Thursday, February 19, 2009

Open letter to people of the Everglades (and those who care about it)

from the Palm Beach County Stockade, February, 8, 2009, 5:30am

To have a home is to know your surroundings--where the water comes, where it goes, what the earth is like, what it can grow, who else lives around you... Most importantly, how you can defend it. To not know these things is to have been displaced from our home and in a foreign place. Many of us here in south Florida today fall into that category. Some of us try to find a way home by escaping; others find home by re-rooting themselves where they are.

I chose to be rooted, and for that i have found my current home to be a detention center on Southern Boulevard, Palm Beach County. Incarcerated. Sentenced to 60 days for defending my home from Florida Power and Light. The details are available elsewhere; this letter is to people who know enough--who are ready to fight, or are fighting already.

In 1963, Dr. M.L. King Jr. wrote a letter from Birmingham jail explaining his arrest: "the purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation." This is a crucial component of our movement also. We need space to have our positions presented. But more importantly, we need physical space protected; we need immediate destruction stopped, and we need true, uncompromising ecological restoration now.

Our life-support system is being stripped before our eyes and our failure to act effectively makes us culprits. In legal terms, we either plead guilty to criminal negligence or prepare to use the necessity defense. In our case, neither judge nor jury seemed honest or courageous enough to accept that defense. But that doesn't change the reality that it was the most responsible option available through the system of corporate rule that we live under. History has proven numerous times that the rule of law is trumped by the demands of justice, and in the current environmental context it rings truer than ever.

Our mandate doesn't come to us from law books, but from the combined voices of our future generations and our ancestors--those who know what has been lost, and those who would have to live with that loss. The Earth is in unprecedented urgency of which the ever popular climate change issue is only a factor. Despite Florida's vast coastline, inland hydrology changes pose an even more pressing threat to our peninsula. The circumstances are dire, but the visible response is nothing short of pathetic, in relation to the danger we face. If you think the declining economy is a problem, you are skimming the surface of the metaphoric iceberg below our sub-tropical titanic... "No, Governor Charlie, re-arranging the chairs on deck won't help this off-course cruise liner."

So what are available options before us? How do we become an unstoppable force that can change the course we are on? Over the last year it seemed we had a formula: one small group blockades a power plant, goes to trial, shows the legal necessity to defend our home and then invite people to flood the streets and take similar actions until we win our planet out from the hands of greed and corruption. Today, from this cold steel bench in the county jail, it seems that the strategy may take a bit longer than hoped for. We now find ourselves in the process of learning to turn short term losses into long term victories.

While it is a disappointment that our case did not succeed in court, it is no surprise (it, of course, succeeded immeasurably in gathering public support and awareness.) This system we live in thrives on two primary factors: high-level corruption and ground-level complicity. We have a very limited ability to expose the high level corruption, and while the current trend of incarcerated County Commissioners may be encouraging, it is a mere scratch at the surface of the problem. But our collective complicity, on the other hand, is within our realm of control. Our disobedience--or refusal to cooperate--can, and has, defended land and liberty (or whats left of it) throughout history.

There is little doubt in my mind that corporate interests like FPL can create immense pressure in courtrooms, just as they do in the legislature, commission chambers and halls of congress. They are the second largest power company in the U.S. They pay the firms who write the laws for power plant siting, the same firms who train the judges that screw environmental and community health interests regularly at the administrative level (Hopping Green and Sam and the Wetherell family in Tallahassee come to mind.)

I saw the same shiftiness and twitch of discomfort in Judge Laura Johnson (who sentenced me to twice the days suggested by State Attorney Danielle Croke) as i have seen in DEP employees testifying in administrative hearings in favor of FPL. Whether it reflects an intentional deviousness or a subconscious discomfort, i can't say. I only know the impression that was left on me and hope that someday the truth with surface.

In the meantime, i consider it a responsibility to take this case through appeals and to take similar actions until an honest judge and/or a courageous jury recognize the urgency we are facing [keep an eye on the Battle for Barley Barber brewing at the Martin County FPL plant] . Our adversaries thought this sentence would silence us--instead it will be a call to action. They are forcing us into an escalation of our resistance. And they know this too.

It is not a time for reckless bravery, but a time to let the green-fire in our hearts burn deeply and nurture a subtle, fierce courage that will glow, contagious to all those around us--all who have been longing, some for generations, to find their way home. And to defend it. It's time to move from abstract rhetoric to on-the-ground plans. Now is the time to keep pressure on our local battles, as our local victories (especially here in the belly of the beast) can stoke the flames around the world.

