Jackalone: Resist Environmental Rollback

The 2018 elections in Florida will be key to overturning decisions to ignore voter mandates to restore funding for environmental land protection and to ensure that fracking doesn’t happen in the future, Frank Jacklalone told a packed audience at Ancient Islands Sierra Club’s monthly meeting Thursday at Circle B.

Jackalone, a longtime Sierra Club activist from St. Petersburg, is senior organizing manager for Sierra Club Florida.

Environmental preservation and cleaner energy are the two big issues around which Sierra is joining with other groups to organize.

He outlined the current fight to get funding to restore the Everglades, which is suffering from decades of water diversions designed to support sugar farming and urban sprawl in south Florida.

Although the proposal approved this week in the Florida Senate to construction a giant reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee is not exactly what supporters of Everglades restoration had in mind, Jackalone said they[re supporting it unless it is watered down by the Florida House.

“But protection of the Everglades is not enough,” he said, explaining it’s important to support and effort led by Bob Graham, who launched Everglades restoration when he was governor in the 1980s, to make sure the Florida Legislature funds purchase of environmental lands as the voters envisioned when they overwhelmingly supported Amendment 1 in the 2014 election.

The amendment authorized $300 million this year, but the budget proposed by the Florida House has no money and the proposed Senate budget has only $15 million, he said.

Meanwhile, a move to ban fracking in Florida, which was poised to get Senate approval, appears dead this year because of the unwillingness of House members to support the measure.

Jackalone said it will be important to get candidates on record on these issues for the 2018 legislative races and to support only candidates that support these two conservation priorities.

He emphasized that it is important to persuade elected officials to take the long view on these issues.

“We want the generations that come after us to enjoy the special places we enjoyed,” he said.

He also discussed the challenges of weakened federal environmental policy under the Trump administration.

“The stakes are very, very high,” he said, explaining citizens can commit to alternative energy as the technology becomes cheaper, more efficient and more esthetic and can create a new energy economy, regardless of anything Trump does.

“People don’t want environmental degradation,” Jackalone said.

He said another key to success will be joining with other groups to make common cause on these issues.

The next action is the People’s Climate March April 29.

The main demonstration will be in Washington D.C., but there will be local events around central Florida, including Tampa and Orlando.

For details on the Florida events, go to http://peoplesclimate.org/sistermarches/ .

Lakeland Sludge-to-Soil Plant Update

The County Commission and BS Ranch and Farm will finally get their day in court April 19 before Circuit Judge Keith Peter Spoto at 2:45p.m. in Courtroom 5A2 at the courthouse in Bartow.

Polk County, which is represented by de la Parte & Gilbert in Tampa, is seeking a temporary injunction to halt the company’s operations at an industrial park off Maine Avenue near Lakeland until the company, which began operating illegally last year without either proper county zoning permits or state environmental permits, comes into compliance with all of its permits.

BS is being represented by Clark,Campbell, Lancaster and Munson of Lakeland.

The odor problem, which BS officials initially denied was coming from their plant and then later changed their story and blamed weather conditions, drew widespread complaints from surrounding businesses and residents.

County officials had approved a permit for the company after being assured by company representatives and their own staff that it was a wonderful operation that would cause no problems. In addition to the injunction, commissioners have asked their legal staff to research whether the commission can legally revoke its approval of the company’s zoning permit.

Meanwhile, on April 18 the County Commission is scheduled to hold the first of two public hearings on an ordinance that would impose a six-month moratorium on all new or pending applications for soil manufacturing plants. The final hearing will occur May 2. Both hearings will occur during the afternoon commission session, which begins at 1:30 p.m.

Earlier in the meeting the commissioners are scheduled to consider approval of a proclamation in honor of Earth Day, which will occur Aptil. 22.

Tips For Fighting Trump Environmental Assault Up Thursday

Does the environmental news out of Washington (and Tallahassee) make you see red instead of green?

You’re probably in good company.

But instead of just complaining or fuming, attend the next Ancient Islands Sierra Club meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. at Circle B Bar Reserve and find out what you can do.

The advice will come from Frank Jackalone, senior organizing manager, Sierra Club Florida.

Jackalone has years of experience in working on Sierra’s behalf on a variety of environmental issues in Florida.

It should be a good talk.

If you’d like to socialize, come at 6:30 p.m. and bring a covered dish for some fellowship.

Let Rattlesnakes Be Or Pay The Price

Just days after a column appeared in The Ledger discussing the decline of the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake because of human persecution, a news report confirms how misguided human persecution can be.

According to Polk County Fire Rescue, some unnamed man shot a rattlesnake—there were no details on why he thought it was necessary to shoot it or whether he put any thought to it at all—and then the wounded snake took its revenge.

