Friday, December 12, 2008

Everglades Uprising! Action Camp



Thanks for getting in touch regarding the 2009 Everglades Uprising...Please read the information below for details about the camp and please fill out the questionnaire.

The organizing collective of the 2009 Everglades Uprising look forward to helping facilitate workshops, outings, actions, coalition building, and an empowered camping space in which to further grassroots struggle against Empire in Florida and beyond. It is important that we carry our values with us into camp and that they manifest in very concrete ways. Mutual Aid, Participation, Opposition to All Forms of Oppression, and heaping doses of Respect and Love underlie our goals towards effective resistance. First the dishes then the revolution!

You will need to bring your own camping gear, be prepared for cold fronts that do slip through this far south on occasion. The first three days will include some basic facilities, such as running water, toilets and indoor kitchen space. The following two weeks, which we are calling 'base camp', will be primitive tent camping, requiring a more intense level of involvement from all participants. You are welcome to participate in some or all activities, but please note that this is a building process; the later you arrive the less time you will have for your input to be incorporated into the overall direction and strategy of camp.

If you would prefer to pay for indoor lodging, please consider the Seminole Inn in Indiantown:

Upon receipt of the questionnaire below, we will be sending out location directions, tentative workshop schedule, kitchen menu and other updates. The event is free and open to all, but will be held on private land. We are requesting responses to the below questions so that we will have an idea about the numbers and experience-levels of expected participants.

Kids are most welcome and childcare assistance will be available. Pets are also welcome, but their human-friends must assume complete responsibility at all times. There will be swimming and wading opportunities onsite, but please be aware that we will be co-habitating with some gators.


How did you hear about the gathering?

How long will you be staying? (Please specify dates)

What are you intending to contribute to the gathering? (Please be specific: talents, resources, etc.)

What are you hoping to learn or gain from the gathering? (Again, please be specific)

Are you willing to participate in camp chores? (Such as: cooking, cleaning, and gathering supplies)

Will you be bringing transportation? (Car, bus, truck, bike, etc)

Do you have any particular needs that we can assist with?


Food donations towards community kitchen are appreciated, especially staple items. We will be reliant on this food for the duration of the base camp. Let us know if you have serious food allergies.


* No abuse or assault will be tolerated. If you or someone you know has a history of violence or violation, or a current conflict that puts the gathering's safety at risk please bring it to the mediation team ASAP.

Furthermore, in an effort to have an event Free of Assault*, the organizing collective support the following policy:

1. We will have a mediation group at the event to address issues that arise at camp including concerns around assault.

2. At the opening circle we will encourage individuals with a history of assault to voluntarily come forward and share with the camp what they are doing to be accountable for their actions. This is not a time to "out" people for their behaviors; it is a space for perpetrators of assault to be actively transparent and accountable.

3. Anyone who feels unsafe at the event due to a past experience with another attendee is encouraged to talk with the mediation team and determine if the perpetrator should be requested to leave the event.

4. We have ZERO tolerance for assault at the Everglades Uprising Camp. If you are identified as having assaulted someone at camp you will be immediately told to leave the gathering. We will not spend time debating the degree or intention of the assault. Our first concern is for the welfare and health of survivors of assault.

* Definition of assault: a violent physical (including sexual) or verbal attack: a threat or attempt to inflict offensive physical or bodily harm or unwanted sexual contact on a person that puts the person in immediate danger of or in apprehension of such harm or contact

See you in the swamps,

Everglades Earth First! Collective
send responses to:

Please look at our website:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On Oct 27 2008, DEP proves their allegience to FPL, yet again...

The bureaucrats with DEP ignored science, wildlife and public input in canceling the scheduled hearing on WCEC unit 3. We will never forget, nor forgive, their collaboration with the energy empire and their complacency in the face of climate crisis.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

PBCEC November Meeting Reminder THIS MONDAY 7pm (plus: events, updates & news)

Next PBCEC meeting Nov 3rd 7pm at the Friends Quaker Meeting, 823 North A Street. This is a chance to get some last minute election information before going to the polls, and also coordinate with people on working for environmental candidates at polling stations. I know it's a busy time with elections and all, but remember that elected officials are only as good as the grassroots movements that guide them..

And there is also some important, time-sensative PBCEC business to deal with, so if you can make it out, please do... -panagioti tsolkas


**Nov 8 Lake Worth Resource Center grand opening 10am-1pm, at Shuffleboard Courts on Lake Ave (2 blocks west of Dixie) this is a great step in the direction of quality of life improvements for local immigrant communities. For details on volunteering to make the center a success: or call 670-1147

**Nov 12 Airport Expansion hearing on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Palm Beach County Convention center, 4-7pm open house, public comment will begin at 6pm, 650 Okeechobee Blvd… Our primary concerns:
-Air traffic is a known leading contributor to climate change; this has not been addressed sufficiently
-The adjacent neighborhoods who will be impacted have not had their concerns addressed

For an overview of the EIS process, check out:

To read the PBCEC letter to the FAA, including several links to studies and articles on air-transport, pollution and climate change:

**November 18 County Meeting for the reclaimed water pipe to FPL WCEC
the meeting starts 9:30am. This it a fraud. The taxpayers are now being told to pay 90 MILLION (and counting)… On May 20 2008 the price was 70 Million. Please come and expose the county for once again bowing down and giving our money to FPL.

**Nov 21, 7:30pm, "A Roadmap for US Energy Policy", with Dr. Arjun Makijani,
discussing his recent book 'Carbon Free, Nuclear Free" on responsible and viable energy options for our future. At St. Thomas University, Miami, on 37th Ave, in the Carroll Hall building. This will be a great chance to connect and network with community activists fighting nuclear expansion in Florida.


**Vote YES for Amendment # 4
: Property Tax Exemption of Perpetually Preserved Land; Classification and Assessment of Land Used for Conservation. This amendment provides a tax exemption for property with conservation easements or conservation protection. Property that is used for conservation in perpetuity would not be taxed. For property that is not encumbered perpetually, this amendment requires the Legislature to classify and assess land used for conservation purposes solely on the basis of character or use - agriculture is an example. This amendment encourages the preservation of Florida's ecosystems.

**Check out this week's New Times
for story: 'Coconut Creek suburbanites team with neo-hippies to fight Lowe's' … PBCEC has been joining our neighbors to the south in fighting this issue. The property slated for the 'Cocomar' strip mall contains a unique specimen of Rockland Hardwood hammock.

**check out Green Party perspectives on the election
, and the disappointing similarities between the ruling class political parties and their candidates:

**Join PBCEC in supporting an Off-Shore Drilling Moratorium!!

**DEP=Don't Expect Protection
: For those who didn't make it to the DEP office, we succeeded in initiating a meeting on the cancellation of the WCEC unit 3 Hearing. While they stayed resolute on ignoring our concerns and 'following the letter of the law', we made it clear that the responsibility is in their hands; that they are choosing to collaborate with FPL instead of the public; and that we feel they are engaging in a criminal negligence by disregarding the concerns we have consistently presented. If you want to further express with your disappointment or disgust with DEP's subservience to FPL:

Mike Halpin is the head of the power plant siting office:

Mike Sole and Mimi Drew are heads of the Department:,


Stop the Airport Expansion in Palm Beach


Ms. McDowell,

Individuals and communities to the east and west of the airport are opposing this expansion and its impact on their lives. The Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition (PBCEC) stands with these residents against this unneeded runway expansion and we add our own concerns of further dependence on fossil fuel-heavy air transportation. There is a whole field of study looking at the impacts air traffic on the global climate. We believe air traffic patterns must be reduced immediately, climate science has backed up this mandate. A proposed expansion of facilities at PBI moves us in the opposite direction.

Below are several links on such studies, reports and articles. These only skim the surface:

for general background

For the atmosphere,
Panagioti Tsolkas
Co-Chair, PBCEC

s/Panagioti Tsolkas

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Support the Offshore Drilling Moratorium

Dear Members of the Florida Congressional Delegation:

For over 20 years the delegation has worked on a bipartisan basis to ensure the integrity of Florida's environment and economy by annually renewing the offshore drilling moratorium. When you return to Washington D.C. in September, the annual vote for renewing the moratorium will be before you again. We urge each of you to support continuation of it, to protect Florida's valuable and environmentally sensitive coastal and ocean resources and the tourism economy that depends on these resources.

Our great State, home to Everglades, Biscayne and Dry Tortugas National Parks, as well as Gulf Islands and Canaveral National Seashores and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, is blessed with a wealth of unique yet environmentally sensitive resources along its coastline. Recent proponents for lifting the moratorium have touted offshore drillings' safety record to sensitive environmental areas. However, offshore drilling continues to have significant environmental impacts. For example, the U.S. Minerals Management Services documented Hurricanes Katrina and Rita causing over 743,000 gallons of petroleum products to spill offshore and 457 pipelines to break. Simply, the complex infrastructure needed to explore, produce and bring petroleum ashore is highly vulnerable, and threatens coastal resources our Nation has invested billions to protect.