People following the WCEC fight should remember that it's far from over. The PBC Environmental Coalition is still awaiting federal trial for faulted permitting under NEPA (Natural Environment Protection Act) and Everglades Earth First! is just now beginning to look at the 500+ miles of new FGT gas pipeline across Florida and multiple LNG facilities needed to support the giant plant, which were not taken into consideration by permitting process that is supposed to review secondary and cumulative impacts.

So let's keep it up on all fronts--on the streets, through the courts and even in the jails. When i came to this facility i found that most everyone i met, convicts and deputies, had heard of the WCEC through our fight with FPL (some who had been following the story since last year) and so many have openly expressed support and sympathy for our efforts. And outrage over the sentence.. even those serving a much longer time incarcerated.

If i may tangent briefly, i want to also express that the captivity, rage and displacement i've witnessed behind these walls is terrifyingly reflective of the world outside it--a microcosm of what is happening to the planet and the people who live with it. But don't take my word for it; write a letter to any prisoner and ask what its like. I suggest starting with one of the political eco-prisoners listed in the back of the Earth First! Journal. I've only been down a week, and i am hoping to get out on an appellate bond for now. But we have people around the world doing hard time for defending their home. Just this Thursday, activist Marie Mason was sentenced to near 22 years for following her heart. She deserves all the love and support we can send her way... [see details below]

...For a brief moment, i can look out at the sun rising over the few Palm Trees i can see from this window, and i imagine the snores of fellow inmates are distant pig frogs and 'gators snorts and i envision a day when cypress domes and pine flatwoods and prairie marshes cover this concrete and over grow the razor wire fences... Gopher tortoises, eagles, indigo snakes, otters.. returning to their home. And i sit in a shady oak hammock, here in the Loxahatchee slough, around a campfire listening to Marie's sweet voice in song, laughing with friends from across these islands that span the hemisphere.. feeling in-place, connected, home.

Then i hear keys jingle. Door opens, pig frogs go silent: "You guys got rec in 15 minutes." I see the sun shining out there. Soon i'll get to feel it on my skin, for about an hour, if the clouds clear.

panagioti tsolkas, #0273636


[author's notes and updates: Since writing this letter, above, i have been released on an $5000 appellate bond (thanks to my mother, Lynne's mother and a friend Sister Rachel, who testified to my reliability and commitment to the community i live in; also thanks to my partner Cara Jennings and Public Defender Erich Taylor who worked their asses off to pull it off). This means i was able to get out of jail until our case for an appeal of the circuit court verdict and sentence is heard by a higher court, which could take up to another year to be completed. My co-defendant, Lynne Purvis, made a tough decision to stay and get her 30 day sentence out of the way. I served 13 days of my 60 day sentence awaiting the bond hearing and processing, and received an incredible amount of support and solidarity, in the form of: dozens of letters, money in my commissary, covering my home responsibilities and most importantly, people picking up my slack in continuing the fight against FPL. I may still have to serve another 30-35 days if the appeal is unsuccessful, or i may serve out that time earlier if my bond becomes a financial burden.

In the meantime, Everglades Earth First! has called for a Week of Action in Solidarity with jailed activists, see details at:

For those of you who were inspired to write a letter through the bars, but didn't get to me in time.. Lynne will be in until Feb 24, and would love your letters:

Lynne Purvis, #0353397
L Dorm, Stockade
PO Box 24716
West Palm Beach, FL 33416

Also, please consider corresponding with a friend and comrade, Marie Mason, who was just sentenced this week to 22 years in prison for ecological direct actions; despite the fact that no one was injured by her actions. The news is tragic and has filled me with anger, sadness and humility. For updates, or to read her sentencing statement:
The below address may only be good until the end of February; please check the website, as she is awaiting relocation:
Marie Jeanette Mason
Clinton County Jail
1347 E Townsend Rd.
Saint Johns, MI 48879

If you wrote me a letter and/or donated to EEF! on my behalf and i haven't thanked you personally, please allow me to express my total appreciation. Direct action is a community effort that goes far beyond the moment of confrontation. Those who offer continual, reliable solidarity are the roots of stability in our movement. Keep fighting, keep loving.. -panagioti tsolkas


Looking for some background info about the ongoing fight against FPL and the Energy Empire in south Florida?

