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: ]

Sunday, September 28, 2008

PBCEC October Events... join us in fighting for the Everglades against power plants, airports, gas stations, roads.. and this whole corrupt system

Here at PBCEC HQ, we've been busy (as usual) fighting business-as-usual… And we could use your help! While we are still actively engaged with campaigns in Loxahatchee, Acreage, Lake Worth, Delray, etc.. in the past several months, at the request of activists in our neighboring counties, we have also been spreading out to get involved with regional issues in Broward, Martin and St. Lucie Counties. Our common Everglades watershed does not stop along government borders, and neither should our battles to defend and restore it. As you can imagine, we are stretching thin! So if you've been waiting for a good reason to make that leap out from behind the computer screen into the streets, October might be your month.

Meanwhile on the home front, the plot continues to thicken. Monday following our 9/20 FPL protest, WE WERE BEEN GRANTED A HEARING FOR INJUNCTION, which means FPL could be required to stop construction until our official court date in February. Yes, that seems like a no-brainer to most of us, but it has appeared that the closer our legal battle got, the FASTER FPL seemed to be working..

Also, for those who haven't heard, the PB County Commission is heading towards an incarcerated majority. Our dear friend Mary McCarty is likely about to go down for corruption charges. While I hate to see anyone's house get raided, it's hard to feel much sympathy for the person who has been the single most arrogant, hateful public official towards the PBC Environmental Coalition and towards the planet in general. One can only speculate that Aaronson is not far behind. And I wouldn't be shocked or saddened to see Kanjian behind bars before he even gets elected to his seat…,0,7671511.story

Community activists have long been seen as the underdogs, struggling for crumbs at the table. But the tides are turning, and a greed that has seemed so insurmountable is being washed out to sea before our eyes. Now is your chance to join history in the making-- an end to the Energy Empire and its Dictatorship of the Developer. So bust out your calendar and pen (no erasable pencils); etch these crucial events into your schedule!

Let's do this.

For the wild,
panagioti tsolkas, PBCEC co-chair

To all who missed the FPL protest last week, check out some photos and



*September 29, 9am County Commission Zoning Hearing on a Publix gas station in the Acreage.. This would be the first gas station in this rural suburb of 50,000 people dependent on residential wells. The PBCEC is opposed to all fossil fuel expansion from gas stations to roads to power plants, and we believe communities who depend on their regional resources are always better stewards of the land. Join us in standing with Acreage residents against this atrocity..

*October 1, 6pm Riviera City Council will be voting on the proposed new FPL power plant. Our friends in Riviera asked us to come and ask FPL and the City Commission hard questions regarding the new power plant, for example, why residents are being told that they can't clean up the plant until after building the WCEC and why they are not pursuing available alternatives to fossil fuel power generation.. Please join us, 600 West Blue Heron Blvd. see item #7 on this agenda link:

*October 1, 7:30-9pm, "COFFEE WITH THE COMMISH" Join City Commissioner Cara Jennings, who is running for re-election, for live music, coffee, and conversation about brewing fresh politics in Lake Worth. Hear local acoustic duet "Illumination," at Les Beans Coffeehouse, 410 2nd Ave No. (corner of Federal Hwy) Lake Worth. For more info, call Bonnie Redding at 561-762-8191, Check out the website:

*October 1-3, Florida's Wildlife: On the Frontline of Climate Change. FWC conference in Orlando, at Rosen Plaza (re-scheduled from last month, due to hurricane)

*October 4, Greenpeace Project Hot Seat event at Exodus Café in Port St. Lucie, for details contact

*October 6, BUSY DAY! WCEC hearing, Palin Protest, PBCEC meeting..
-2pm WCEC Injunction Hearing at Fed. Courthouse on Clematis, West Palm
-5:30pm Gov. Palin speaks for McCain campaign at 5:30 p.m. at the Boca Raton Resort and Club, 501 E. Camino Real. We will protest against the Energy Empire from 5 to 7pm, "No Drilling Off-Shore, No Drilling ANWR, No Blood for Oil!"
-7pm PBCEC monthly meeting to be relocated to Boca Raton, immediately following the Palin rally at Auggie's Pizza, on NW 2nd St, between Glades and Yamato . WE WILL NOT MEET IN LAKE WORTH THIS MONTH.

*October 7, Stop the Coconut Creek Wildlands Massacre, No-Rezoning, Protect the Wild! Save 42 acres of wetland and rockland hardwood hammock, 10am Broward County Commission meeting… check out a great video about the growing fight, from Everglades Earth First!