Protecting Florida's unique resources is vital to our residents and visitors alike. In 2007, VISIT FLORIDA documented 84.5 million visitors, over 77 million from other States. Those visitors spent $65 billion and supported almost 1 million tourism related jobs. Pennies may possibly be saved on gas prices a decade from now, as proponents of lifting the drilling moratorium contend, yet the logic is pound foolish due to the risks drilling poses to jobs, revenue and a way of life central to Florida's prosperity.

The drilling moratorium has endured for more than 20 years because it does more than protect Florida's environment and economy; it integrates them with our State's contribution to national security. Military training missions off Florida's coasts benefit from the vast areas of open water, free of drilling platforms, by providing an increased level of safety to personnel in-training. This also keeps drilling operations which create waste muds and cuttings known to have toxic metals including mercury, lead and cadium far from the treasured natural resources that drive Florida's economy.

We need your leadership at this critical time to guide not only our State but our Nation to a cleaner, safer and more sustainable energy future. We urge you to renew the offshore drilling moratorium and implement a renewable energy policy that will provide a viable future for all Floridians.

To sign on to this letter, click:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Urgent public meeting at DEP's office regarding cancellation of WCEC hearing

The Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition is calling for an urgent public meeting at DEP's office in West Palm Beach, 400 N. Congress, in place of the WCEC Site Certification Hearing in Wellington that was canceled. We are hoping that the officially recognized parties still have this date and time marked on their calendar. And we are also hopeful that DEP will welcome and accommodate this effort taking place in their regional office.

For those not directly involved, we apologize that the notice is so short, but feel the circumstances are extreme. We hope that some agencies, municipal and county staff, organizations and individuals can join, or send representatives, this Monday so that the meeting can be as productive as possible.

The issues here--the health of the communities in south Florida, the protection of the Everglades and its inhabitants, the reality of climate change and the importance of due process--are too important to public safety and the environment to not immediately address the detrimental cancellation of the October 27 hearing, and the implications of that, with the public involved.

Primary issues we intend to address with WCEC unit 3 application are the following:

-The failure to assess cumulative and secondary impacts of approving WCEC in a segmented manner, as suggested by Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) biologists in federal court this month

-The overuse of regional fresh water, including treated regional re-use water

-The industrial pollution of underground water sources

-The refusal to clean up the Riviera Beach FPL plant without approval WCEC unit 3

-The increased reliance on fossil fuel and the refusal to pursue available renewable options as suggested by the Treasaure Coast Regional Planning Council

-The failure to recognize ongoing legal obstacles with the required Gulfstream Phase III pipeline, such as the unresolved FWC mitigation land swap in the J.W, Corbett and a pending appeal of the Environmental Resources Permit.

-The denial of oversight from Governor's Cabinet, as the Power Plant Siting Board

We have further explained our case, with related documents, in the links below. For those unfamiliar and in need of background, please review them:

Also, please extend this invitation to all those from the public who are concerned with or in some way involved with the permitting and operating of fossil fuel power plants. FPL representatives are intentionally not invited, as we feel they have had more than enough say over this process. Although clearly we cannot deny them access to this public office. If they choose to attend, we ask that they come to listen.

Panagioti Tsolkas
co-chair, PBCEC

Friday, October 24, 2008


This Action Alert is a cooperative effort of the STOP GE Trees Campaign and its affiiliated groups:

Help stop the commercial planting of genetically engineered (GE) papayas in Florida and the mainland US -- the first major cultivated GE tree on the US mainland.

The US Department of Agriculture is accepting public comments between now and November 3, 2008 on a petition that would allow commercial growing and marketing of the first genetically engineered (GE) papaya trees on mainland US soil. If approved, this would remove all regulatory oversight of this GE variety by USDA of a virus-resistant papaya tree known as the Ring Spot Virus Resistant Papaya.

This petition has implications for all other GE tree species, as the USDA and the industry want to gauge what the public's reaction will be. It is critical that all concerned about the threat of GE foods and GE trees respond to this USDA petition. Several hundred field trials of GE trees have been conducted already, many for forest trees, such as poplar, loblolly pine, and sweetgum, that grow on millions of acres in natural environments across the US.

The USDA admits that this GE papaya will contaminate both organic and conventional non-genetically engineered papaya groves if it is approved. Since all commercial papaya trees are cultivars that are relatively cross compatible within the same species, Carica papaya, contamination via GE papaya pollen carried by wind, bees and other insects will infiltrate the papaya groves of organic and conventional growers. The proposed buffer zones between GE papaya and other papayas will not prevent genetic contamination from being spread by pollinating insects.

Approval of this GE papaya tree also further opens the door to the commercialization of GE varieties of other tropical and subtropical tree species. In Hawaii, a previously approved virus resistant papaya has caused extensive contamination of organic, conventional and wild papaya groves on most of the Hawaiian Islands in just a few years. This contamination has spread far more quickly than the USDA predicted in its initial assessment. Once native and cultivated papaya varieties are contaminated with transgenic pollen and the resulting seeds are planted, there is no calling it back.

[Sample comments to submit below. Please add any additional comments of your own.]

1. Go to
2. Double click on Docket - APHIS-2008-0054 - at the top of the page.
3. Double click on small yellowish box directly below "ADD COMMENTS" in the right hand column.
4. Enter public commenter information. You may add attachments to document your concerns.
5. Double click on NEXT STEP under ACTION at page bottom to enter your comments into Docket.

The following comments are in reference to Docket No. APHIS-2008-0054. I oppose the deregulation of genetically engineered papaya trees for the following reasons:

1. Genetic contamination is a serious and growing threat. Flowers and seeds in organic and conventional papaya groves will become contaminated with GE papaya genes via pollen transported by bees and other insects that travel many miles in search of pollen. The result is that organic and conventional papaya growers will lose their markets for non-GE papayas as DNA testing confirms the contamination, as it already has with GE papayas in Hawaii. An organic tree might remain organic itself, but the pollen, honey and seeds will be contaminated, and trees planted from the GE papaya seeds will bear contaminated fruit.

2. The approval of perennial GE papaya trees would be a dangerous precedent setting step by USDA, opening the floodgates for more GE trees including fruit, nut, ornamental, and paper-pulp and timber species, as well as trees engineered for soil remediation, and other traits. Approximately 80 species and varieties of trees are currently undergoing gene splicing research and development for commercial use. Many of these are native species vital to ecosystems in much of the US.

3. There are serious and mounting concerns about a broad range of health effects associated with consumption of GE crops, GE pollen, and GE-produced honey. For example, consumers may suffer allergic reactions due to unexpected toxins in GE foods. The GE papaya pollen may produce unintended effects such as allergic reactions in sensitive individuals and the USDA has not properly evaluated the potential for allergic reactions. The USDA has also failed to consider the potential for allergens or other novel substances in the GE papayas, GE papaya pollen, or GE papaya-produced honey to interfere with pharmaceuticals being used by consumers.

4. The papaya fruit, seeds, latex, and leaves contain carpaine, an anthelmintic alkaloid that could be dangerous in high doses to the heart (it affects myocardium directly) and the circulatory system. Carpaine is one of the major alkaloid components of papayas, and has been studied for its cardiovascular effects. The USDA has not fully evaluated the health effects of alkaloids such as carpaine and related alkaloids on consumers eating GE papaya, pollen, honey or fruit juices and foods containing GE papaya ingredients. The USDA has not fully studied whether the GE papaya trees produce a different alkaloid chemistry or overall phytochemistry compared to organic, conventional or wild papayas. Other papaya alkaloids and phytochemicals have not been adequately studied for their human health effects. This despite widespread evidence that the genetic engineering of plants can alter expression of genetic traits apparently unrelated to the intentionally inserted trait.

5. There are serious and mounting concerns about the genetic stability of the artificial gene combinations and the artificially inserted genes used in GE papaya trees. The USDA claims that the papaya ring spot viral resistance gene and other inserted genes are sufficiently genetically stable, but the testing has only been performed for approximately ten years and not the entire, decades-long pollen-producing life span of a papaya tree. Over the long life of a papaya tree, an RNA virus such as papaya ring spot virus is susceptible to many cycles of recombination, leading to the creation of new plant viruses that could infect a wide variety of plants. This can also occur with the viral DNA that has been inserted into these papayas.

6. The deregulatory petition completely ignores potential effects on bees and other pollinator species. Today honey bee colony collapse disorder known as CCD is a serious and growing problem for apiaries and bee-pollinated crops including in Florida where the GE papaya trees will be grown. Although unintended effects are common in GE crops (and are part of regulatory human health assessments), there is extremely little assessment of possible environmental impacts from unintended effects. There are no studies that would allow us to evaluate the potential hazards of GE tree pollen or GE papaya tree pollen for a variety of insects, or for consumers of honey. We also do not know how animals and insects that browse on papaya leaves might be affected.