Some articles, videos and photos:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

National Civil Disobedience Inspires Local Education on Energy Issues

Media Release

WHO: Everglades Earth First! and the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition
WHAT: Educational event on grassroots renewable energy options
WHERE: At the Friends Quaker Meeting, 823 North A Street, Lake Worth
WHEN: March 2, 2009 from 5:00 P.M to 7:00 P.M.
WHY: In solidarity with the growing grassroots movement around climate change solutions

On March 2, 2009 thousands of activists will gather in Washington, D.C. to demand comprehensive and serious action on climate change by this administration.They will hold our elected officials accountable for reclaiming and safeguarding our future by taking significant initiatives toward tackling the climate crisis and providing an opportunity for a shift to truly clean energy and new clean, green employment. Thousands will engage in civil disobedience actions at the coal-fired capitol power plant which powers Congress with dirty energy. Activists have organized, lobbied, taken actions to pass policies, have educated and agitated and yet our government has failed to recognize the reality, scope and urgency of global warming and climate change. Capitol Climate Action activists will send a powerful message of the urgency through mass peaceful civil disobedience and other peaceful actions. Local representatives from Palm Beach County will be attending in D.C.

In support of and in solidarity with these actions in Washington, D.C., Everglades Earth First! will be promoting and providing a local action in which people can participate to show their support. A training workshop on clean, green energy initiatives and solar power education will be offered which will show ways that we can make the transformation to a clean, green lifestyle economically feasible for everyone. The training workshop is "A Handy-Person's Guide to Setting up and Equipping your Home for Solar Power and how to Save Money Doing It". The workshop will provide an overview of principles of electrical energy and solar power, and serve as an introduction to a follow-up, hands-on workshop on building solar panels and solar water heaters. The workshop will take place on March 2, 2009 from 5:00 P.M to 7:00 P.M. at the Friends Quaker Meeting House at 823 North "A" Street in Lake Worth and is free and open to the general public.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Solidarity actions with Everglades Earth First! Political Prisoners, Feb 18-24

February 18 – 24 Call in week to FPL and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in opposition to continued permitting of the West County Energy Center

February 24 Demonstration at DEP Southeast Regional Office 3-5pm at 400 N. Congress, West Palm Beach

On February 18, 2008, over a hundred Earth First! activists gathered at the entrance to the construction site of the largest new fossil fuel power plant in the county, Florida Power & Light’s West County Energy Center (WCEC). Twenty-six activists were arrested for blockading the construction entrance to the 3800 megawatt power plant adjacent to headwaters of both the Everglades and Loxahatchee River. The WCEC is permitted by the DEP to use over 7 billion gallons of water a year, drawn from surface, aquifer and re-use sources in and near the Everglades. It has also been permitted to emit over 12 million tons of C02 annually—an amount greater than the thirty least polluting nations on Earth.

On February 2, 2009, two of the activists, Lynne Purvis and Panagioti Tsolkas, were sentenced to 30 days and 60 days, respectively, for their participation in the blockade. Judge Laura Johnson’s punitive sentencing for civil disobedience is seen as an attempt to silence and chill dissent. As environmental activists are sentenced to jail, the criminal activity of FPL and the DEP continues in the continued permitting for the West County Energy Center.

Local residents filed an administrative petition to challenge the DEP permit which would allow an increased amount of contaminated power plant water to be injected into our aquifer. Their hearing scheduled to begin February 24 was denied. DEP has given FPL a green light permit to inject up to 21 million gallons of contaminated wastewater underground every day. The water would cycle through the plant and be re-injected into our aquifer, containing poisonous elements such as Chromium. These systems have a documented history of failure.

For technical and legal background documents on the case, see Division of Administrative Hearings, docket #08-6427:

Call FPL and the DEP, tell them that we will continue to fight against their expansion of fossil fuel power plants and destruction of the Everglades:

FPL’s environmental licensing specialist:
Barbara Linkiewicz, office (561) 691-7005, cell (561) 371-5351

Call DEP representatives:
Jack Long, southeast office (561) 681-6661, Mike Sole, DEP secretary, (850) 245-2011


Sunday, February 1, 2009

PBC Environmental Coalition Monday Meeting Reminder and Feb Announcements

Tomorrow, 7pm at the Quaker Meeting House, 823 North A Street, Lake Worth, will be the monthly PBCEC meeting.