*October 11, Greenpeace Project Hot Seat event: "we are planning a big aerial art down here…on the Atlantic Coast, that is in conjunction with an aerial that my co-worker is doing on the same day on the Gulf coast in Sarasota. He is spelling out "VOTE FOR A SAFE CLIMATE" and I and doing "CLEAN ENERGY NOW". The beach will most likely be Juno Beach and if you all we're interested in being involved, the image that is created along with the story of hundreds of people gathering on the beach to demand clean energy." For details contact:

*October 17, 7pm Sierra Club Party for Cara Jennings: The Loxahatchee Sierra Club has endorsed Commissioner Cara Jennings for re-election in Lake Worth! We are having a fund raising party to support her candidacy, Incredible Food, Drink and Fun at Jayne King's House, 3400 Place Valencay, Delray R.S.V.P. by October 15 (561) 637-8896 … Jayne says: "Let's keep this proven environmental advocate in office!!!! Florida's land needs all the friends it can get!!!There is no time to lose on this race!!! The environmental stakes are TOO high no matter WHERE you live in Florida!! We need ALL hands on deck!!!!"

*October 18, Volunteer Door-knocking for Cara Jennings' campaign, and for any Cara fans out there who are also Kareoke fans, mark your calendar for that evening: "Kareoke for Cara (ok!)" a fundraiser party in-the-works, details TBA.

*October 27, Public DEP Hearing on FPL's WCEC unit 3, 12pm at Wellington Community Center, 12165 W. Forest Hill Blvd. For those who have a loose work schedule, there will be rally out front at 11am to let people know that the hearing is happening.


This project would be as environmentally devastating to air and water quality in South Florida as the coal plant that have been defeated.. PBCEC has signed on in support of the effort to stop this nightmare:


Individuals and communities to the east and west of the airport are opposing this expansion and its impact on their lives. We stand with these residents against this unneeded runway expansion and add our own concerns of further dependence on fossil fuel-heavy transportation. There is a whole mess of studies looking at the impacts air traffic on the global climate. Check 'em out:

The Draft EIS is now out and open to public comment. You can share your feelings with


This year's GEER conference materials are now all online:

GEER 2008 – Advancing the Science to Achieve Success Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration Planning, Policy and Science Meeting For Everglades Restoration 2050

July 28-August 1, 2008, Naples, FL

Just a quick note to let you know GEER 2008 speaker PowerPoint files are now posted on the GEER web site as PDFs. If you don't see a file you want to view, you will need to contact the presenter directly.

You will also see a few additional highlights have been posted including a transcript of Lynn Scarlett's keynote address, a link to a PDF of the abstract book and a link to the Everglades Memorial Posters – if you didn't get a chance to view these incredibly moving posters at the conference, you should take a moment to do so now and recognize those who gave their lives working in the Everglades.

Lynn Scarlett Keynote Address:

GEER 2008 Abstract Book:

Speaker PowerPoint Files:

Everglades Memorial Posters:


Saturday, September 27, 2008

"Buried Gas Tanks Imperil Florida’s Drinking Water" No Publix Gas Station in the Acreage!!

The Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition opposes the gas station proposed to be built in the Acreage. We will be in attendance of the Palm Beach County Commission hearing on 9/29/08, 9am, to challenge zoning the Publix gas station on Seminole Pratt and Orange Drive. Below is an article from the LA Times in 2002 entitled "Buried Gas Tanks Imperil Florida’s Drinking Water". We have long known the risks that gas stations pose to residential wells. Even with improved storage tanks, they cannot prevent contamination, but only prolong its inevitable impacts. The solution to this problem must be holistic, including: keep all urban infrastructure out of rural communities, reducing fossil fuel dependency, improvement of public transit options, and expanding the treatment of already contaminated areas through bioremediation ( for example: ) and restored wetlands do reduce the existing contamination of our ground and surface waters.

We stand with the residents of the Acreage who are challenging this bad plan. There is no excuse for this proposed gas station!

Buried Gas Tanks Imperil Florida’s Drinking Water
LA Times, July 08, 2002 in print edition A-12

Buried storage tanks are leaking gasoline into 25,000 sites around the state, causing concern that drinking water may become contaminated, state officials said. Florida’s absorbent, sandy soil and residents’ dependence on ground water supplies contribute to the concerns, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said.