7. The USDA's environmental assessment admits that the GE papaya readily hybridizes within its species Carica papaya. Thus, there may be a significant potential for gene flow into native perennial papaya varieties. GE papaya trees will be long lived, and capable of contaminating orchards and native papaya tree populations for several decades. One GE papaya tree will be able to produce thousands of GE seeds and extensive quantities of pollen, and will be capable of spreading fertile GE papaya seeds and pollen into the environment for many years. The petition did not adequately evaluate the relative fitness of GE papaya varieties as compared to native papayas; it is possible that the GE varieties would become more successful in natural settings, and out-compete non-GE varieties, as they have in parts of Hawaii. We challenge the USDA's spurious claim that contamination would be positive by reducing potential reservoirs for harboring the papaya ring spot virus in the wild; this claim is not supported by any data.

8. There has been no short-term or long-term safety testing or feeding trials for toxicity or other adverse effects of the construct of eight genes inserted into the GE papaya trees. GE papayas have not been tested on animals, birds or humans for safety. Toxicity tests are necessary since unintended genetic effects are known to occur with gene splicing. USDA has ignored the need for scientific studies of gene splicing and for comprehensive studies of the environmental consequences of GE plantings since the USDA has not adequately consulted with the Food and Drug Administration or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their regulatory input.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

DEP cancels public hearing scheduled for October 27 in Wellington; refuses citizen input on the expansion of debated FPL West County Energy Center

Environmental and community activists request public meeting at local DEP office, demand a voice in the process

For immediate release 10/24/08

Contacts: Barry Silver (561) 302-1818
Panagioti Tsolkas (561) 588-9666

West Palm Beach, FL- A public hearing on the certification of Unit 3 of FPL's West County Energy Center (WCEC) was originally announced for 1pm at the Wellington Community Center in front of an Administrative Law Judge. It has since been cancelled under the direction of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, who oversees the power plant siting process. In place of the hearing, the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition (PBCEC), which has contested the WCEC for 2 years, has requested a public meeting 1pm at the regional DEP office in West Palm Beach at 400 North Congress. All are invited to join in making this request to have their concerns heard.

"We are outraged with DEP's acquiescence to FPL throughout the process of approving this project. This is the largest fossil fuel power plant in the country, and it is being built 1000 feet from the functional headwaters of the remaining Everglades." Says PBCEC co-chair Panagioti Tsolkas. "For the DEP to claim that there are 'no outstanding issues' is completely absurd."

The PBCEC contends that there are several disputed issues relevant to the certification of WCEC unit 3 including further fossil fuel dependency in violation of Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council policy. Other concerns include the ignored input from Fish and Wildlife Commission biologists regarding cumulative and secondary impacts, the injection of a new source of industrial wastewater into the aquifer, and failure to sufficiently address greenhouse gas pollution and climate change impacts. The group is preparing a comprehensive proposal for an alternative to the WCEC site certification, including units 1 and 2, which are all facing a challenge in federal court scheduled for early next year.

The PBCEC entered several supporting documents into DOAH records regarding their concerns. These are available on-line, along with a response from FPL, at:

Several PBCEC concerns were also included in a recent letter to DEP Secretary Mike Sole and Governor Crist's office, which can be viewed at:


DEP: Reinstate Oct 27 Administrative Hearing for FPL's WCEC Site Certification

To Mike Halpin, Mike Sole, and all others whom it concerns,

Canceling this hearing and refusing to send this issue to the Governor's Cabinet, which sits as the Power Plant Siting Board, is not a wise idea. There are undoubtedly outstanding issues with the West County Energy Center unit 3. You know that the public has been participating in the permitting process for this project as a whole since its beginning, for all 3 units, at practically every level possible. How could you, in clear conscience, push to deny the public access to participate in this publicly-noticed hearing?

You know that there are facts in dispute, as your agency has been central in these disputes. Below are some examples of this, most of which you should know by now:

The wastewater injection should be a part of the Site Certification and that an administrative petition was filed on Oct 6 2008 regarding a significant permit modification for WCEC unit 3.

FWC biologists testified in a Federal court proceeding, also Oct 6 2008, that they presented concerns regarding the cumulative impacts associated with the WCEC, which were ignored by both FWC and DEP in the power plant siting process.

Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council did NOT approve this project, presenting serious concerns and policy violations regarding the expansion of fossil fuel dependency, impacts to the Everglades and unrealized potential of renewable energy options, most of which were ignored.

There are multiple state and federal legal proceedings pending which address other concerns related to this Site Certification, related to wildlife, air and water quality, cumulative and secondary impacts, climate change, and criminal racketeering, to name a few.

This is the largest fossil fuel burning power plant under construction in the entire country and the first power plant in the state to use aquifer injection for it's industrial wastewater (into the same underground limestone system that much regional drinking water now comes from), it is 1000 feet from the northern public entrance of Everglades' functional headwaters--the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

The first two units will cause 6.5 billion gallons a year of water sucked from the ground water, lowering the water table and resulting in increased pine-tree die-off, wildfires, and impact to depressional wetlands in the region; if the third unit comes on line, it will be depriving the urban eastern corridor access to its regional re-use water and increasing the chances of upward migration of injected wastewater (due to differences in freshwater buoyancy).

The air emissions also presents a new source of pollution in the Everglades ecosystem through 'wet deposition', which has not yet been assessed.

The physical presence of the facility and its infrastructure will lessen the quality of and access to recreation in the Northeast Everglades restoration plans, including the Northeast Everglades Natural Area's Corbett--Loxahatchee Connector trail and the Loxahatchee Basin Reservoirs...

This is simply skimming the surface. None of these issues should be surprises to you. Nonetheless, they have not been taken into full consideration.

Whether it is through willful ignorance of agency staff, the applicant applying political pressure or a combination resulting in malfeasance, DEP's role with this power plant project appears to be a negligence which poses a threat to the public at large.

But it is not too late to abate many of these risks. I believe here are alternative possibilities that may be amenable to most, if not all, parties.

Seeing that the Monday hearing will not be reinstated, i invite you to meet with us on Monday the 27 at the regional DEP office in West Palm Beach to discuss some of these matters, and ensure that they are taken into consideration in the Final Order the Department is to issue. Hopefully other participating agencies will also be willing and able to join us, since we all had this day marked in our calendars anyway (please feel free to pass along this invite.)

Thanks for your attention and interest.
Look forward to seeing you Monday.

panagioti tsolkas

For background on this hearing, visit the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) site:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Endorsement of Drew Martin for the Palm Beach Soil & Water Conservation District, Seat 2

Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition
¨Fighting for healthy ecosystems, open space and quality of life in Palm Beach County¨

October 17, 2008

The Oath of Office for this elected position states: “I will, to the best of my ability, defend from waste the natural resources of the District, its soils and minerals…its forest…its water and wildlife.”

The Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition can think of no better candidate for the position than Drew Martin. Martin is a tireless community activist, involved with the most effective environmental organizations in the region. He is one of the longest standing consistent participants in our Environmental Coalition, as well as the Conservation Chair of the Loxahatchee Sierra Club and a former Co-Chair of the Everglades Coalition. He has used his various positions in these organizations and his involvement in groups across Florida towards networking and strengthening grassroots efforts for an uncompromising conservation of our vital natural resources.

We would be proud to have him representing us in Seat 2 of the Palm Beach Soil & Water Conservation District, Seat 2.

For those unfamiliar with the SWCD, more information about this position can be found online at:

Barry Silver, Esq Co-Chair of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition
s/Barry Silver

Panagioti Tsolkas, Co-Chair of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition
s/panagioti tsolkas

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Endorsement of Cara Jennings Re-Election for Lake Worth City Commissioner, District 2

Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition
¨Fighting for healthy ecosystems, open space and quality of life in Palm Beach County¨

October 16, 2008

The Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition offers enthusiastic support to Commissioner Cara Jennings’ re-election. She is the boldest advocate for quality of life and environmental issues we have seen in any municipality across this County; Jennings has re-defined politics in Palm Beach. After watching four public officials go to prison—with more indictments likely on the way—for crimes of fraud and corruption in land dealings, many environmental advocates have lost faith in the public process.

Politics-as-usual have allowed zoning changes to swallow up thousands of undeveloped acres of our wetlands, forests and rural/agricultural areas. Developer-driven permits have invited thousands of tons of toxic pollution into our air and water and millions of tons of climate-changing greenhouses gases into the atmosphere. Greed and corruption has become intertwined with political bureaucracy. This is seen as standard operating procedure. And it would appear there is no end in sight.

…Until a community activist like Cara Jennings gets elected. In the political climate which pervades the Palm Beaches, it’s been said that she has become the exception that proves the rule. Elected officials have acted on behalf of self-interested, profit-driven commercial and industrial efforts for so long that the participation of someone like Cara hardly makes sense to many:

• A commissioner that proposes a strong ethics ordinance, without being prodded to do so?
• A politician that pushes a city to join environmental litigation—on our side of the table?
• Someone who hits the streets and collects petitions to stop over-development and works with unenfranchised immigrant residents (which some ‘environmentalists’ have used as scapegoats)?
• A city representative who refuses to leave a community in the shadows based on their voting status or offer them paternalistic double-speak?
• An elected official who is willing to stand up to law enforcement agencies for their violation of first amendment rights and violence against environmental activists?
• A public figure with a certified Florida Friendly landscape, solar power and an organic garden?