This will be my last meeting for a few months. as i will be joining the cross-country Earth First! Spring Roadshow to spread the word far and wide about our grassroots movement down here in the swamps and on the coasts of South Florida

So, it would be great to see you all there, and of course, there is plenty to talk about..

panagioti tsolkas
co-chair, PBCEC

(for those who didn't know, i just back back from Maine, where i was able to help the local grassroots activists with Native Forest Network expose Plum Creek's destruction of the North Woods. Check the call to action, press releaseand some photos here:


*FPL Protest Sentancing Hearing, 2/2 (Monday), 1:30pm at WPB Courthouse, 9th floor, courtroom 9E
for background on this:

*Our Federal lawsuit against FPL's West County Energy Center has been postponed. There is not a trial date of Feb 18, as we are awaiting Judge Middlebrook's ruling on the Motions to Dismiss filed against us. Please stay tuned.

*'Respect Yer Mama' activist-folk music tour will be here on February 16th at 609 Lake Ave. 6pm - workshop on building music collectives. 7pm show! Contact: to connect with us while we're in town! To see other FL tour dates check:

*Capitol City Coal Action in D.C. March 2 DO folks from PBC want to carpool up for this action?
"There are moments in a nation’s — and a planet’s — history when it may be necessary for some to break the law in order to bear witness to an evil, bring it to wider attention, and push for its correction. We think such a time has arrived, and we are writing to say that we hope some of you will join us in Washington, D.C. on Monday, March 2, in order to take part in a civil act of civil disobedience outside a coal-fired power plant near Capitol Hill."
-Bill McKibben and Wendell Berry
For more info:

*There is another fight brewing off our coasts.. Help us generate comments tothe DEP in opposition to the Breakers proposed dredge & fill project. Here is a link to a suggested letter:

Breaker's Beach Project in Palm Beach Unacceptable!!!


To all those interested in preserving and protecting our fragile coastal ecosystem from ridiculous dredge and fill projects (allegedly beach restoration), we need your help.

The Breaker's Hotel in Palm Beach has received a permit to "rehabilitate" and add additional T-groins in the ocean seaward of their property. In order to receive a notice to proceed, they must get a sovereign submerged land easement from DEP.

We believe the project is outrageous and poses substantial, irretrievable and irreparable harm to our fragile ocean ecosystem including endangered and threatened species. There is absolutely no doubt that this project will seriously jeopardize the resources observed on the infamous Breaker's Pier/Rock Pile including corals, turtles, fish and wildlife and their habitats.

We consider this project nothing more than a land grab (of public land) by the upland private property owners at the expense of the resources.

In an attempt to ensure that this project does not receive a notice to proceed, we are asking the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection to elevate this issue to the Governor and the Cabinet so that we may receive due process (notice and opportunity to be heard). We simply wish to share our concerns with the decisionmakers.


Below is a letter that I have sent off to Michael Sole. We are hoping that you can help us by sending a letter as well. Every echo of our request will help. So, please take a few moments to send a note off to the Secretary. We'd appreciate if you would send us a copy as well.


Sent via email to

January 28, 2009

The Honorable Michael W. Sole
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Marjory Stoneman Douglas Building
3900 Commonwealth Boulevard, MS #35
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3000

RE: Breaker's Application for Sovereign Submerged Lands Easement BOT 500222499, Easement #30606A, DEP File No. 0173170-003-JC, Breakers T-Groin Reconditioning, Palm Beach County

Dear Mr. Secretary:

In a nutshell, we are writing to you today to respectfully request that you elevate this matter to the Governor and Cabinet acting as the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund of the State of Florida given the heightened public concern about the irreplaceable and irreparable harm that will ensue to our precious natural ocean resources and water quality at the project site and inherent negative impacts to both the public and private portions of the coastal
ecosystem as they will be denied necessary natural drifts of sand and therefore suffer increased erosion thereby diminishing the use and enjoyment of these public waters and public land.

As you may know, your Department, in your notice of intent, determined that the proposed activity (because of its size, potential effect on the environment or the public, controversial nature or
location) is likely to have a heightened public concern. As people become aware of this project and the application for Sovereign Submerged Lands Easement, there is indeed this heightened public

As you may also know, the permit and sovereign submerged lands easement applications have gone through many iterations since it was originally filed back in 2001 (or before). The modifications to thisproject over the years to its current proposed activity has changed dramatically. However, since the changes were dealt with as modifications (not a new application), due process (notice and opportunity to be heard) was unfortunately not provided.