Public wells used by 17 million people are within half a mile of leaking tanks.
[There is speculation that this maybe a typo, LA Times may have meant 1.7 million, as there are only around 18 million people in the entire state]

“People don’t realize when they are filling their cars with gas that they are handling a hazardous substance–gasoline is explosive and it can cause cancer,” said Michael Ashey, chief of the Bureau of Petroleum Storage Systems for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Florida ranks third after California and Texas in gasoline use, burning nearly 20 million gallons a day, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. About 22,000 of the leak sites are near gas stations and similar facilities, the department said.

Florida has more leak sites than any other state except California, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said. State officials are cleaning up more than 3,000 sites, and more than 10,000 sites are awaiting cleanup.

The state will require double-walled petroleum-storage tank systems to replace the older tanks by 2010. The state spent $151 million last year to expedite the cleanups, but officials say they need more money to reduce the backlog.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fight for Coconut Creek Wildlands!

Participants from the Palm Beach County Environmental Coaltition and Everglades Earth First! joined Concerned Citizens of Coconut Creek at Sept 11 and 25 city commission hearings to oppose the re-zoning of 42 acres of wetlands and rare rockland hardwood hammock.

Coconut Creek City Commission votes 5-0 in favor of developers who want to build a shopping center for Lowes and Kohls on the land. The developer is Regency Centers, represented by Ruden McClosky, and their crooked attorney, Dennis Mele.

an activist with Everglades Earth First! produced a short video about the battle:

The Next hearing is October 7, 2008, 10am at the Broward County Commission, for the final approval of the rezoning. Please join with our neighbors to the south to reject this destruction!

You can also send comments to the Army Corps of Engineers on Public Notice saj-2008-661

The Army Corps of Engineers has the sole authority to permit the destruction or preservation of our wetlands nation wide as per Section 404. To date Florida has lost the most acreage cover -- 9.3 million acres. Our committee has formally requested a public hearing regarding the Army Corps of Engineers public notice saj-2008-661. We need your help in contacting them and writing as many letters as possible to bring to their attention our desire not to destroy the last south Coconut Creeks wetland.

write to:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Jacksonville District
4400 PGA Boulevard
Suite 500
Palm Beach Gardens,FL 33410-6557
email: Melody White at
fax 561-626-6971,
telephone 561-472-3508

Stop Plasma Arc in Port St. Lucie!

[This letter was signed by PBCEC, along with dozens of other organizations and scientists, and sent to:]

Donato Viggiano, MD
St. Lucie/Okeechobee Medical Society
P.O. Box 13318
Ft. Pierce, FL 34979

The letter below continues to acquire individuals and organizations opposed to the Plasma Arc incinerator in St. Lucie County, FL.


We, the undersigned, oppose the proposed plasma arc incinerator for St. Lucie County because of related health, economic and environmental concerns.

Plasma arc incineration is an unsafe and unproven technology for the commercial processing of municipal solid waste. Emissions data (which has not been independently verified) gathered from the plasma-arc incinerator in Utashanai, Japan by the company Shimadzu Techno-Research Inc. shows emissions of dioxin , the most-toxic known man-made substance. In addition, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in their Whitepaper on the Use of Plasma Arc Technology to Treat Municipal Solid Waste says that there is “considerable uncertainty” about the quality of the syngas and slag produced by plasma arc technology, and dioxins and furans can reform at certain temperatures if chlorine is present. .

Studies show higher levels of cancer , and elevated levels of dioxin in the blood of people living near municipal solid waste incinerators when compared to the general population. , , There is no safe level of exposure to dioxin. Known health impacts of dioxin include cancer, IQ deficits, disrupted sexual development, birth defects, immune system damage, behavioral disorders, diabetes and altered sex ratios. As a result, the City of Oakland, California passed a resolution calling for the elimination of dioxin, and listed incinerators as a major source. Claims that the plasma arc facility “will run cleaner than natural-gas based plants” made by the company Geoplasma are not backed by evidence; independently verified emissions data has not been provided to the public for any plasma arc facility commercially processing municipal solid waste.