What her position silently implies about the majority of crooked people who occupy elected seats is brilliant poetic justice—without having to resort to smear tactics. Her presence is an embarrassment to the heartless crooks, liars and lackeys who represent pay-to-play politics around here. It is a strong unspoken reminder to the real estate elites: your reign will not last forever. In the face of this double-whammy crisis of economy and environment, specifically regarding housing and climate, it is a glimmer of hope.

So let’s keep her in there for a few more years, if for no other reason than to watch the Chambers of Commerce and Builder’s Associations across Florida squirm. After that, we want her back out here with us full time in the grassroots. But we feel confident that her time in office will inspire other equally-dedicated folks to run for office, and to run greedy developers out of their towns, all across South Florida.

Barry Silver, Esq Co-Chair of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition
s/Barry Silver

Panagioti Tsolkas, Co-Chair of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition
s/panagioti tsolkas

Friday, October 10, 2008

Indiantown site of proposed LNG project

Above are pictures of the land to be cleared for the massive fossil fuel infrastructure project, and a picture of Booker Park, the neighborhood closest to the project. The post below is land just on the other side of the line, wetland, hammock and more pine flatwoods...

Indiantown site of proposed LNG project, adjacent land

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Green Paper on Climate Change and Energy Options for the State of Florida [Revised]

Revised 8/4/2008
By Green Party of Florida & Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition

Now that our green paper is a public document, we consider it a work in progress, an opening to the deeper public conversation about what we must do to recreate a truly sustainable energy regime, in the short amount of time we have to do it. Wider input is invited to develop it into a rich public resource document, in the spirit of democratic community enterprise.

“…With such enlarging crises of energy and growth, we must accomplish a vital feat in record time. That feat is to determine the acceptable limits of development within regions of the State—both those limits which are inherent in its natural resources, and those more elevated limits which we are able to attain through inputs of energy and tax dollars…The survival of Florida’s unique natural resources, the conditions of life for it’s people, the viability of its cities…depend on it.”

Arthur R. Marshall, Director, Division of Applied Ecology, University of Miami, 1973, speech on ‘Energy and Growth’

“We have at most ten years—not ten years to decide upon action, but ten years to fundamentally alter the trajectory of global greenhouse emissions.”

James Hansen, NASA climatologist, 2006


Floridians have long been aware of a growing environmental crisis in our state. Arthur Marshall’s speech could be delivered today and it would ring truer than he might have ever imagined. Florida’s citizens are now coming to accept that life as they know it may soon change in the densely populated areas of this peninsula. According to NASA climatologist Hansen, within the next decade our current direction will result in irreversible climate change across the planet, including specific consequences in Florida: rising sea levels, the end of the Gulf Stream, increased storm ferocity, droughts, flooding and uncontrollable wildfires. These changes are already underway.

The global scientific community has reached consensus that the rapid pace of climate change is the result of human activity. Industrialized society has extracted millions of years of stored energy from the earth in a single century, releasing globally harmful emissions into the atmosphere. For the public, the real and relevant debate is what we will do with this information.


The primary intent of this Green Paper is to outline the mounting global crisis of human-created climate change from the unique geographical and political perspective that exists in Florida. Scientists, scholars and activists have shown us that several significant areas of endeavor are driving climate change including transportation, manufacturing, agriculture and the energy industry. This paper will focus on the last factor: the generation and consumption of electrical power.

We, the authors of this paper, choose to focus on electricity because (1) fossil fuel power plants represent the largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution and (2) power generation is the engine that allows us to drive industrial and residential development along an unsustainable path. Energy companies are among the largest, most powerful economic and political forces in Florida (as they are nationally and internationally.) We live in an energy empire, where the leverage of industry interests has far exceeded that of public interest. Recent changes in energy-related policy are being supported by Governor Crist and by emboldened grassroots groups. These changes present opportunities to alter the very foundations of our society. We are enthusiastically committed to being a part of that change—for the survival and betterment of our peninsula and our planet.

During the past year, Florida has made great strides toward addressing issues related to climate and energy with a refreshingly broad approach that encompasses international policy. In July 2007, at the Serve to Preserve Global Summit on Climate Change, Gov Crist committed to partnering with foreign countries to discuss and promote initiatives that broaden the Kyoto Protocol and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases beyond 2012. This is especially appropriate considering that the 2007 Florida Energy Commission’s Report to the Legislature acknowledged that Florida, as an individual entity, ranks as the world’s 26th worst GHG source.

This Green Paper will explore the following questions utilizing current data and documents:

I. What needs to be done? 2

II. What is now being done at the policy level in Florida? 3

III. What is possible? 4

IV. How can we achieve our goals? 7

V. What are some obstacles? 9

VI. How can we prepare for what’s coming? 11

VII. What do we have to gain? 12

We will provide examples of communities in Florida that are addressing these questions on a local level. We hope to offer guidance and encouragement to grassroots political activists, public employees and elected officials across Florida so they may guide industry leaders along our path to a sustainable future.

I. What needs to be done?

At the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2007, in Bali, Indonesia, Global Greens presented a declaration entitled “Time for Commitments”. Global Greens is an international network of over 70 Green Parties and political movements in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. “Time for Commitments” highlighted the alarming acceleration of climate change and the lagging insufficiency in action, particularly by those countries which bear the greatest responsibility for emitting GHGs. The United States, for example, is home to 4% of the world’s population, yet consumes 26% of the world’s energy. The Global Greens declaration called for the Bali mandate to “require the reduction of global GHG emissions by at least 60% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels, with binding targets for industrialized countries.” Similar goals have been widely recognized by the international climate science community and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which have urged that developed countries commit to domestic reductions of at least 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 compared with 1990 levels. Some state and municipal governments have already adopted similar commitments. Florida is one of those states. Several municipalities and various agencies within Florida have also adopted resolutions reflecting the IPCC reduction targets.

One challenge in achieving these reductions is that scientific data and catastrophic predictions are rapidly being updated. We need to avoid becoming locked into the above estimates, as there is a high probability that these target percentages will need to be revised upwards.

Data used by the IPCC shows that circumstances are dire and urgent action is needed. The past hundred years of industrialization have contributed to climate changes which are rapidly pushing our planet towards an irreversible tipping point. Unfortunately, industry is not leading the way toward a truly sustainable energy future. Pro-active leadership will have to come from a grassroots community level. As Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” We must mobilize a swift and strong response to climate crisis which prioritizes success over accommodation of consumer comforts and energy industry interests.

II. What is being done at a policy level in Florida?

The State legislature’s Florida Energy Commission, specifically the Climate Change Advisory Group, and the Governor’s Climate Action Team are two recently-formed government bodies with a mandate to provide recommendations to the State on energy and climate. On December 31, 2007 the Florida Energy Commission (FEC) issued its first full report, including recommendations on climate change, renewable energy, efficiency & conservation and energy supply & delivery, which are being used by Florida legislators.

On November 2, 2007 the Governor’s Climate Action Team issued its Phase One report, which identified 35 initial findings and 30 initial recommendations to better track and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including energy efficiency and conservation targets. The team’s final report, Phase Two, is due October 15, 2008. Phase Two intends to focus on mitigating impacts from greenhouse gas emissions to society, public health, the economy and the environment with carbon capture and storage technologies. The team will also consider long-term public policy for reducing greenhouse gases in areas of economic development, university research and technology development, energy, environmental protection, natural resources, growth management and transportation.

We have been reviewing these documents for highlights and shortcomings. While we welcome and applaud much of what is being presented at the state level, we have serious concerns, especially regarding the level of energy industry input into the recommendations. This is made evident by the emphasis on nuclear power as the energy sector’s primary solution. Also problematic, our state has committed to GHG reductions without clear, tangible benchmarks time-lining the success.

The FEC recommendations fail to acknowledge the energy industry’s quiet push to sidestep and bypass the recommendations’ intent to reduce GHG emissions. A draft bill written by a Florida Power & Light (FPL) lobbyist, dated December 5, 2007, would give utility companies easier access to state lands for utility easements, remove local government’s ability to oppose new power plants and allow utilities to charge customers for the cost of expanding nuclear facilities. Within weeks of this draft bill circulating, FPL contributed $500,000 to Governor Crist’s “Yes on 1” campaign to cut property taxes. Bills reflecting this energy influence made their way through the 2008 Legislative Session. Crist signed HB 7135 at the second climate summit in Miami this May. That same week, he advocated for expanding off-shore fossil fuel extraction.

When Crist was state attorney general, he gained a reputation for challenging FPL political influence. Today it appears he is being coaxed into to serving the interests of this powerful utility.

Two areas of particular immediate concern are:
(1) An effort to load the power grid with new fossil fuel energy before GHG-related regulations and standards are in place (e.g. FPL´s 3800 megawatt gas-fired West County Energy Center proposal under construction in Palm Beach County)
(2) New nuclear power reactors on a fast-tracked timeline to avoid public scrutiny of health and economic risks (e.g. Progress Energy’s Crystal River proposal and FPL’s proposals at Hutchinson Island and Turkey Point)

Other concerns involve advocacy of large-scale biofuel operations and unreliable methods of carbon capture, storage, offsetting or trading. These so-called “solutions” are already having dangerous impacts as they are delaying urgently needed immediate reductions with the promise of quick fix technological solutions that have unknown success or effectiveness. This subject will be further elaborated on in Section V.

