October Weather Ain’t What It Was; Welcome To Climate Change

If you have lived in Florida long enough, you might remember crisper weather.

Just to reassure you this isn’t a false memory of better times, you might check out the National Weather Service summary of traditional temperature averages.

The figures show the average nighttime lows are in the low 60s and the average daytime highs in the low 80s. This year the lows are in the low 70s and the highs are in the upper 80s.

The 60s average means that there were times when the temperature was in the 50s. There are historic lows for this time of year in the 40s.

If you don’t think anything is happening with our climate, you better think again.


EPA Reverses Policy: Approves Using Phosphate Waste To Build Roads

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has quietly approved the use of phosphogypsum for roadbuilding.

This is a major change in a discussion that has been occurring for decades as the phosphate industry has regularly pushed for approval to find a use for this waste that is now stored in massive stacks near fertilizer plants.

Phosphogypsum is slightly radioactive and contains trace amounts of a number of toxic elements such as arsenic and cadmium.

The change was announced in an Oct. 14 press release.

EPA’s earlier ban that dates to 1992 was based on a concern that if the material were used for a road and the road were abandoned and the land was later used for a homesite, residents might be exposed to the radiation through exposure to radon. Radon is a gas.

The revised rule prohibits the abandonment of the road to be used for another purpose, so it seems that issue is covered. There are other restrictions.

What constitutes a harmful exposure to radon has been the subject of decades of pushback from the phosphate industry toward EPA regulations, too.

That’s another issue to watch as agency heads under the Trump Administration are rushing to enact a bunch of rule changes as Trump’s term ends in case (we hope) he is not re-elected.

The EPA’s change of heart is reportedly linked to a study published by The Fertilizer Institute that was persuasive enough for an agency that probably didn’t need much persuading under the current regime.

The unanswered question is whether any bid specifications for local road projects will allow contractors to use this stuff instead of limerock for road base material.

According to the EPA press release, any roads built using phosphogypsum will require public notice.

This will be a developing saga.


Analysis Confirms Widespread Opposition To Toll Road Scheme

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but most people who have bothered to comment about a plan to jam new toll roads through much of what’s left of rural Florida are against it.

The figures were contained in an analysis released today by No Roads To Ruin, a coalition of environmental and other public interest organizations that includes Florida Sierra Club.

Specifically, 93 percent of the public comments were opposed to the projects. These projects were the result of lobbying by the road-building industry and other special interest that produced legislati0on that was rammed through the 2019 session by Senate President Bill Galvano.

One corridor runs from Lakeland to the Naples area. A second would run from north of the Tampa Bay area to the Georgia border. A third corridor would connect the northern corridor with the Florida Turnpike.

The No Roads To Ruin report comes less than a week before the final meetings of the task forces appointed to study issues related to building new roads through three designated corridors running from the Everglades to the Georgia border.

The task forces were only allowed to develop some guidelines and principles to be used in implementing whatever project state transportation officials decide to pursue using the money appropriated by legislators and within the timeline laid out in the law.

Galvano and other road backers argue new highways are needed to relieve traffic congestion, ease hurricane evacuation and promote economic development in struggling rural areas of the state.

Opponents contend the roads are unnecessary, will destroy remaining intact wildlife corridors, encourage urban sprawl and are not financially feasible.

The final reports are due in Tallahassee by Nov. 15.

The No Roads To Ruin coalition organizers have also questioned whether the fact that public opinion is overwhelmingly against the projects will be included in that final report.

Sierra Endorses Alan Cohn In Congressional Race

This is a reprint of press release received from our neighbors in the Tampa Bay Sierra. The congressional district includes parts of western Polk County.

 “We are very pleased to announce that the Sierra Club officially endorses Alan Cohn for election,” said Sierra Club Florida’s Political Chair David Harbeitner. “We are confident that he will work to protect Florida’s environment for our families and for our future.”

Cohn has been an outspoken advocate for environmental protection, restoring the health of Florida’s waterways and tackling the climate crisis. As a Peabody Award winning investigative journalist he has produced a number of in-depth investigations into environmental issues and challenges over his 30-year career. Topics he covered included environmental issues such as red tide, toxic blue-green algae blooms and the impacts of the phosphate mining industry on our rural lands, aquifer and communities.  Cohn opposes issuing new oil and gas drilling leases in federal waters off Florida coasts because he knows that the health of Florida’s beaches and coastal waters are tied to the health of our economy and lifestyle.  He supports transitioning to a clean energy economy to help combat climate change and he supports rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, both as a means to ensure public safety and create good paying jobs.


Cohn is focused on kitchen table issues that affect our everyday lives.  He is a proponent of fixing our broken healthcare system which leaves too many people without affordable coverage, and raising the minimum wage and expanding social security to help lift workers, families and seniors out of poverty and move towards a more just and equitable society. 


“We look forward to a victory party for the environment on election night and to many more years of Cohn fighting for the environment as a U.S. Representative,” said Harbeitner. 

M-CORES Meetings Winding Down; Next One Is Wednesday

The meetings to discuss the direction the review of a planned toll road corridor through southwest Florida between Lakeland and Naples are in their final stages.

The next meeting will occur from 9 to 5 Wednesday. It will be available online by registering at the project’s website.

There also will be a chance to view the meeting at the W. H. Stuart Center on U.S. 17 in Bartow.

The agenda will include further discussions about panther protection, drafting details to be included in the task force’s final report, which will be delivered to state officials in November, and discussing the public comment period for the report.

The process remains open to public comment at FDOT.Listens@dot.state.fl.us


FDOT Continues to Dishonestly Spin New Corridors Debate

Anyone who subscribes to the Florida Department of Transportation emails regarding the legislative-mandated toll road projects under study by a trio of task forces was probably not surprised by the spin in the latest missive.

It was billed as providing answers to five commonly-asked questions about this endeavor.

The answers ranged from fairly clear (the role of the task forces) to non-responsive (what about the no-build option) because this whole enterprise is still a pig in a poke.

That is, the taxpayers still don’t know what they will be forced to pay for and how much they will have to pay.

It gets worse as you scroll down.

FDOT lists recent news articles about the projects, but only some favorable commentary pieces. News articles and commentaries written by critics were conspicuously absent. This is intellectually dishonest, but hardly surprising.

The timing of this release is not surprising, either.

It comes just days after a team of academics released their evaluation of the project’s financial feasibility and need and concluded the projects failed on both fronts.

None of the news articles regarding that study were listed on FDOT’s news Imagine that.

Polk Water Co-op Supports Hall For SWFWMD Board Vacancy

The Polk Regional Water Supply Cooperative’s board voted unanimously Wednesday to support County Commissioner John Hall’s application to be appointed to the vacant Polk County seat on Swiftmud’s Governing Board.

The seat has been vacant for more than a year after board member Paul Senft’s term expired and Gov. Ron DeSantis did not appoint a replacement. A second Polk seat on the 13-member board is held by James G. Murphy, who was appointed in 2017 by Gov. Rick Scott.

Hall will be leaving the Polk County Commission in November after losing to Neil Combee in this year’s election.

Combee served on the Swiftmud board from 2005 to 2012.

DeSantis has drawn criticism for his inaction in filling seats on some of the state’s five water boards, resulting in cases in which boards did not have or barely had a quorum to conduct business.

The role of the water management districts has been highlighted in recent years in connection with efforts to secure alternative water supplies and to protect the aquifer from overexploitation.