Audubon Florida News

Topic: Gulf Oil Spill,Oil Drilling,Renewables



Hands Across the Sands Events Draw Thousands

posted on June 26, 2010 in Gulf Oil Spill,Oil Drilling,Renewables

Thousands of people held hands across the sands on Florida’s beaches at noon on Saturday, June 26, 2010 to show their support for clean energy and opposition to new offshore oil drilling.

What began as a movement in Florida last February, spread throughout the country and the world today. On Florida beaches, organizers from around the state reported that hundreds to thousands of people gathered to draw a human line in the sand. Final tallies of the turnout are expected Sunday or Monday.

On Miami Beach, the human line stretched beyond what the eye could see, and Audubon of Florida was there. For more information, visit Hands Across the Sand.

Oil Spill Alert: Help Protect Florida’s Beaches and Fragile Shorebirds

NOAA Cumulative Oil Trajectory Map

Step Lightly on Florida Beaches

Well-motivated but not well informed volunteers sent out to clean debris from beaches may be disturbing nesting and other shorebirds.  Volunteers eager to move beach litter above the high water line to make it easier to clean up oil that may come ashore are putting beach and marsh nesting birds at risk.

Some people are moving beach debris such as driftwood from the beach onto high-water areas.  This is harmful as beach wildlife use naturally occurring beach debris near the water line and may be harmed when debris is piled in upland areas on or near their well camouflaged nests.  Traffic in dune areas can also harm vegetation.

Safe Tips for Cleaning Litter off Beaches:

For those who want to clean litter from the beaches in anticipation of oil coming ashore, Audubon recommends the following:

  • Use approved access points and avoid walking or hiking through marshes or seagrass beds.
  • Stay below the tidal line.
  • Leave natural debris in place because it provides nesting benefits to shorebirds and other wildlife.
  • Only remove man-made litter.
  • Do not place litter in the dunes or above the high water line.
  • Don’t use equipment such as rakes, shovels or tractors.
  • Do not bring ATVs or other motorized vehicles onto the beach.
  • Do not bring dogs onto the beach (dogs are a primary sources of beach bird disturbance and mortality.)
  • Respect posted areas and leave signs, posts and twine in place to protect beach nesting bird colonies.

You can take action in many ways:

1. Volunteer to rescue injured birds and to clean oil off Florida’s beaches and other coastal areas.
2. Sign the petition opposing state and federal plans to expand oil drilling in Florida’s water.
3. Contribute to our special fund to rescue birds injured by the oil spill and underwrite advocacy so this never happens again.
4. Recruit your friends and family to join Audubon’s response efforts.

Red Knot courtesy of Rod Wiley

Send us your photos and video of local habitats and wildlife

Audubon of Florida is urging everyone to step lightly on our beaches and follow safety tips if you are engaged in beach clean up activities.

You can also help by taking pictures and videos of the habitats and wildlife in your local communities. This local knowledge could become very useful as the oil spill evolves.
Follow these guidelines when documenting your coastal areas and wildlife and to send images to Audubon of Florida:

When photographing or filming

  • Follow all Audubon safe tips for beach cleaning.
  • Keep your distance from nesting grounds, marked areas, and resting birds. Do not flush birds.
  • Use long range zooms to capture close up images.

Send your images, video or a notification of their availability to flconservation@audubon.org.

  • Identify the time, day, date and location that the image was taken, and use GPS coordinates if possible.
  • Identify and clearly spell the name of the photographer/videographer and provide contact information, email, telephone and address.
  • Clearly state whether Audubon may have the rights to reprint, publish in print and electronic vehicles, and share your images, providing proper credit.
  • For large photo or video files, notify us at flconservation@audubon.org that images are available and we will contact you with instructions for uploading them.

Note that Florida Audubon does not have a budget to pay for images but provides photo credit to the photographer/videographer.

Additional Resources

Click Here for Florida updates from the Department of Environmental Protection.

Click Here for the most updated National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration maps on the oil spill’s trajectory.

Click Here to visit the Deepwater Horizon central command.

Blasting the Environment

From the Orlando Sentinel:

Legislators have two weeks left in their 2010 session to show Floridians they care about the environment. Or they can continue turning the session into an environmental turkey shoot.

That’s dangerous sport in an election year. Poll after poll suggests Floridians consider themselves environmentalists. They hate sprawl, and care about quality-of-life issues. Legislators nevertheless have both barrels trained on the agency that regulates growth. And they’ve already fired off rounds at clean-energy initiatives, the state’s premier land-preservation program and an effort to make water management districts more accountable.

In fact it’s turning out to be one of the worst sessions for the environment on record — and don’t be fooled into thinking otherwise just because a potentially disastrous plan to lift the state’s offshore-drilling ban ran into opposition.

Its chief supporters, Dean Cannon in the House and Mike Haridopolos in the Senate, plan to pass it next year, when they’re scheduled to take over their respective chambers.