Given that the facility proposed for St. Lucie County would be more than ten times larger than any other commercial plasma municipal solid waste incinerator in the world, dioxin, furans, mercury and other harmful emissions are of grave concern. If constructed, this facility would be one of the largest incinerators of any kind in the world. We also have serious concerns about the Geoplasma plasma-arc incinerator being sited near the St. Lucie Tropicana orange juice plant. Studies show that high levels of dioxins have been found in food and dairy products produced near incinerators, , demonstrating that the insidious toxic impacts of incinerators are thus as far-reaching as the shipment of that food to other communities. For the safety of residents of St. Lucie and neighboring counties, we ask that, at a minimum, no proposal be considered until independently verified gaseous, solid and liquid emissions data is provided to the public from an operational commercial plasma facility of a comparable size and waste stream.

In addition, there are also economic dangers with the proposed plasma facility. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection in their Whitepaper on the Use of Plasma Arc Technology to Treat Municipal Solid Waste wrote that, “The economics of this technology are not well known”. Geoplasma claims that they will pay for 80% of the facility with energy sales. However, there is no evidence that the facility will be able to sell any electricity to the grid. As one article says, “Geoplasma hopes to do better than the Japanese facility [which it is modeled upon], which generates just enough power for internal consumption.” The cost of the plasma incinerator would be born by St. Lucie residents in the form of high disposal fees and other taxpayer subsidies.

The plasma system would also destroy valuable materials (more than two-thirds of materials will not come from the neighboring landfill), and obstruct efforts to increase recycling. If the county recycled 50% of its waste stream, based on current market prices for glass, paper, metal, plastic, industrial rubber compounds (including tires) and compost, the materials would be worth $20 million annually. Many cities and counties already have achieved this level of recycling and composting. Further, St Lucie County would save another $12.5 million in avoided disposal costs annually. Finally the economy of the county would improve with an additional 500-750 permanent jobs (and an equivalent number of indirect jobs) and dozens of new and expanded small businesses. All of this activity contributes to the local economy's tax base. When looking at the staggering costs of a plasma arc facility, it is important to count the lost opportunity costs from recycling and economic development.

The city of Honolulu investigated plasma arc technology and concluded, “After thorough evaluations, including intensive meetings with the proposers to review technical components of their plans, we concluded that utilizing plasma arc/torch would significantly increase the cost of waste disposal for Oahu and would not provide any environmental advantages to justify such cost.”

As more than 130 organizations including Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Health Care Without Harm have expressed in the No Incentives for Incinerators statement, incinerators of all types—including plasma, pyrolysis and gasification—are a detriment to the climate, the economy, and the health of U.S. communities. To protect health in Florida, we must strengthen waste prevention, recycling and composting programs, and put an end the harmful practice of incineration.

[Get in touch for the list of groups and also an extensive list of resources on waste incineration.]

Monday, September 22, 2008

British Court Rules Direct Action OK Because Global Warming Risks So Bad

Verdict marks a 'tipping point' for climate change movement

September 11, 2008

WASHINGTON — A British Court today acquitted six Greenpeace volunteers for attempting to shut down a coal-fired power plant in Kent on the grounds that they had a "lawful excuse" because the coal plant was causing so much property damage around the world due to global warming that it exceeded the property damage done through shutting operations of the coal plant.The Maidstone Crown Court heard testimony from NASA climate expert James Hansen, an Inuit leader from Greenland and the British Conservative Party’s environment adviser. The jury was told that the Kingsnorth Power Plant emits 20,000 tons of CO2 every day - the same amount as the 30 least polluting countries in the world combined – and that the British Government had advanced plans to build a new coal-fired power station next to the existing site on the Hoo Peninsula in Kent.

The Maidstone Crown Court heard testimony from NASA climate expert James Hansen, an Inuit leader from Greenland and the British Conservative Party’s environment adviser. The jury was told that the Kingsnorth Power Plant emits 20,000 tons of CO2 every day - the same amount as the 30 least polluting countries in the world combined – and that the British Government had advanced plans to build a new coal-fired power station next to the existing site on the Hoo Peninsula in Kent.

The 'not guilty' verdict means the jury believed that shutting down the coal plant was justified in the context of the damage to property caused around the world by CO2 emissions from Kingsnorth.

One of the Kingsnorth 6, Emily Hall, said after her acquittal:

"This is a huge blow for [British Prime Minister] Gordon Brown and his plans for new coal-fired power stations," said Emily Hall, one of the acquitted activists. "It wasn't only us in the dock, it was coal-fired power generation as well."

"This verdict marks a tipping point for the climate change movement," added defendant Ben Stewart. "If jurors from the heart of Middle England say it's legitimate for a direct action group to shut down a coal-fired power station because of the harm it does to our planet, then where does that leave government energy policy? We have the clean technologies at hand to power our economy, it's time we turned to them instead of coal."

