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Act Now on Big Sugar Subsidies, Pollution Bill, and more

March 2, 2024 Weekly Newsletter


Time to End Big Sugar's Pollution


For too long, the powerful sugar industry has received billions in taxpayer-funded subsidies through the U.S. Farm Bill. These handouts enrich a few corporations while Floridians pay the price with polluted air and water, and human rights abuses linked to some sugar producers.


The Harms of Big Sugar

  • Environmental Injustice: Communities near sugarcane fields suffer from polluted air due to the outdated practice of pre-harvest burning.

  • Toxic Water: The industry prioritizes its irrigation needs over the health of Lake Okeechobee, influencing toxic algal blooms that endanger wildlife, residents, and local businesses.

  • Human Rights Abuses: Sugar companies benefiting from U.S. subsidies have been linked to forced labor practices overseas.

It's Time for Change


The Farm Bill is up for renewal in late 2024. We have a crucial opportunity to demand Congress:

  • STOP subsidizing Big Sugar's harmful practices

  • REFORM the Farm Bill to protect Florida's environment and human rights.

Take Action NOW

Sign the Friends of the Everglades petition by clicking here.

Tell Congress: End the Sugar Program in the Farm Bill!


Let's use our voices to create a more just and sustainable future for Florida.



 

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Together, we are planting seeds of change, nurturing a vision of a vibrant, sustainable Indian River County. Your support is the water that will help these seeds grow and blossom. Your contribution today is more than a donation—it's a commitment to our community's future. Thank you for being the lifeblood of our mission. Join us, as we turn ripples of change into waves of progress.



 

IRNA Luncheon with

County Administrator John Titkanich

A Resounding Success


The IRNA hosted a luncheon on February 28th at Big Shots, featuring Indian River County Administrator John Titkanich as the guest speaker. The event provided an opportunity for community members to learn about the county's leadership and future plans.

We are especially grateful to John Titkanich for his informative presentation and his openness to answering questions. His insights into county leadership and vision were valuable to all who attended. We also extend our appreciation to Kathy Copeland for her organizational efforts, which ensured the event ran smoothly. Last but not least, we thank all attendees for their participation. Your presence created a productive atmosphere for discussing the county's challenges and opportunities.


The IRNA remains committed to promoting community dialogue. This event reflects our ongoing mission to foster conversations and work together for the betterment of Indian River County.


Mark your calendars for our next luncheon on March 27 with Gil Smart--we'll have more details soon!


 

Florida Residents Must Act Now Against Damaging Environmental Bills


Floridians, our state's precious natural resources are under severe threat from a dangerous pair of bills working their way through the legislature – House Bill 789/Senate Bill 738 and the "Taking of Bears" legislation (HB 87). Concerned citizens need to take immediate action to protect our environment.


Pollution Bill Gets a Toxic Second Life


House Bill 789/Senate Bill 738 started with the potential to irrevocably erode citizens' rights in the face of pollution. Public outcry helped remove some of its most alarming provisions. Yet, a critical danger remains: the bill still includes a section that would prevent Floridians from suing polluters for personal injury or economic damage, even if the pollution was authorized by government agencies.


Investigative reporting has uncovered that this provision appears to be a deliberate attempt to protect corporate polluters, such as the Mosaic mining company, from accountability. Worse, this insidious legislation had been all but dead until political power plays resurrected it. We cannot allow our legal rights to be stripped away in the service of polluters' profits.


Here's how HB 789/SB 738 shields those who harm our environment:

  • Prevents legal action against permitted polluters: Limits citizens' ability to sue for damages related to medical costs, loss of income, reduced property value, bodily harm, and other economic losses caused by toxic spills.

  • Example: A fishing guide who loses their livelihood or suffers serious health issues due to a legally permitted pollution event would likely have no legal recourse.

  • The Bottom Line: Major polluters could avoid responsibility for the consequences of their actions, leaving Floridians to shoulder the burden.


Weakening Wildlife Protections


The "Taking of Bears" legislation (HB 87/SB 632) poses a separate but equally serious threat to Florida's wildlife. The bill, which has alarmingly passed in both the House and Senate, is rooted in fear and misinformation rather than sound wildlife management practices. Florida black bears are generally shy and pose little threat to humans – there have been zero recorded deaths from black bear attacks in the state's history. The bill could lead to unnecessary bear deaths, fueled by unfounded concerns. Efforts would be better spent promoting education and preventative measures that encourage safe coexistence between humans and bears, such as securing trash and removing food attractants. Learn more here.


Call to Action


We must urge our lawmakers to kill HB 789/SB 738 and HB 87/SB 632 and ask Governor DeSantis to veto HB 87. Here's how you can help:

  • Contact your legislators: Use the contact information below to send a message to Sen. Grall and Rep. Brackett opposing HB 789/SB 738

  • Contact Governor DeSantis: Express your concerns about the "Taking of Bears" legislation (HB 87) and ask him to veto this harmful bill.