At the local, national and global levels, climate change will require serious shifts in lifestyle for all of us. Resisting this reality will make the transition more difficult and dangerous. The refusal of industry and state to recognize the need to change growth and consumption patterns is apparent in the state’s various climate-related documents. In order to move ahead honestly and cautiously we must be alert to misleading greenwashing efforts and be sure that those in the position of protecting public interest know how to recognize them.

III. What is possible?

We recognize that many politicians on the municipal, county and state levels may be beholden to energy industry interests, due the dependency on the tax base created by this industry and to their substantial campaign contributions. We also recognize that public officials and public employees are responsible for upholding state and federal laws that require them to act in the public interest. Clean, renewable, and sustainable energy options are available now. State officials and agencies are therefore legally obligated to close existing, dangerous or polluting energy facilities and to deny permits for construction of new facilities. State statute obligates public entities to abate risks, not enable them. There has never been a higher risk or a greater danger than the coming anthropogenic climate change.

The following section will highlight possible avenues for change based on existing state statutes and government resources.

Energy Option Profiles, Program Implementation Strategy & Environmental Hierarchy of Energy Production Methods

On July 8, 2007 the Florida Alliance for a Clean Environment (FACE) presented an open letter to Governor Crist. We endorse FACE´s practical 5-step process, particularly the creation of Energy Option Profiles and the Program Implementation Strategy. Energy Option Profiles would include a complete profile available to the people of Florida, using a full cradle-to-grave analysis. The Program Implementation Strategy begins with a hierarchical listing of energy options. It then requires that the most efficient, least polluting, renewable options be fully implemented before other technologies are granted permission to operate. The proposal boldly calls for a moratorium on the construction or expansion of new pollution generating facilities while the profiling and the implementation plan are under way.

The Energy Justice Network (EJN) has produced a similarly themed document, Environmental Hierarchy of Energy Production Methods, which offers a simplified visual example of the Option Profiles idea on a broad scale. EJN offers an excellent example of how we can responsibly plan our energy future.

State officials are already incorporating comparable tools. One example is the state’s rejection of multiple coal proposals due to their failing profile. However a full cradle-to-grave analysis of all energy options is lacking. We are concerned that this may reflect corporate energy interest’s influence upon state priorities, despite the detriment to public health.

Conservation is key

Any energy policy and implementation plan that is sincere (and arguably, lawful) must prioritize conservation and efficiency to the maximum level possible. In February 2007, the American for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) produced a report for Florida, which underwent peer review and energy industry scrutiny. In June it was released with updates and modifications, and in July co-authors of the report were invited to speak at the Governor’s Climate Summit in Miami. If the policies recommended in the report were implemented, the state could reduce its projected future use of electricity from conventional carbon-heavy sources by about 29% in the next 15 years, with energy efficiency and demand response accounting for two-thirds of the 2023 total and renewable energy provisions accounting for the balance.

The report takes into account currently existing technology, with conventional growth projections and consumption levels comparable to current standards. With effective growth management, significantly reduced consumption levels and new or improved renewable energy generation methods on the horizon, there is a chance to increase that 29% substantially.

Honoring the Gulf Stream, before it’s too late

Florida Atlantic University's (FAU) Ocean Energy Technology Center of Excellence has been researching the ability to generate power from the Gulf Stream current off the southeast coast of the state where the current flows closest to the shores of the United States. FAU is also exploring other coastal power generation options such as thermal energy from temperature contrasts between surface and deep water and the possibility of using the same cool ocean water as an alternative to conventional air conditioning in developments along the shore. The expectation of researchers at FAU is that the potential generation will be measured in gigawatts—larger than any other hydroelectric operations to date.

Concerns regarding impact to ocean habitat and marine life are being studied, but this method of generation appears to offer the most promising potential for a base-load quantity of renewable power. With prime locations in Lake Worth (Palm Beach County) and Lauderdale-by-the-Sea (Broward County), due to proximity of the strongest currents and the continental shelf, ocean energy could provide a potential source for powering this tri-county area, allowing an opportunity to close the existing polluting coastal power plants.

A serious issue at hand is the potential threat to the thermohaline circulation of the Gulf Stream from increasing climate change impacts. If we lose the Gulf Stream’s current power, as occurred during the climate changes of the Middle Ages, this source of power may no longer be available.

Harnessing Comprehensive Everglades Restoration for sustainable energy

The future of power generation can and should be looking first to local and regional sources for renewables. Where possible it also makes sense to combine energy generation sites with compatible restoration related efforts. In particular, a concept has been proposed by FAU Associate Scientist, Dr. J. William Louda, which combines solar array power plant facilities with periphyton-based filtering marshes. This would allow water to be cleaned below thin film solar panels (an existing technology known as CIGS-copper indium gallium selenide), leading to evaporation/condensation cycling and lower water loss into the atmosphere. Cleaner water would enter the current effective headwaters to both southern and northeastern Everglades systems (the STAs at WCA I and the Loxahatchee/L-8 basin), generating a substantial source of energy for rural communities in the Everglades bioregion and aiding in the inter-agency goals of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), which is the largest restoration-oriented engineering effort in the world.

Dr. Louda’s proposal has been presented to the Florida Power & Light, State of Florida and Palm Beach County officials, the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District, with academic support from the state university system. It is a prime example of an innovative, collaborative, localized response to the global climate/energy crisis.

Berkeley, California’s municipal solar financing plan

Berkeley is set to become the first city in the nation to help thousands of residents generate solar power with no advance financial investment. Initial investment costs have been the biggest hurdle for solar power across the country. The Berkeley City Council voted on November 6, 2007 to finance the cost of solar panels for property owners who agree to pay it back with a 20-year assessment on their property. Officials say that over two decades, the taxes would be the same as or less than what property owners would save on their electric bills.

The Berkeley’s program would work as follows: The property owner would hire a city-approved solar installer, who would determine the best solar system for the property, depending on energy use. Most residential solar panel systems in the city cost between $15,000 and $20,000. The city would pay the contractor for the system and its installation, minus any applicable state and federal rebates, and would add an assessment to the property owner’s tax bill. The tax would include administrative fees and interest. Interest would be lower than property owners could obtain on their own because the city would secure low-interest bonds and loans. The tax and solar panels would stay with the property in the event of sale.

The City of Berkeley modeled their solar financing plan after underground utility districts. Underground installation of utility wires can cost millions but creating a special assessment district allows neighborhoods to reimburse the costs over 20 or 30 years after the city pays for the service up front. Berkeley is also considering using special assessment district financing plans for other energy-saving projects such as insulation or heating. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it intends to grant Berkeley $160,000 to offset some of the city’s legal, accounting and staff costs associated with starting the plan.

A Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free Roadmap

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) states that the entire U.S. electricity demand could technically be met by renewable energy resources by 2020 and longer term, the potential of domestic renewable resources is huge, more than 85 times current U.S. energy use. According to Mike Ewall of Energy Justice Network, as of August 2006, solar alone could provide 55 times our current energy use; wind could provide about six times our current energy use.

In October of 2007, The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) published its full report entitled ‘Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy’, by Arjun Makhijani, Ph.D. The document is a groundbreaking scientific study providing clear direction for achieving CO2 reductions—eventually down to zero—while phasing out nuclear power completely, as early as 2040, and without acquiring credits from other countries. The study includes considerations for transitioning to a zero-CO2 energy system in a manner that is compatible with local economic development in areas that now produce fossil fuels.

Dr. Makhijani’s study relies heavily on various forms of biofuels, including the example of water hyacinths, which are currently used to clean wastewater and can yield up to 250 metric tons per hectare in warm climates. This fuel source is being studied through the Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences at the University of Florida. Dr. Makhijani suggests that projects like this can supply fuel for efficient Biomass IGCC plants (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle technology). The study promotes the exploration of sequestration, CO2 recycling and hydrogen production.

This is a groundbreaking study, and while we feel more research may be needed in the area of biofuels, it presents elements that could be used in the creation of State Energy Option Profiles. The study does not take into consideration innovations specific to Florida, such as ocean energy. We also suggest further exploration of options in wind generation technology as a component of our localized “roadmap”, including smaller scale residential efforts along our wind-rich coastal communities.

IV. How can we achieve our goals?

There are many paths we can take to get where we are going. We suggest the following to get us started:

Raise public awareness to fight dirty energy proposals

The goal of GHG reduction will not come without a struggle. And that struggle manifests most dramatically, and often most clearly, not in legislative sessions on energy policy, but in city halls, county chambers, and even on the streets, where residents challenge new power projects. Community activists know from experience that the more they stand up to the energy industry and exercise their right to public input over polluting projects, the more interest in conservation and renewable energy is stimulated in the general public.