The defense called as a witness NASA climate expert James Hansen, who told the court that more than a million species would be made extinct because of climate change and calculated that Kingsnorth would proportionally be responsible for 400 of these.

"We are in grave peril," he told the jury. "Somebody needs to step forward and say there has to be a moratorium, draw a line in the sand and say no more coal-fired power stations."

Asked by defense attorney Michael Wolkind if carbon dioxide damages property, Hansen replied, "Yes, it does." Asked if stopping emissions of any amount of it therefore protects property, he replied, "Yes it does, in proportion to the amount." He added that he thought there was an immediate need to protect property at risk from climate change.

Conservative Party green adviser Zac Goldsmith also gave evidence for the defence.

"By building a coal-power plant in this country, it makes it very much harder in exerting pressure on countries like China and India," Goldsmith said. "I think that's something that is felt in Government circles…Legalities aside, I suppose if a crime is intended to prevent much larger crimes, I think then a lot of people would consider that as justified and a good thing."

Some of the property the court was told was in immediate need of protection included parts of Kent at risk from rising sea levels, the Pacific island state of Tuvalu and areas of Greenland. The defendants also cited the Arctic ice sheet, China's Yellow River region, the Larsen B ice shelf in Antarctica, coastal areas of Bangladesh and the city of New Orleans.

The acquittal is the first case where preventing property damage from climate change has been used as part of a 'lawful excuse' defense in court. The defense has previously been successfully deployed by defendants accused of damaging a military jet bound for Indonesia to be used in the war against East Timor before independence.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

PBCEC Sept ’08 Notes, News and Updates

PBCEC Notes from 9/1/2008:

Ok, so our Labor Day meeting was a small one in numbers, but pretty huge in content. I hope that means that the usual participants enjoyed their workers’ holiday immensely and are all fired up to show a strong presence for the October 6 meeting. Here at the PBCEC virtual HQ, I’ve been keeping busy: prepping for legal filings, pumping out press releases, networking/socializing, keeping the webpage and the email box caught up, and trying to get people fired up for Saturday’s Rally in Defense of the Everglades that we are a part of. Those this month’s installation of ‘notes and updates’ is laden with links; many to our PBCEC page.

The intent is to get some attention to that site—convince you to view it as a resource and tool at your disposal for organizing and researching, etc... and maybe even encourage you to visit the paypal button and share some wealth with your local Coalition. I hope you take some time to check out the great links..

For an end to the FPL stranglehold on South Florida, “your days of plenty are numbered Lew…”
Panagioti, pbcec co- chair


The River of Gas

There’s been some incredible WCEC updates, primarily with the re-filing our federal challenge and filing an emergency Motion for Injunction on construction.

We also gave some time to getting ready for the Sept 20 Rally to Defend the Everglades!!

Download the 9/20 Flyer:

Wanna do the ‘Ride to the Refuge’ Saturday morning?! Meet us at 7:30am sharp at 367 Colonial, north of Forest Hill and just east off Dixie. If you can’t manage getting there that early, you can catch up with us at 8:30am on the intersection of Southern and Jog road, where we will take a short break.

About the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, where the Rally will begin at 10am (in the STA 1 east, which is actually SFWMD land)

And mark you calendars for Oct 27. There will be another DEP hearing, this one in front of an Administrative Law Judge, on WCEC unit 3, at the Wellingtion Community Center, 12 noon. Please attend ready to testify under oath.

Road Rage
We also talked about new happenings in the road resistance efforts, which PBCEC recently participated in by filing our opposition with the Army Corps of Enginners to Roebuck and the Jog extension. Check it out:

RNC invite the Police State in MN
Most of you heard by now that I went to Minnesota to join the protests at the Republican National Convention

Well, the police state got pretty out of control, and know folks there need our help:

Interested in the Earth First! movement?

A little EF! origin story:

An EF! story on the Climate Justice movement and its potential

News on an EF! Roadshow crossing the country this spring:

New Clips and random tidbits:
Sunshine Energy participant sues FPL

A great new short film on the ecological social impacts of the Border Wall between US and Mexico:

Bicycle Caravan To Travel 18 Miles to Fight for Everglades

For Immediate Release September 18, 2008

Contacts: Brandon Block 561-932-4244, Ana Rodriguez 561-588-0287

Palm Beach County, FL-- Early on September 20th 2008, a group of young activists and bicycle enthusiasts will head out from Dixie Hwy in West Palm Beach to meet up with protesters in the Everglades, biking 18 miles to the site of a proposed FPL power plant. The protesting cyclists hope to highlight what they consider to be the illegal construction of the West County Energy Center, a gas/diesel power plant being built in the Everglades, next to the Arthur R. Marshal Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge. Some will carry signs reading "Honk if you love the Everglades," "Save our Swamp," and "FPL is Criminal," others will be in costume.