Floridians, our environment and our rights need our voices. Let's act now to protect the natural wonders of our state for ourselves and future generations.


Contact Information:

Sen. Erin Grall

Phone: 850-487-5025

Address: 3209 Virginia Avenue, Suite A149, Fort Pierce, FL 34981


Rep. Robbie Brackett

Phone: 772-778-5005

Address: Suite B2-203, 1801 27th Street, Vero Beach, FL 32960


Governor Ron DeSantis

Phone: 850-717-9337

Address: The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001


 

Want to run for office? Workshop offered by Supervisor of Elections (Indian River Guardian) - The Indian River County Supervisor of Elections is hosting a workshop on March 4 for prospective local office candidates, covering election processes and campaign finance, with limited free attendance.


Ocean Drive, downtown Vero Beach parking have city seeking solutions (TCPalm) - Vero Beach City Council discusses extending beachside parking limits and formalizing the use of the Freshman Learning Center for after-hours downtown parking to address seasonal parking shortages.


'Dirty Money' at work as mining giant digs deep for lawmakers (Vote Water) - Lobbying efforts and large campaign contributions from a mining giant may influence Florida lawmakers to pass bills that weaken environmental protections and limit citizen lawsuits against polluters.


Federal Court Strikes Down EPA Approval of Florida Wetlands Program; Florida EPA Seeks Partial Stay in Response (WQCS) - Florida's Department of Environmental Protection is challenging a Federal Court ruling that revoked its authority to issue wetlands permits by seeking a partial stay to continue processing applications not affecting listed species.


Brightline Stuart: Where will train station be, how much will it cost? (TCPalm) - Brightline will build its next Treasure Coast train station in downtown Stuart near the Martin County Courthouse. The estimated $60 million project involves collaboration between Brightline, Martin County, and the city of Stuart, and is scheduled to open in 2028.


Florida Legislature looks to deregulate short-term rentals (Miami Herald) - Florida lawmakers are moving to centralize control over short-term rental regulations, potentially overriding local ordinances with a bill that sets up registration programs, occupancy limits, and penalties for violations.


 

HB 1379 mandated that all cities and counties in Florida submit a plan by February 1, 2024, detailing their strategy to connect all septic systems to sewer by 2030. The IRNA Water and Lagoon Committee has carefully reviewed these plans, and here's a high-level overview of our findings. If you'd like to see a specific jurisdiction's plan, please let us know, and we'll provide a copy.


City of Vero Beach (CoVB)

  • CoVB has the most developed plan with a focus on connecting its service area to sewer systems by 2030, thanks in large part to the groundwork laid by the STEP System.

  • They are extending infrastructure and offering subsidies to residents to help offset connection costs.


Indian River County (IRC)

  • IRC has a longer-term goal (20 years) focused on converting a smaller subset of septic systems (about 21%). There are over 27,407 septic tanks in the unincorporated Indian River County and their focus is on the systems that have the most direct impact on water quality, such as properties abutting canals or the lagoon.

  • Their plan involves extending sewer infrastructure and a mix of sewer connection options.


City of Sebastian (CoS)

  • CoS has deferred to IRC's plan and has taken minimal action so far due to the city being served by IRC Utilities. CoS also has issues requiring expensive lift pumps due to elevation challenges.

  • They have made efforts to convert systems within specific areas and are exploring funding options for expansion.


Town of Indian River Shores (IRS)

  • IRS deferred to CoVB's plan, indicating that connecting to existing sewer systems is their preferred option. IRS is served by the COVB Utility.

  • They are exploring funding sources to support sewer system expansion.


We'll be monitoring the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's feedback on these plans, which we expect in the coming months. We won't be taking any actions based on the draft reports but will see what the state has to say to encourage local compliance with HB 1379's mandate.


 

VIDEO: Mesmerizing Florida manatee does twirls for diver (Fox 7 Austin) - A Florida manatee put on a beautiful show for a lucky diver who caught the whole interaction on video. The manatee, shown in an encounter in Gainesville, approaches Tianyang Li before corkscrewing around and twirling for her.


Save the Manatee Club launches brand new webcams at Silver Springs State Park, Florida (Scubaverse) - Save the Manatee Club has installed new underwater and above-water webcams at Silver Springs State Park in Florida for viewing manatees and other wildlife. Check them out!


Nearly 1,000 manatees gathered at a Florida state park (NPR) - Due to recent cold weather, a record number of manatees gathered in the warm waters of Florida's Blue Spring State Park, highlighting the importance of natural warm-water refuges for these vulnerable creatures.


The plastics industry would like a word with your kids (Washington Post) - The plastics industry is attempting to improve its reputation by funding educational programs in schools that promote positive messaging about plastics while downplaying the environmental concerns.


