of invasive species.
The issue is whether this proposal has a net beneficial or detrimental financial impact to park budgets.
That is, what sounded initially like a commendable idea may need some tweaking.

BS Ranch Still Disputes Blame For Odor Complaints; DEP Says Prove It As Lawsuit Proceeds

Disputes over who’s responsible for the odor complaints on Lakeland’s east side continue in legal filings in the suit filed earlier this year by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Against BS Ranch & Farm.
The company that processes septage and other wastes into soil has been at the center of legal and regulatory disputes since in opened a few years ago without getting either state environmental permits or proper county zoning.
Attempts by state and county officials bring the operation into compliance in hopes it would operate properly didn’t turn out as planned.
Area residents and business owners have regularly complained about foul odors. Many, but not all of the complaints have been traced to BS Ranch.
In early legal filings, BS Ranch’s attorney claims most of the odor problems are coming from other sources and disputes whether FDEP has any legal authority or jurisdiction to pursue its actions against the company.
FDEP responds that BS Ranch has presented no evidence to back up its claims that it is not in violation of its permit regarding foul odors or wetlands encroachment.
I’ll try to keep you updated as the case develops..

More Roads=More Roadkill

The juggernaut to fast track two massive toll roads into rural areas of Florida’s remaining wildlife habitat is bad news for anything in the way.
Florida Sierra opposes these roads and has developed a social media hashtag #tollroadkill to emphasize another downside of these wrong-headed projects.
The expansion of road networks through natural areas often ignore the fact that they lie in the path of wildlife movement.
This involves not only the regional movement of wide-ranging animals such as Florida panthers and Florida black bears, but also local species that are just trying to find a place to forage or the find mates or to lay eggs.
That means dead turtles, snakes, foxes, bobcats, opossums, songbirds, wading birds and pollinators.
What the ecological price Florida’s natural heritage will suffer is hard to estimate, but it is likely to substantial.
Legislators should hear from us to oppose this proposal.
The rationales–improved hurricane evacuation and rural economic development –ring false.
It is clear from press coverage that the people affected by these projects were not consulted.
This was a top-down effort to satisfy the short-term interests of the road-building lobby and related enterprises.
And, if the legislation passes and the pro forma studies to justify this damage proceeds, citizens should speak about the environmental damage and waste of taxpayer dollars that will result if these roads are ever built.

Sierra Position Unchanged By DeSoto Phosphate Mine Delay

Despite the recent announcement that DeSoto County officials have agreed to review in 2023 last year’s denial of Mosaic’s proposal to mine 14,000 acres, Sierra’s position is unchanged.
“Sierra Club’s opposition and concerns about this mine haven’t changed,” said Marian Ryan, conservation chair for Ancient Islands Group..” We’ll continue to monitor the situation and remain involved every step of the way.”
“When the County Commission denied Mosaic’s rezoning in July 2018, they made the right decision for the right reasons and we urge them to stick with it.,” she said.
The recently announced agreement was the result of mediation.
In addition to delaying reconsideration of the rezoning vote for at least four years, the agreement calls for the county to hold a number of public meetings to listen to additional testimony from Mosaic concerning how its mine plan will address concerns raised by the environmental community and area landowners..
The main concerns voiced by mining critics is the effects of the massive excavation will have on Horse Creek, one of the major tributaries of the Peace River and what will be the quality of the post-mining reclamation of the disturbed land.