The bicycle caravan will move up Southern Blvd from Dixie Hwy and join concerned citizens and activists from other groups near the site of the now famous February 18th protest where 26 activists were arrested. According to Russell McSpadden, a rally organizer and cyclist, "We are going to be huffing and puffing and sweating for the swamp, and we hope our message, that Florida Power and Light must halt all construction of the West County Energy Center pending a reevaluation of the site and a complete environmental impact statement will come across loud and clear."

According to Brandon Block, an activist and avid cyclist, "There can be no doubt that this 3,800 megawatt power plant, what will be the single largest fossil fuel plant in the entire county, will irrevocably damage the Everglades and cost taxpayers millions in restoration expenses. It is time for South Floridians to stand up and defend their natural spaces against corrupt profiteers. If this plant is built, South Florida will be shamed. The Everglades are as valuable to this country as the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls, and is a far more unique ecosystem."

Local activists to join protests at Republican National Convention in Minneapolis

*This article can also be accessed if you copy and paste the entire address below into your web browser.

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 02, 2008

South Florida activists have joined the front lines of protesters at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis.

Panagioti Tsolkas, co-chairman of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition, said today that he will head to Minneapolis on Wednesday, to lend solidarity and "jail support" to activists who've been confronting delegates at this week's convention.

"To say you don't want people protesting in the streets is the same as saying you didn't want the Boston Tea Party to happen," Tsolkas said. "People have every reason to be upset and to be standing their ground."

About a dozen people from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties have joined the protests at the convention, where more than 100 people have been arrested, he estimated. The county coalition has 200-300 people who participate "to some degree," and about 20-30 who regularly attend its monthly meetings, he said.

The South Florida participants in Minneapolis include environmental, social and anti-war activists, he said.

The Environmental Coalition, when it protested FPL's western Palm Beach County power plant construction in February, received support from groups around the country, Tsolkas said. In Minneapolis he hopes "to provide jail support and keep public awareness and public interest on the protest and the reason people are protesting," he said.

He supports those who have tried to block Republican Party delegates from attending the convention, he added. "It fits the course of history for people who are responding to urgent situations. ...I wish they could shut the whole convention down. The Republicans have turned this country into an empire."

Support the arrested RNC protest organizers!


Hello to all our friends and supporters,

In the last week, eight people affiliated with the RNC Welcoming Committee were arrested in their homes or picked up off the streets and charged with conspiracy to riot and furtherance of terrorism. The Welcoming Committee was a group that formed to facilitate logistics (food, housing, convergence center) around the 2008 Republican National Convention Protests in Saint Paul, Minnesota. You met at least one of these people who by their very action of coming to your town are charged with conspiracy. Most of them were arrested in the days leading up to the convention, and many had their homes raided by law enforcement. They were being held in the Ramsey County jail but as of Thursday [9/7/08] were all released on bail or bond. They are now facing serious criminal charges and the potential of a protracted and expensive legal battle.

This case is potentially dangerous not just for these individuals but for organizers and activists all over the country. It represents a seemingly coordinated effort between state and federal agencies to crack down on organizers as a way of intimidating and systematically repressing movement building in all its forms. It now falls to all of us to fight these charges not just for these eight people but to protect our friends, our movements and our communities.

Currently, our immediate need is for financial resources. We are asking for people to donate money or set up benefits in their own communities.
You can donate by going to and clicking on the "Donate to RNC Welcoming Committee Legal Support" button.

To check out ongoing updates on the case visit

Thank you so much for your support.

In solidarity,
The Friends of the Welcoming Committee

Sunshine Energy participant sues FPL

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 04, 2008

WEST PALM BEACH — A Broward County man has filed a lawsuit against Florida Power & Light on behalf of about 38,000 customers who gave FPL $9.75 every month to help develop green energy - only to learn most of the money was not used for that purpose.
Paul Zedeck, "an environmentally concerned citizen," is seeking class action status. He claims in his lawsuit that FPL "committed deceptive and unfair trade practices by misrepresenting the true nature, purpose and execution of the Sunshine Energy Program."