Beach erosion: Palm Beach County plans more emergency dune restoration (Palm Beach Post) - Palm Beach County officials are struggling to protect county-owned beaches from severe erosion caused by recent storms, with efforts focused on repairing dunes in Singer Island and Coral Cove Park.


Ron DeSantis says Citizens Insurance is 'not solvent' (Florida Politics) - Governor Ron DeSantis expresses concerns about the solvency of Citizens Property Insurance Company, emphasizing the risk it poses to Florida as hurricane season approaches and discussing the potential need for a federal bailout due to its financial instability.


New Pacific Institute Report Finds Substantial Opportunity for Urban Stormwater Capture to Enhance Water Resilience in Communities Across the United States (Informed Infrastructure) - A new report by the Pacific Institute and 2NDNATURE finds that urban areas in the United States have the potential to capture a significant amount of stormwater runoff, which could improve water resilience by reducing flooding, mitigating drought impacts, and diversifying water supplies.


Plugging Holes in the Clean Water Act (The Regulatory Review) - A Florida State University law professor argues that the Clean Water Act's focus on pollution control leaves waterways vulnerable to overuse and climate-driven water scarcity, fueling the rise of alternative legal theories like the public trust doctrine and the rights of nature movement.


 

The Coca-Cola Company, despite its "Every Bottle Back" pledge, is the top global plastic polluter, responsible for nearly a quarter of the world's PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles. Ironically, the company was once a leader in refillable systems with fountain drinks and deposit return bottles, but later abandoned these practices in favor of single-use containers. This decision was made despite internal knowledge that single-use packaging would harm the environment. Coca-Cola actively fought against legislation aimed at holding the beverage industry accountable for waste. While a goal of 25% refillable sales globally was announced, there are virtually none in the US market. Environmental groups are calling on Coca-Cola to lead the beverage industry back toward widespread refillable systems and support legislative refill quotas. Learn more here.


 

This is what America looked like before the EPA cleaned it up (Popular Science) - Before the EPA, the United States suffered from widespread pollution problems, with rivers unsafe for swimming and fishing, cities choked by smog, and litter strewn about the landscape.


Climate change is throwing the water cycle into chaos across the U.S. (Yahoo News) - Climate change is disrupting the water cycle across the U.S., leading to extreme precipitation, increased evaporation and drought, shifts in runoff patterns, and dwindling water supplies.


California towns are banning new gas stations. Big Oil is paying attention. (Grist) - California's ban on new gas stations has gained enough traction to draw opposition from the powerful oil industry, signaling a potential turning point in the fight to reduce fossil fuel dependence.


In New York, a Legal Debate Over the State’s New Green Amendment (InsideClimate News) - In a test case for New York's Green Amendment, a citizens group is suing the state for failing to address air pollution near a major landfill, but the state's Attorney General argues that the amendment is unenforceable without additional legislation.


Atlantic heat this early is a bad sign for hurricanes, corals (Miami Herald) - Record ocean warmth in the Atlantic this early in the year suggests an active hurricane season ahead and raises concerns about another damaging marine heatwave for Florida's coral reefs.


This chart of ocean temperatures could scare you (Vox) - The North Atlantic Ocean is experiencing record-breaking warm temperatures this winter, a troubling sign that likely foreshadows negative impacts on marine ecosystems and a potentially active hurricane season.


It's the middle of winter, and more than 100 wildfires are still smouldering (CBC News) - Despite winter conditions, more than 100 wildfires continue to burn in Western Canada, fueled by a record-breaking summer fire season and ongoing dry conditions, raising concerns about another challenging wildfire season ahead.


 

The Green Revolution is Here – and It's Getting Cheaper!


Ending with some good news, the race to address our changing climate is heating up, and the good news is it's not just urgent – it's unstoppable! Organizations like the International Energy Agency are seeing the shift happen, and major global companies are making clean, green technologies more accessible than ever.


Take IKEA for example.  Their popular induction cooktops, once considered a high-end luxury, now start under $60. The company is also expanding into renewable home energy systems like solar panels and heat pumps. This means more affordable, eco-friendly home upgrades for everyone!


Sure, one company alone isn't a silver bullet, but the writing's on the wall: sustainable technologies are getting both better and more affordable. Let's consider induction cooking – beloved by top chefs like Rene Redzepi of Michelin starred Noma, induction offers unmatched precision and boils water three times more efficiently than gas. No more waiting at the stove!


The future looks brighter every day. So, while we roll up our sleeves for the hard work ahead, let's celebrate the green technologies becoming more available and affordable than ever before!


 

Want your voice to be heard? Use this link to easily contact elected officials—from your city council to the President. Your voice can make a real impact. While the IRNA may occasionally prompt you to contact specific officials about urgent issues, we keep this list handy for your convenience. Can't find who you're looking for? Just let us know; we're here to help connect you with the right people.


 

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