Apparently the guy tried to pick it up by hand and was bitten by the wounded, but not dead snake. The ma n was airlifted to a hospital for treatment.

No other details were available. The press release said the snake was more than 5 feet long, but there was no independent verification.

Recently local authorities claimed to have captured a 7-foot Banded Water Snake that wandered into a Lake Wales woman’s home, but the photo provided to the press showed a snake that was much shorter.

This species typically grows to 4 feet, which is about what it looked like in the photo.

There seems to be a lot reptile size inflation going on around here ever since that trick photograph of the alligator at Circle B.

Getting back to the rattlesnake issue.

Rattlesnakes, like alligators, are content to leave us alone if we leave them alone.

They have other things on their little minds.

If you see a rattlesnake or any other venomous reptile, give it some room and let it pass.

If you must shoot it, use a camera.

Lake County to consider summer fertilizer restrictions

Lake County commissioners are scheduled later this month to consider an ordinance that would limit the use of fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorous near water bodies.

If commissioners pass the ordinance, it will joining a growing list of Florida counties, mostly in coastal areas, that have approved some kinds of restrictions to reduce lake, river and bay pollution caused by fertilizer runoff from lawns.

Neither Polk County nor its cities has passed such an ordinance despite the large number of lakes that could benefit.

The ordinances have produced some pushback in the Florida Legislature because of lobbying by fertilizer and commercial landscaping interests to ban local restrictions.

Although there are enforcement provisions in these ordinances, their main value is in educating homeowners to adopt more environmentally-friendly practices to avoid further damaging water bodies near their homes.

Enforcement remains an issue, though.

Although Lakeland and other cities have ordinances that prohibit putting grass and other yard debris in the street where it will end up in storm drains, the leaf and grass blowing crews that homeowners and business owners hire for lawn maintenance widely ignore the restriction.

The result is tidy yards and sidewalks and lousy lakes.

Remember, there’s no such place as away. Everything ends up somewhere.

FWC To Resume Bear Hunting Discussion

Bear-hunting will be on the agenda when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meets April 19 and 20 in Tallahassee.

Last year the panel voted unanimously to cancel a second-straight bear hunting season to allow staff to come up with more information justifying it.

The issue has been divisive and it’s unclear from the agenda materials available so far what the staff’s recommendation will be.

The short memo attached to the agenda says nothing more than the staff has studied the matter and will be talking about it at the meeting.

That cryptic memo has led to the circulation of an email from the Humane Society, an anti-hunting group, warning about the potential for a decision to resume hunting.

FWC biologists had recommended a limited hunting season in 2015, which ended early when the quota was reached more quickly than expected., because years of protection has allowed Florida black bear populations to recover to the point that limited hunting would be sustainable.

Biologists outside the agency responded that the population increase didn’t automatically justify a resumption of hunting. They countered that the decision to allow bear hunting was based less on any management need and instead on political pressure from the hunting community, many of whose members were eager to bag their first bear in Florida.

 

BS Ranch And Farm Case Another Example Why DEP Unfit To Replace EPA

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection bent over backwards to come up with a way to issue an after-the-fact permit to allow a soil-manufacturing operation in an industrial park near residential areas in east Lakeland to continue to operate.

When there were odor problems, DEP’s response was to verify it was coming from the site, but not to force it to shut down or relocate. The position didn’t change, The Ledger reported Saturday, even after it was revealed that the earlier announced cessation of new loads of sludge from Orange County sewer plants until the odor problems had abated had not happened as claimed. The company’s consultant also argued with DEP staff over the definition of odors.

Look up scofflaw in the dictionary and you might see the company’s picture. Look up accomplice and you might see DEP’s regional enforcement staff.

DEP once had a stronger public protection role at this same industrial park. There was a wood mulching operation that was allow debris to drift into a nearby residential area. DEP officials made the company move.

The current DEP under Gov. Rick Scott takes the position that it will rarely crack down on permit violations because that would be unfriendly to business interests, even when the violations are at odds with the public interest.

This comes against the backdrop of some misguided state legislators and others in this state calling for a reduced role for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by ceding environmental oversight to the states.

As the BS case illustrates, Florida’s DEP exercises little real oversight where it counts.

Meanwhile, the Polk County Commission in general and Commissioner George Lindsey in particular deserve commendation for taking some leadership on this issue and trying to undo what they now recognize was a bad zoning decision. They relied on the misrepresentations of the company and the county planning staff on this operation’s true impact.

I’d also like to suggest that in the absence of much state environmental regulatory oversight that Polk consider a way to protect itself from future problems of this nature.

In addition to confining these operations to industrial properties, they might also consider other location criteria in the land development code that would not allow them to be sited anywhere near residential land uses.