Zedeck could not be reached for comment Thursday. The five-page lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, does not say how long Zedeck participated in the program or how much FPL should refund him. No other Sunshine Energy program members are identified because they "are so numerous and geographically diverse," according to the lawsuit.
An FPL spokesman, Randy Clerihue, said company officials had not been served with the lawsuit but FPL "will vigorously defend any such lawsuit." The company fulfilled its commitment to develop green energy, Clerihue said.

For years FPL marketed the Sunshine Energy Program as a way for customers to help develop solar projects in Florida. However, an audit by Florida's Public Service Commission found that the bulk of the $11.4 million raised between 2004 and 2007 was spent on "highly excessive" administrative and marketing costs. The PSC shut down the program in July.

Last month FPL sent letters to nearly 40,000 customers. The program was "one of the best-performing renewable energy programs in the nation" and prevented the release of about 500,000 tons of greenhouse gases, according to the company's website. Refunds would not be made because the program met its objectives, the website says.
Zedeck is represented by Maya Saxena, a Boca Raton attorney who has filed numerous class-action lawsuits, including a lawsuit against Carnival Cruise lines and numerous shareholders. Saxena did not return a phone call Thursday.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Where the Post got it very wrong on FPL..

Where the Palm Beach Post got it right…

On Sunday, September, 14, the Post made some keen observations on nuclear power. Ok, so it's a no-brainer really, but they deserve some credit for speaking up. Nuclear power is a bad plan. Of course it is not renewable or 'green' or in any way a responsible choice. It poses huge risks to public health, safety and the environment throughout its lifecycle—from extraction to generation. It doesn't make economic sense. It usurps tens-of-billions of dollars in financial resources from ratepayers and utility companies that should go into conservation methods and truly renewable, clean, decentralized energy production. By the time any of these proposed reactors are up and ready to be permitted for power generation, the window for shifting towards sustainable alternatives will be shut in our faces. We may be well beyond the climate tipping point (and scientists keep telling us we are closer to it than they have thought before.)

…And where they have it way wrong

Gas-fired power generation is also far from a clean energy source; maybe as far as nukes (although one could say fossil fuels are slightly more renewable, I suppose). Contrary to the Post Editorial Board opinion, the West County Energy Center (WCEC) is a prime example of why. This plant at total capacity will emit over 12 Million tons of CO2 on its own. Add in the Riviera and Canaveral projects and make that around 20 million tons of CO2 that FPL is committing its ratepayers to. Now add to that the impacts of drilling, storing, transporting and fighting wars for the stuff. It is part and parcel of the same Energy Empire that is running this country, and this planet, into oblivion. Natural gas is a fossil fuel, no more natural than coal or oil. The fact that it burns less filthy than those fuels has been used as an excuse to depend on it to catastrophic excess. Today, the peak oil crisis is paralleled by an even steeper peak, what some have called the 'dash for gas', or what the analysts with the Colorado-based Community Office for Resource Efficiency have dubbed 'methane madness.' Check out their study at: (It is dated, but gives you a glimpse of the picture, which is only getting worse.) The addition of WCEC, Riviera and Canaveral to the grid will add 6200 megawatts of gas-fired electricity, bumping Florida up to more than 70% dependency on this fuel source. This is the polar opposite of what the praised Florida Senate Bill 888 intended to do back in 2005.

As for water, units 1 and 2 alone will suck near 7 billion gallons a year from aquifer and surficial sources, making them the largest single consumer of water in Palm Beach County. The only portion of the WCEC committed to re-use is unit 3. And that water is proposed to be piped 15 miles from our eastern corridor treatment facility, when it should be used right here along the urban core, where water demand is highest and salt water intrusion into our wells is the most severe. The Post also fails to mention FPL's plan to inject WCEC waste water into our aquifer? The WCEC will operate one of the largest deep well injection systems in Florida—the only industrial operation forcing its power plant waste underground—up to 21 millions gallons every day.

And shame on the Post for applauding the blackmail of Riviera residents and officials. FPL rakes in billions in annual profits—that is their primary motive. They let that old plant at the port belch out carcinogens onto surrounding communities for 62 years, over 20 of those disregarding federal Clean Air Act standards, because it made money to do so. To offer clean-up now is nothing more than a shallow public relations move to attempt building coerced support for the new WCEC plant in Loxahatchee (which will be the largest fossil fuel burner in the entire United States.) When several of us suggested two years ago in front of an Administrative Law Judge that cleaning up Riviera be made a priority before approval the first two units of the WCEC, they scoffed at us. Now that they are facing a mounting campaign of public pressure and litigation against the WCEC, and they pull it out of their back pocket. Marketing genius, if you own their stocks, but pretty damn disingenuous if you're the rest of us.