Additionally, since the original application was filed so long ago, much of the information provided to you has changed and is now outdated and stale. For example, consultants for the Breakers stated that the Breakers Rock Pile/Pier was exposed starting at approximately 350 feet from shore when in fact surveys of the area conducted November 28, 2008 show the Breakers Rock Pile/Pier exposed starting at 35 feet from shore. It is essential that the information provided to you be updated accordingly to avert burial and/or damage of the resources.

For the following "top ten" reasons we respectfully request an opportunity to be heard by the Board of Trustees.

We believe this project, among other things:

1. is contrary to the public interest as it will interfere with public access and the public use, enjoyment, recreation and navigation of this public land

2. will cause significant irreplaceable and irreparable harm to marine turtles and/or their nests and/or nesting habitat as well as the coastal ecosystem

3. will adversely affect the conservation of fish and wildlife resources, including endangered and threatened species and/or their habitats

4. will adversely affect fishing and/or fishing or recreational values or marine productivity

5. will cause significant irreplaceable and irreparable harm to the coral reef ecosystem

6. is not consistent with the goals and objectives of the "Conceptual State Lands Management Plan" adopted by the Board of Trustees on March 17, 1981 as modified on March 15, 1983

7. will adversely affect the public health, safety and/or welfare on both public and private property

8. will dramatically increase turbidity in the area substantially reducing water quality and thereby adversely affecting the coastal ecosystem

9. will adversely affect navigation and/or the flow of water and/or cause harmful erosion or shoaling

10. will disturb and/or destroy existing beach topography thereby not maintaining essentially natural conditions, and interfering with littoral rights of adjacent and downdrift property owners

Mr. Secretary, while we appreciate the work your Department has done on this project, we fear that the modifications made along the way do not provide the best protection for our public land and our coastal ecosystem. We simply request a public vetting of the issues so that those of us who have grave concerns about the project can share them with you and the Board of Trustees.

Thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to a favorable reply to our request.

On behalf of the environment that we strive to preserve and protect every day,


Brenda Lee Chalifour, Esq.
2001 S. Surf Road, Suite 4B
Hollywood, FL 33019

Support Earth First! Activists at Sentencing This Monday Afternoon for FPL Blockade

Friends and Fellow Activists,

We are asking for support for the seven activists who put their bodies the line to stand up to corporate power and protect our fragile Everglades. They are scheduled for sentencing on Monday afternoon, February 2, 2009 at 1:30pm. at the courthouse in West Palm Beach on the 9th Floor, room 9E. We are asking as many as possible to attend the sentencing to show their support for the activists.

On February 18, 2008, while attempting to peacefully halt construction of the monstrous West County Energy Center being built by FPL, 25 environmental activists were arrested. This came after years of civil protest, lawsuits, and public involvement in permitting processes that had little effect in stopping the power plant. They had exhausted every legal means to protest the building of the plant, and to no avail. Their pleas and the pleas of many others in the community appeared to fall on deaf ears.

This past December, this last group of seven activists went to trial using the defense of necessity. Necessity, as you well know, is a legal defense akin to self defense, differing in that it states that the defendants committed the alleged crime out of necessity to prevent harm to another person, or, in this case, a whole community. They stood up for their actions and brought in scientific experts to attest to the harm the power plant was, and would be, bringing to our community and planet, via emissions, enormous water usage, and wastewater injection into our aquifer. They had the help of very impassioned public defenders, as well as testimony from several committed activist-defendants. In the end, they were all found guilty of the counts of trespassing, resisting an officer without violence, and unlawful public assembly.

This February 2nd they face sentencing, and the state prosecutor is seeking jail time for two of the defendants, in addition to harsh fines and probation for all of the defendants. The prosecutor also is trying to seek $21,000 in costs from them for the amount of money the police misspent in arresting them. This additional cost in itself is ridiculous, as it is now well known by most people that the Sheriff's Department arbitrarily shut down S.R. 80 and the shutdown was not in any way related to, caused by or planned by the activists. It was executed by the Sheriff's Department alone and they are the ones who should stand up and take responsibility for that misadventure. But all of the charges and proceedings are ridiculous for such petty charges against activists who were following a well worn path of standing up against injustice at great risk to their own safety , freedom and to their very lives. Many, including myself, believe they are being
persecuted for challenging the status quo of environmental pillage and for defending the environmental health of their community.


Thank you,
Marie Zwicker