Several notable examples from recent local battles with power plants are instructive. In Alachua County, where Gainesville Regional Utility (GRU) proposed expanding a coal facility, the community became mobilized and educated, and decided it did not want to pay $500 million for expansion of a coal power plant. This coal proposal had been presented as a way to improve efficiency of the existing facility, ostensibly providing more energy without an overall increase in pollution. Residents rejected the fossil fuel proposal in favor of improving the existing facility without expanding it, suggesting a decrease in pollution and an increase in funding from their public utility for conservation and renewables. The City of Gainesville, the area’s predominant energy consumer, is now taking on the challenge of meeting its needs without the additional coal generation.

A similar case arose in the City of Lake Worth in Palm Beach County, where the City’s municipal utility was being pressured by Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA), the state’s industry-driven ‘cooperative’ of public utilities, to add new gas-fired power generation. When a suggestion to improve the existing oil-burning facility with cleaner gas turbines was rejected by the public, opponents expressed interest in breaking from fossil fuel dependency and backing out of FMPA altogether. Successful battles have been fought and won recently in St. Lucie, Taylor, and Glades Counties, where communities became informed, got organized, opposed undesirable projects and won.

Promote and defend publicly owned utilities.

We see a need to defend and re-establish publicly-owned, localized utilities in contrast to profit-driven investor-owned transnational utility companies. We feel the future of our power grid will be in ‘distributed’ generation (we prefer the more accurate label decentralization). With this shift come greater opportunities and quicker implementation for options such as net-metering, where individuals or even whole cities can sell power back to the grid; financing options such as the Berkeley model; and more effective oversight of accountability. Locally owned public utilities can contribute towards the pursuit of local resource utilization to achieve lower-impact renewable generation such as ocean energy and sustainable or transitional biomass as mentioned in Section III.

In the cases of community input referenced above, the difference between public utilities and private utilities was also notable in the scale of public relations campaigns that opposed local environmental groups. Private utilities are far better equipped to greenwash their way out of public scrutiny and accountability is minimal in contrast to what is expected of municipal utilities. In Lake Worth last year, an elected official—who is held to ethics standards—abstained from the FMPA vote due to financial conflicts of interest (which allowed the above-mentioned public interest victory). In the private sector, financial interest often overrides important environmental concerns.

Stand firm on growth management and carrying capacity; stress public input

As Art Marshall suggests in this paper’s opening quote, growth and energy are inextricably and undeniably linked. The corporate real estate industry is aligned with the energy sector in its broad sweeping political influence.

Along with uncontrolled growth come new greenhouse gases. According to FPL, “Florida has some of the fastest-growing communities in the nation...[with] an average increase of approximately 85,000 new customer accounts annually for the next 15 years.” Additionally, FPL reports average residential customers use 30 percent more electricity than they did 20 years ago. This confirms the need to stress growth management as a central component of energy conservation and GHG reduction. Maximizing public input is a vital and essential aspect of this effort.

Assessing the carbon footprint of new development is essential. We have been witnessing an unprecedented backlash from both the current and previous administrations in Florida against grassroots efforts such as Hometown Democracy, which could increase citizen input into zoning and land use changes, potentially slowing the carbon imprint increase of our cities and rural communities. Real-estate developers should be held accountable and required to address climate change, just as they are required to address other environmental aspects of building code. While improved standards such as LEAD certifications for new and retrofitted buildings are important, their positive impacts are negligible when communities do not address issues of density and carrying capacity.

V. What are some obstacles?

Many of the obstacles to reaching carbon reduction goals quickly are coming from industry influence. Many are disguised by greenwash or obfuscated by corporate scientists (as Florida writer Carl Hiaasen calls them Bio-stitutes.)

The nuclear revival

Due to the extreme nature of impacts associated with nuclear energy, we begin this section by presenting 5 points that are missing from most discussions on the subject:

1. Nuclear radiation is lethal to human beings and all life forms on earth. In the event of a nuclear accident or attack, there is no known way to prevent radiation exposure. There is no known way to prevent illness and death from exposure to nuclear radiation.

2. Nuclear radiation is a result of all nuclear energy produced by human technology. There is no known way to produce nuclear energy without also producing nuclear radiation.

3. Nuclear radiation results in radioactive waste. There is no known way to safely transport or store this waste.

4. No technology designed to protect humans or other life forms from the lethal effects of nuclear radiation has ever been shown to be successful.

5. Nuclear radiation can destroy life as we know it. Perfect security does not exist.

Nuclear energy must be a primary concern of the energy future. The expansion and perpetuation of the nuclear power industry can only be accomplished by means of massive government subsidies. The public interest is not served by such a policy, and subsidies for nuclear power should be firmly opposed by all citizens and public officials who are truly concerned about the health and safety of future generations, and the future of the planet itself.

Nuclear power is still not clean, safe, or economically viable. There is no safe method to dispose of or store the radioactive waste produced. All six of the "low-level" nuclear waste dumps in the United States have leaked. There are no technological quick fixes that can effectively isolate nuclear waste from the biosphere for the duration of its hazardous life. Therefore, there is no such thing as nuclear waste "disposal." Current methods of underground storage are a danger to present and future generations. Any nuclear waste management strategies must be above ground, continuously monitored, and they must minimize transportation of wastes. These concerns do not even begin to address the hidden costs such as the consumption of massive amounts of fossil fuels in the production process, and the use of enormous amounts of water for the cooling of the plants.

As a result, we oppose the development and use of new nuclear reactors, plutonium (MOX) fuel, nuclear fuel reprocessing, nuclear fusion, and uranium enrichment. We call for the early retirement of nuclear power reactors as soon as possible, and for a phase-out of other technologies that use or produce nuclear waste. These technologies include non-commercial nuclear reactors, reprocessing facilities, nuclear waste incinerators, food irradiators, and all commercial and military uses of depleted uranium.

Furthermore, we oppose the deregulation of radioactive materials and wastes, which is allowing such wastes to be recycled into consumer products and to enter municipal waste landfills and incinerators. We call for the strict regulation, tracking, monitoring, and recapturing of radioactive materials and wastes.
With minimal review, the Public Service Commission recently approved “uprates” for nuclear facilities (where plants are pushed to run harder and hotter). Energy companies such as Progress and FPL have successfully achieved “construction work in progress” status, allowing them to bill consumers for the costs of unbuilt nuclear facilities. They have also lobbied the U.S. Congress for a 100% guarantee on commercial loans for new facilities, further pushing the financial burden onto the taxpayer.

At this very moment, utility ratepayers are being locked into non-renewable, unsafe energy contracts. Turkey Point, Crystal River and Port St. Lucie nuclear facilities are all now undergoing permitting for either construction of new units, uprating of old ones or both. Florida is undergoing one of the largest and fastest pushes to re-embrace nuclear power after 30 years of standstill in permitting that followed the 1979 Three-Mile Island disaster in Pennsylvania. The past 30 years of successful opposition to nuclear power based on financial precariousness and safety risks should speak for themselves. Nuclear power must be taken off the table immediately. We call upon the Public Service Commission of Florida to reassess and reject proposals for new reactors.

The nuclear rush also poses a serious threat to the development of renewable, clean energy as it draws funds and attention away from better options. Increased nuclear energy production cannot and will not solve the climate crisis. The construction of new nuclear power plants would be prohibitively expensive when all costs are factored in, and cannot be brought on line in time to meet the CO2 reduction goals that must be met to avert passing the climate tipping point.

The development of a safe and sustainable energy policy requires that public funds be invested in clean, affordable and renewable energy technologies. In the context of the escalating global climate crisis, it is imperative that all public funds invested in the production of electrical power be focused exclusively on clean, renewable energy production and sustainable solutions.

Carbon must not be swept under the carpet

The proposed schemes of carbon offsetting, cap and trade programs (what the Kyoto Protocol refers to as Clean Development Mechanisms or CDM) and underground injection of GHGs called sequestration can easily become invitations to pollute and/or delay strong reduction demands. There is little to no effective oversight or regulation of these programs. While we are not opposed to exploration of these options as possibilities to complement drastic reduction, we are completely appalled by the arrogance and greed of those proposing them as alternatives to reduction.

We are supporters of the indigenous sovereignty of native populations and seek the guidance and wisdom of native activists addressing energy issues. According to a recent report by the Indigenous Environmental Network, carbon trading conflicts with indigenous knowledge and is referred to as a new form of colonialism, which the report coins as CO2lonialism. The Indigenous Declaration, UNFCCC, COP11/MOP1, from Montreal Canada, 2005 stated, “the modalities and procedures for activities under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) do not respect and guarantee our right to lands, territories, and self-determination.”

We believe that there is great danger in the commodification of CO2 and that an overemphasis on CO2 is causing the regulation of other important GHGs to go under-acknowledged based upon their lack of commercial potential. While we believe that the question remains as to whether CO2 can be responsibly and effectively capped, trapped and/or sold, we maintain opposition to all attempts to globalize a commercial market of CO2 emission.