Speaking of litigation, it has been clear from the get-go that this plants approval is in violation of the NEPA, RICO and a couple dozen other state and federal laws. So, we feel pretty good about our lawsuits. And if we succeed in getting this goliath out of the Everglades, it will be with little credit to the Post Editorial Board, Randy Schultz in particular, who seems more concerned with holding a petty grudge against our Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition than with learning the true impacts of this monstrosity.

We have the tools and the urgency to make our breaks with the energy regime as sharp, clean and immediate as possible. But it means fighting all the bad proposals and policy in front of us, in order to make space for other options. Now is not the time to compromise for a greener apocalypse. The question: is there the will to do what needs to done? The Post indicates a 'no', and the Party Politics in this year's national elections seem to concur. But, from down here in the grassroots, where real change comes from, we beg to differ. We know were not alone... and we invite all of you out there to join us this Saturday, September 20, for a 10am rally and march, starting at the Everglades STA 1E site, ending at the WCEC construction site at the Palm Beach Aggregates rock mine and CERP project… From the swamps to the streets!

Also, if you haven't seen it yet, I suggest checking out the PBCEC, Green Party, et al, document on the potential future for energy options in Florida:

s/panagioti tsolkas, co-chair of PBCEC

Monday, September 15, 2008

Rally against FPL power plant at construction site in Everglades; Protesters demand full Environmental Impact Statement

For Immediate Release: September 15, 2008

Palm Beach County, FL – At 10am September 20, protesters from across South Florida will gather near the construction site of Florida Power & Light's West County Energy Center (WCEC), which is a 3800 megawatt fossil fuel power plant being constructed across the street from the functional headwaters of the northern Everglades ecosystem. The rally is to take place at STA-1E (past Lion Country Safari on Southern Blvd). This is the same location as the February action organized by Everglades Earth First!, which was received by a Sheriff road block of Southern Boulevard and the arrest of 26 peaceful protesters, many of whom still await court resolutions.

The newly-formed Everglades Environmental Coalition hopes to inform and involve the community in the ongoing permit process of FPL's West County Energy Center, including the plan's operating permit for injection their wastewater into the aquifer. The group claims that the entire process has been driven by corruption, profit and corporate interest at the expense of this unique ecosystem and all those who rely on it. The WCEC is under construction on a site which also houses a CERP project intended to improve the federally designated Wild and Scenic Loxahatchee River to the north and the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge to the south.

Organizers for the rally say that it will be a family-friendly event, intending to continue coalition building and outreach around what organizer Russell McSpadden has called "Everglades justice", which he says is "under threat due to the disregard that FPL has shown for Everglades Restoration by building what will be the largest fossil fuel power plant in the entire US, less than 1000 feet from a national wildlife refuge." He also argues that FPL has equally shown disrespect to the people of South Florida.

"South Floridians know the Everglades as a place of irreplaceable beauty, but also depend on it as our source of fresh drinking water. FPL will both pollute and overuse water from the Everglades watershed endangering humans as well as wildlife" says McSpadden.

According to another organizer, Ana Rodriguez, "we will rally and protest to demand a full environmental impact statement, which FPL has failed to provide, concerning the cumulative harm that the plant will cause to the Everglades and surrounding communities. It is as much a health hazard to residents of South Florida as it is an environmentally damaging project."

The WCEC site is awaiting an emergency hearing on a motion for injunction filed by the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition in Federal Court.

The rally is organized by activists from the Everglades Environmental Coalition, which is supported by various grassroots groups including:

Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition (,

Save It Now Glades! (,

Sierra Student Coalition, Boca FAU (,

Everglades Earth First! (,

Central Florida Earth First!;

and Lake Worth Bike Coop (

Organizers from the Lake Worth Bike Coop are hosting an 18 mile ride to the rally in support with the environmental organizations.

The coalition grassroots environmental activists are inviting the public and the media to help them record, monitor and prevent the police department's efforts to suppress their freedom of speech and their rights to peaceful assembly.

For technical details of WCEC or the Gulfstream Pipeline: