Fracking Ban Sponsored and Passes First Committee in the State SenateFlorida passed a major milestone this year with the proposal of a real fracking ban in both the State Senate and House of Representatives. The bills, sponsored by Sen. Dana Young (R-Tampa) and Rep. Mike Miller (R-Orlando), were the first step in what will be a difficult fight to ban this risky procedure. Senator Young’s bill passed its first committee stop in 2017 - the first time a fracking ban has ever passed a committee in the Florida Legislature. Unfortunately, leadership put the brakes on that bill. The good news is that the ban bills are back again for next year and with a new House sponsor, Rep. Kathleen Peters (R-St. Petersburg). FCV will be working closely with the sponsors and our colleagues to ban fracking in Florida once and for all.
Good Solar Amendment Implemented by LegislatureSolar energy production got a big thumbs up from Florida’s voters in August 2016 with the approval of Amendment 4. This change to our State Constitution would allow for an exemption on business’ property taxes when they install solar panels, but it was still necessary for the Florida Legislature to pass legislation to fully implement the amendment. Of course, anytime a bill is open to the full legislative process, there are numerous opportunities for derailment or unnecessary policy add-ons. FCV worked with our solar advocacy allies as well as partners in the Legislature like Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Ft. Myers) to help pass a clean bill that benefited both solar users and local government. This is a big win for solar in Florida.
Everglades Reservoir Gets FundedWith their approval of the 2014 Water and Land Conservation Amendment, voters sent a clear message to the Florida Legislature to fund land conservation and the ongoing efforts to restore Florida’s Everglades. In 2017, the environmental community worked with Senate and House leaders on a new bill that would fund the long-awaited construction of a massive reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. For too long, water managers have released excessive polluted water from Lake Okeechobee to our fragile coastal estuaries, causing severe damage to the ecosystem and local businesses dependent on coastal tourism. The passage and implementation of Senate Bill 10 is widely considered to be a major step towards mitigating these harmful releases and provide relief for our coastal communities.
Annette Taddeo Pulls off Major Upset in Miami-Dade Special ElectionThis September, Annette Taddeo pulled off an upset victory over Representative Jose “Pepe” Diaz, in a special election held in Miami-Dade’s Senate District 40. The Governor called for this special election after the resignation of Sen. Frank Artiles. FCV endorsed Sen. Taddeo’s campaign because she will be a strong advocate for environmental protections in Florida. In her short time as senator, Senator Taddeo has already spoken up on behalf of increasing conservation funding in committee. She has also expressed support for implementing a ban on fracking and improving the quality of drinking water throughout the state.
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Bipartisan Senate Letter Urges Feds Not to Drill, Baby, Drill off Florida's CoastsFlorida’s Congressional Delegation may be sharply divided on many issues, but there is one they are roundly in favor of: banning drilling off of Florida’s coasts. Everyone in Florida knows how important our beaches and our coastal tourism is to our economy, not to mention our fisheries and aquatic and marine life. Thankfully, members of both parties in Florida’s Congressional Delegation agree that drilling off our coasts is too much of a risk.
Senator Rob Bradley Breathes New Life into Florida ForeverThe 2018 Florida Legislative Session hasn’t even started yet, but Senator Rob Bradley has already sponsored and moved his Florida Forever funding bill through two important committees. Sen. Bradley’s bill would create an annual “carve out” of $100 million for the Florida Forever program. FCV and many of our conservation allies strongly support this bill and hope to build on it as it moves through the legislative process. The bill (SB 370) has one more committee stop (in Senate Appropriations, also chaired by Sen. Bradley) and then it moves to the Senate Floor. The House is yet to offer a companion bill, but we expect that to happen in the first weeks of the 2018 legislative session.
Pro-environment Proposals Introduced to the Constitutional Revision CommissionKudos to Constitutional Revision Commission Commissioner Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch for listening to the Floridians who attended CRC meetings earlier this year and demanded more public lands and better protections for our water and air. As the only Commissioner to introduce any environmental proposals to the Constitutional Revision Commission, she went all-out to ensure that protecting Florida’s environment is central to CRC’s deliberations and introduced five environmental proposals. This is leadership we can all be proud of! Stay tuned over the next few months to see which of Commissioner Thurlow-Lippisch’s proposals make it to the ballot.
Florida State Parks Celebrates its 175th Park: Gilchrist Blue SpringsGilchrist Blue Springs State Park, located in Gilchrist County, is the newest addition to the Florida State Park system. The park contains a collection of gorgeous natural springs, including a large second magnitude spring that produces an average of 44 million gallons of water per day. This spring, known as Gilchrist Blue, has outstanding water clarity and discharges water through a shallow spring run about one-quarter mile to the Santa Fe River. The other named springs on-site are Little Blue Spring, Naked Spring, Kiefer Spring and Johnson Spring.
Broward Everglades Oil Well Application REJECTEDWe had to highlight that last word, even knowing the fight is not over. The Kanter family, which originally bought the land in question for suburban development purposes decades ago, has already announced their intention to fight this rejection so that they can drill for oil in the Everglades. But as long as there are cheaper and cleaner technologies readily available, FCV will continue to oppose drilling in Florida. The state and federal government have (and continue to) spend billions of taxpayer dollars on Everglades restoration, the last thing we need is more drilling, potentially using risky, unconventional methods of extraction like fracking. What we really need more of: clean, renewable solar power!
Florida Panther Vehicular Deaths Down in 2017Florida panthers are one of our state’s most iconic, and most endangered, animals. Unfortunately, because of development and habitat loss over the preceding century, panthers are now on the brink of extinction. Making matters worse, we break high records year after year for panthers hit by cars. But thankfully, this year we saw a decrease in vehicular deaths of panthers. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission attributes this to the extensive amount of fencing along Highway 29 and I-75 in Collier County. In addition to their being fewer panther deaths this year, a second female panther was documented north of the Caloosahatchee River for the first time since 1973, which is a positive step for the panther recovery plan!
Are you ready to make more moments happen in 2018?You can help. Become a member of Florida Conservation Voters and help us make more conservation success stories in the New Year!
Despite what was a tumultuous year for the environment and our nation, Florida was not without its share of hopeful and inspiring conservation stories. From fracking, to the Everglades, to our cherished native wildlife, there is good news from all around the state. If you have a positive story to add, please share it in the comments below.