Biofuels need thorough review

New biofuel and biomass sources are being presented at a rapid pace, and some may be worth pursuing, even if only on a transitional basis. But there is an urgent need to make distinctions amongst the proposals before us and not to offer blanket support for all bio-fuels. For instance, consumable food crops, genetically altered material, and potentially invasive plants have high economic and environmental risks that must be considered, whereas the development of sources such as algae do not appear to have such risk or require as much land. There is also the potential for large quantities of cellulosic material produced by invasive plant removal to actually create momentum for native habitat restoration across our state’s natural areas.

Natural Gas can never be a solution

In the past decade, the fossil fuel industry has relentlessly marketed gas as the cleanest and most viable fuel option, yet it has a massive GHG emission in relation to all non-fossil fuel energy sources. The public relations around natural gas have resulted in the “dash for gas”, which is quickly outpacing the economic crisis of peak oil. Industry has drilled over 50,000 new gas wells across the country in less than a decade with no stabilization in price. The response from industry has been an influx of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) proposals across the nation. Communities across the country, including Florida, have deflected multiple proposals based on risk levels and undesirability of living in close proximity to massive, dangerous terminals (with specific thanks to opposition from our Bahamian neighbors). Now two more LNG facilities are under way, in Indiantown, Martin County and Offshore Broward County.

Natural gas consists primarily of the potent GHG, methane (a currently unregulated emission), and has a record of frequent leaks and even explosions [see US Office of Pipeline Safety for records]. From the point of extraction, gas, which is no more natural than coal or oil, has many health, safety and environmental concerns and poses a massive threat to public lands across the country. For example, 88% of federal natural gas resources on public land in the Rocky Mountains are available for leasing to energy companies. And now expanded gas drilling is threatening Florida’s coast again.

Southeast Florida alone currently has over 7,000 megawatts of gas-fired power plants in permitting or construction process, between FPL and FMPA. Between Florida Gas Transmission (FGT) and Gulfstream Pipelines, hundreds of miles of new gas pipelines are on the way.

VI. How can we prepare for what’s coming?

[This section remains under development, as it is a relatively new area of study and public discourse.]

We can address our 1,350 miles of coastline with an emphasis on ‘managed retreat’ regarding existing structures. We can require a complete moratorium on construction in high-risk areas, beginning with barrier islands, which are already witnessing changes on their shores. Florida has spent billions on failing beach re-nourishment dredge-and-fill projects to the detriment of sea turtles, reef habitat and the coastal tourist economy. It is time to end development of these environmentally susceptible areas.

In Lake Worth, Palm Beach County, we have worked to reject coastal development plans on the public beach, in part based on the financial imprudence of building beyond the coastal construction line. (The coastal construction line has already been ignored all along the urbanized coast). The potential economic benefits of managed retreat policies are substantial and deserve thorough review.

VII. What do we have to gain?

While the risks are enormous in facing climate change, the opportunities for improving quality of life in the communities of Florida are also very tangible. Two huge, immediate benefits associated with eliminating carbon emissions include: (1) improving air quality, by reducing emissions such as high ozone, particulate levels and mercury due to fossil fuel combustion and (2) water conservation amounting to hundreds-of-billions of gallons as a result of cutting combustion-based generation from our grid. The energy sector is an enormous water consumer nationwide, second in quantity only to agriculture.

There are also many secondary and cumulative impacts of dealing with the climate/energy crisis which are not as easily quantified, but present none-the-less: heightened sense of community that comes with weathering difficult transitions; better mental and physical health associated with low-impact ecological lifestyles and neighborhoods; alleviation of private control over public policy associated with the energy industry.

In the bigger picture, we advocate working broadly towards localized economies, and the development of skilled communities founded upon the wisdom of ecological sustainability. We believe this to be the essence of a quality life.

In closing, with the realities of human-created climate change at out heels, we have not afforded ourselves much space to stumble or falter, if any at all. The paths before us today are both scary and invigorating. The seven questions we have offered above are simple introductions to the work before us all. Community activists and public policymakers must reflect deeply on the century of industrialization behind us, and the millennia of colonization and slavery that led to this brief period in history where humanity began altering the entire atmosphere in our pursuit of unprecedented amounts of money, power, convenience and comfort. In this context, we consider climate change to be a collective responsibility that most of our ancestors have participated, at some level, in creating.

Today, those of us with a conscience need to step forward and do what we feel to be right in our hearts; the “practical issues” of economy and politics can be set to the side. If we lead with compassion and humility and an apologetic sincerity for the damage we have done—to the earth, to our own communities and to ourselves—the people who attempt to hold us back will be compelled to follow our lead into the future. We are all the ones that we’ve been waiting for.

“The task is no placid one. Philosophically it involves recognition of the wrenching fact that many of the deep troubles of today result from the successes of yesterday—the momentum which established a great region can as well destroy it. If we elect to stay reasonably within the bounds of our life support system…we shall have to discard as a working philosophy our habitual drive to provide endlessly for the needs of projected ‘growth.’ The essential question now is whether we shall have the wisdom and courage to do it, or shall simply pass the issue to a subsequent generation.”
Arthur R. Marshall, ‘Energy and Growth’, 1973

[For more information, or copies to distribute, please contact Panagioti Tsolkas, co-chair of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition,, 561-588-9666]

Monday, September 29, 2008

FPL and the anatomy of corruption in the Everglades

[About this story: it was submitted to the Earth First! Journal in 2007, but never formally printed. It was Photocopied by the Everglades Earth First! group and a version, riddled with typos, is included on thier website. It was also presented to me once in court during the Gulfstream/DEP challenge, with a concern that i had violated their trust by disclosing their settlement bribery offer. Thus, there is no specified amount in this text. While some of the info is dated, and the title hardly scratched the surface of what it suggests, i hope that all of you out there reading this will find some value to its presence here in the virtual world...]

by panagioti

"The pressures of expanding population and technology on Florida continue to degrade its human and natural resources despite the combined counter-efforts of all existing institutions. Government, more often than not, either fosters or adds to the degradation. Educational institutions seem unable to unwilling to apply their store of knowledge effectively to the problems. Efforts of the business community are often exploitative, non-existent, or are superficial palliatives… It is evident that Florida is on a course which ultimately will insure its joining the parade of states already sunk in environmental quagmires… Philosophically we suffer a paradoxical ailment which allows us to look back two hundred years in pride, but not five years ahead in preparation or anticipation."

-Arthur R. Marshall, 1972, from ¨A Proposal to Establish the Florida Environmental Institute¨

my story

This has been a hard story to tell, but it has to be told. I have been walking two paths, tearing myself and everything that i know apart, in order to understand how i can fight with integrity and effectiveness against the industrial juggernaut that presents itself as an unstoppable force, willing and able to crush anything in its path—not least of all our very spirits and collective wills to live. One path has taken me through deep bogs of misery, surrounded in piles of paper, staring at a glowing screen, countless hours with a phone turning my ear red from the pressure of my hand forced against my own head, trying to understand how a power plant gets built. And how it can be stopped. The other path has taken me, blissfully, into the wild, down dirt roads along canals that close the wild into contained compartments, into tea-black ponds where gators sat and watched me as i fantasized about jumping on top of bulldozers (as i have done before elsewhere) surrounded by friends, with tears and fire in our eyes, convincing drivers to turn their destructive machines around and put them to a better use.

But there is a world between these two paths that i am stretched between. To me, that world manifests as ´the meeting´. Not the meeting where i sit with my collective in a circle, sometimes in the grass, listening to each other, taking notes, eating cookies, making plans together. The meeting i am writing of is the modern battleground of fights for ecological justice. It is a battle facilitated, sometimes by politicians, other times by businesses, and on occasion, by people who call themselves environmentalists. The terrain is treacherous and the attacks are often as precise as drawn out chess games and the side i have chosen to align with is usually missing most of its pieces. I have found myself running frantically back in forth between my chosen paths, across the battlefield, for the past several years. Some of what i´ve learned are lessons that need to be shared, if we are to stop Florida Power & Light´s (FPL) West County Energy Center, restore the Everglades, and usher industrial civilization into the dustbin of history, before the ocean swallows us whole down here.

Art's legacy dishonored

Ecologists Arthur Marshall's proposed Institute, mentioned in his quote above, did get off the ground, and he went on to contribute some of the best components of the Everglades restoration plans, among other amazing environmental work across Florida before passing away. His legacy went on to get a 147,392 acre National Wildlife Refuge named after him in Loxahatchee, which is currently home to around 30 threatened and endangered species of plants and animals. But it's a lot easier to slap a person's name on something than it is to honor their vision of a holistic ecosystem repair. If Art could see the state of Everglades Restoration now… well, truthfully, he probably wouldn't be too shocked at the bureaucracy, corruption and greed driving the process into the mud. He might be pretty disappointed by the sprawl closing in on the east side of Refuge; and the proposed chemical plant and new landfill directly adjacent would surely be a tad frustrating. And the massive 3800 megawatt gas-fired plant under construction, despite lacking essential permits; 1000 feet to the north of his name-sake Refuge; power for near a million new homes and businesses set to spill across the EAA—that must be really damn annoying.

But none of that business-as-usual could have prepared him for the news that his nephew, who supposedly took on the task of carrying Art's mission forward, is selling out to FPL for a measly $30,000. John A. Marshall, head of the locally renowned Marshall Foundation, likes to inform people that his uncle thought that, "polluters should pay." Well, Taking money from industry for environmental work is one thing, but sending your employees to join the Chamber of Commerce choir of praises to FPL and attempting to undermine other activists is probably not what Art had in mind. I was at the November 29 meeting, where Marshall Foundation Executive Director Josette Kaufman sung of FPL's glorious contributions to the environment (and i was thrown out for trying to address the Commission). And i wondered if she had ever read anything that Art Marshall wrote. She certainly didn't read the part where Art said "An effective institute would: (1) Need to be financially independent of any department or agency of government and of industry and special interest-groups. (2) Need to build confidence in its integrity among clients and supporters as well as among the public."

At least the Audubon Society of Florida held out for a higher pay-off. Between FPL, Enrique Tomeau (co-owner of the Palm Beach Aggregates rock mine, where the power plant sits) and Henry Dean (former head of South Florida Water Management District, who facilitated Aggregates deals) they made $100,000. But, then again, they also attempted a more ambitious backstabbing against grassroots opponents of FPL's West County Energy Center. At a December 2006 Florida Cabinet meeting, in front of then-Governor Jeb Bush (whose final major act in office was certifying this plant—two months earlier than originally planned), FL Audubon Policy Director Eric Draper tried to discredit the resolution that local activists had gotten passed through the well-respected Everglades Coalition. In an astounding display of disregard for formal Everglades Coalition process, he actually asked that it be stricken from the record at his sole request. He had not even consulted any Audubon scientists or members on the matter. To boot, Draper went on to present an award to Jeb Bush for his stewardship towards the environment.

By the following summer, four local politicians and a well-known lobbyist would be in prison for the crime of 'Honest Service Fraud'. Two out of the four politicians who are still currently in prison for the recent corruption charges, County Commissioners Tony Masilotti and Warren Newell, are serving time specifically for their dealings with the Palm Beach Aggregates' Enrique Tomeau. If Eric Draper, personal friend of Tomeau, who frequently facilitates acts of corporate generosity on behalf of his own salary, was an elected official he could likely be in there with Newell and Masilotti today.

A tale of the two towers

Many of the other already well-funded environmental groups in Florida that didn't take money directly from FPL took it instead from the Joyce Foundation during a farcical battle against FPL's proposed Coal plant in Glades County. The Joyce Foundation, as many now know, spread millions of dollars across the country pretending to fight coal plants while essentially attempting to gain positive public relations for the same industry's Coal Gasification technology. Although the crooked nature of the funding was well known, many groups including the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), EarthJustice, Environment Florida and the Everglades Law Center couldn't keep their hands out of the cookie jar. While the only option at the time for most grassroots activists outside the environmental-industrial complex seemed to also fight the coal proposal; in hindsight, the whole victory felt like a well-orchestrated, well-financed scandal which succeeded in creating a red herring to divert attention from other FPL projects, such as the abovementioned gas-fired plant and multiple new nuclear proposals that are now underway.

who feels it knows it

Before the Glades coal plant was proposed local residents and grassroots activists of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition (PBCEC) were fighting the West County Energy Center (WCEC). While WCEC proposed less pollution than the coal plant, itwas a larger facility in a more precarious location (for further background on these two FPL plants, see Earth First! Journal May-June 2007). Our Coalition of grassroots activists and local residents solicited support for our efforts and received very little response from the well-established organizations across the State . We continued to fight in the shadows of FPL's Glades Coal proposal, declaring opposition to both projects. Within this time period several environmental organizations that had been silenced by FPL donations surfaced. We found that other groups, such as the Florida Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club, were supportive, but expressed feeling hesitation on the issue after having sided in favor of natural gas over other fossil fuels in the previous decade of energy policy work.


Gas? Natural? [to be read as a sidebar to the article]

Gas-fired power plants are no more 'natural' than coal, oil or nukes. Greenhouse emissions from burning gas are generally around half of what coal puts out. That is still huge, especially considering the increasing scale of gas usage, for example: the Glades County Coal plant was estimated at 14-16 million tons of CO2, where as the larger Palm Beach County Gas plant is estimated at 10-12 million tons. The energy industry has promoted gas so heavily as the only viable 'clean, green' alternative, that the crisis connected to what economists call the 'dash for gas' is exceeding the paralleled peak oil crisis. The fact is that thegas industry has drilled over 50,000 new gas wells in less than a decade, with no stabilization in price .

And the extraction process ain't too pretty folks. Gas extraction has fragmented wildlife habitat, poisoned communities, destroyed crop-lands and degraded streams throughout the West. Over 88 percent of federal natural gas resources on public lands in the Rocky Mountain states are available for leasing to energy companies.

For more info, check out:


As a PBCEC participant and group co-chair i have often reflected on the December '06 meeting in Tallahassee (where Audubon of Florida exposed their allegiance to FPL), recalling a conversation with Colleen Castille, former Secretary of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) under Governor Bush. She approached me suggesting that we drop our opposition to the gas plant in Palm Beach and instead join them in stopping the Glades coal plant. At the time i remember thinking it was strange. But looking back now it feels surreal.

Were other environmental organizations conspiring with FPL and DEP to manufacture the Glades County victory? Were they inviting me to join in?! My brain still rejects this idea as a conspiracy theory, but my gut-instincts scream up to me: ¨You idiot! That's how it all works. That's how the developers have gotten this far—welcome to the environmental-industrial complex.¨

Once the Coal plant was 'defeated' the PBCEC solicited another call for support against the WCEC, with little-to-no response from the moneyed groups (except for the local Loxahatchee Sierra Club, who has since gotten more involved). Where did all the money from the Coal fight go? Did it go towards paying six-figure salaries to environmental professionals, while grassroots groups scramble for crumbs to fight the WCEC behemoth? It's hard not to feel that way. One prominent attorney even responded to me that their firm only gets involved in large, precedent setting cases of regional impact, and then went on to litigate against a golf course.


Today the fight against the WCEC continues to gain momentum and grassroots support, with over 1000 signed petitions, dozens of protests, actions and news stories, two administrative legal challenges—one regarding the deep-well injection system, the other a permit for the Gulfstream gas pipeline—and a third challenge in federal court alleging violations of the EPA's Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, specifically noting a lack of oversight on massive CO2 emissions. The Gulfstream Pipeline company offered the PBCEC an undisclosed six-figure settlement/payoff to drop our challenge and leave their pipeline alone (maybe the Marshall Foundation and Audubon Florida shoulda played a little hard to get). Gulfstream even suggested that the money could be used to challenge the power plant, claiming that their pipeline is going in independent of FPL's plans even though the WCEC is their sole customer at the moment. The PBCEC declined the offer. But being a named plaintiff on the challenge, and part of the decision-making to decline the offer, i have to say it was a feeling of pressure that i had never experienced before. We discussed the possibility of a manuever to accept the money and use it to fight the WCEC on other grounds, or to fund future efforts (i even found myself thinking ¨damn, maybe i could use this to pay-off last months rent that i still owe¨). I can see why some well-intentioned folks take these sort of offers, and i can imagine the fear of becoming dependent on that money and risking it being pulled away from you. The temptation is real, and we need to understand why groups fall for it. But our struggles are also real, and no amount of money can buy us out of the ecological nightmare we have created. We will have to fight our way through with honesty, integrity,determination and a raging green fire in our eyes.

Gulfstream has already paid off multiple environmental groups for the prior 700 miles of pipeline crossing the Gulf of Mexico, from Texas to Martin County (where FPL has the Barley Barber facility, the fourth largest fossil-fuel power plant in the country.) But our little Coalition will not be joining that list. And Everglades Earth First! is committed to standing firm with the PBCEC to stop the WCEC and Gulfstream Pipeline's 34 mile Phase III project, by any and all means necessary.

While some of the individuals and organizations named above may have cringed all the way through this article (if they made it that far), we hope that they also see value in our uncompromising position. Lawsuits and protests may not have been the "Art Marshall way" during his lifetime (as i hear he preferred sticking with research and negotiation), but we hope that our actions to defend the Everglades and to expose both political and environmental corruption will be recognized as efforts to honor his vision and restore his tarnished legacy.

¨Out of the concern of Florida, and south Floridians, with such enlarging cities of energy and growth we must accomplish a vital feat in record time... The task is no placid one. Philosophically it involves recognition of the wrenching fact that many of the deep troubles of today result from the successes of yesterday—the momentum which established a great region can as well destroy it. If we elect to stay reasonably within the bounds of our life support system...we shall have to discard as a working philosophy our habitual drive to provide endlessly for the needs of ´projected growth.´ The essential question now is whether we shall have the wisdom and courage to do it, or shall simply pass the issue to a subsequent generation.¨

Arthur R. Marshall, Director, Division of Applied Ecology, 1973, from speech on ¨Energy and Growth¨

[For more of Art Marshall´s original writings visit: ]