Ugh. Here’s a guide to staving off disaster:

Keep DCA alive. DCA’s the state Department of Community Affairs. It’s one of the few meaningful obstacles left in Florida to block the kind of development that local governments can’t get enough of, but which growth-stressed residents don’t want. DCA stiff-armed a developer’s plan to build an oversized marina in an aquatic preserve frequented by manatees on the St. Johns River in Volusia County. It shaped rules preserving eagle habitat for large developments near Lake Tohopekaliga in Osceola County. And this year, it ripped apart blueprints for the unneeded, 23,000-home Farmton development in remote sections of Volusia and Brevard counties.

House Republicans, led by Mr. Cannon, want to scuttle DCA, however. They’ve tried dismantling it. This year, they’re refusing to reauthorize it. And next year, after the election, look for them to try killing or gutting it. If only they’d renew it: That would send a convincing message to voters that while legislators don’t always appreciate DCA’s reach, they get its purpose. And it would send a powerful message that Florida doesn’t need Hometown Democracy, the ill-advised citizen check on development.

Go green. With renewable energy legislation stalled in Congress, it’s up to the states to pick up the slack. To its credit the Florida Senate keeps trying, promoting a bill that requires utilities to generate 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020. But even though the requirement would help diversify the state’s economy — a goal of both legislative chambers — the House opposes mandating targets. Too costly, it contends.

So too, according to many in the Legislature, may be the state’s solar rebate program. Since June alone, almost 8,000 people have applied for rebates that pay up to $20,000 for home solar systems. The number of solar contractors in the state has increased almost five-fold since the program began in 2006. But the program — and those fledgling businesses — are on life support. The state’s gaping budget deficit may justify cutting the program’s $14.4 million budget. But don’t eliminate it.

Preserve Florida’s lands and protect its waters. Though some environmentally rich tracts threatened by development could be purchased at bargain basement prices this year , the House’s budget doesn’t fund Florida Forever. And it’s fighting efforts in the Senate to undo last year’s legislative outrage that let a few bureaucrats decide major water withdrawals from the aquifer — and away from public view.

Both are shortsighted views that ultimately will shortchange Florida.

For more information and to take action on behalf of reauthorizing the DCA, click here.

TAKE ACTION: Oppose Oil and Gas Drilling in Florida’s Waters; Renewables, Not Drilling, Should Be Florida’s Future

posted on April 15, 2010 in Oil Drilling,Online Advocacy,Renewables

texasoilblobsAs expected, House Speaker-elect Dean Cannon’s committee released its bill today to overturn Florida’s long-standing prohibition against nearshore oil and gas drilling. The House Select Policy Council on Strategic and Economic Planning will discuss and likely vote on the bill in its scheduled meeting TOMORROW.

Please take a moment to email or call the members of this Council, telling them to protect Florida’s beaches: renewable energy, not nearshore drilling, is the kind of leadership Florida needs!

Despite extensive discussion in the House, this proposal has failed to gain traction to-date in the Senate; a bill filed by incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R-Melbourne) was referred to several committees but has not been heard in any.

Cannon’s bill is modeled on last year’s HB 1219 which emerged late in session, passing the House but failing to be taken up by the Senate.

Some of the provisions in this year’s legislation include:

  • Requiring the Board of Trustees to open lease sales twice a year, with bid submission fees of $1M and fixed royalty amounts of at least 1/8, and a $500M surety bond for drilling.
  • Allowing directional drilling to occur just outside of aquatic preserves, wildlife refuges and sanctuaries to extract resources underneath preserves, refuges and other sensitive areas.
  • Requiring that all drilling infrastructure within three miles of the coast be subsurface; requiring that above surface exploration structures between 3 and 6 miles be temporary only (less than 6 months).
  • Preempting local governments from protecting their local beaches by restricting drilling within their waters.
  • Requiring the Secretary of Defense to object to each individual lease block sale in order to provide consideration for the military mission.

For more on the bill, read the staff summary and the bill text.

Please take a moment to share your concerns with this committee! Florida deserves clean energy and the jobs that come with it today.

Your Stories for Real Climate Solutions: John Ehrman to Sell Energy Back to the Grid

Welcome to a new initiative by Florida Audubon to feature stories of Floridians who are acting in their personal lives and businesses to solve climate change and lessen its impacts on birds, wildlife, our state’s special places, and our economy.

John Ehrman_w_Kemps Ridley turtle_sm
John holds an endangered Kemps Ridley turtle. During the cold snap last January, John and his neighbors helped rescue the stunned sea turtles. He said, “more than 1,700 turtles were rescued from St. Joseph Bay by ordinary people like me, along with folks from Gulf World and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. We loaded them in trucks to get them to Gulf World so they could revive in heated pools there.” More than 80 percent of the turtles survived and were returned to the wild. Photo by Penny Weining.

Your stories are a powerful means of inspiring positive change. We welcome you to contribute your observations of the impact of climate change on birds and their habitats, and on what you are doing to contribute solutions. Your experiences can be shared in words, pictures and video. By doing so, you will be helping to build a living record of what Floridians are doing to protect our environment and economy. To send your story or schedule an interview, please write today to Florida Audubon’s Climate and Communications Director Traci Romine at tromine@audubon.org.

Your Stories for Real Climate Solutions:
John Ehrman to Sell Energy Back to the Grid

John Ehrman, 58, is not a politician, lobbyist or lawyer. He has no hidden agendas or shadowy alliances with Texas oil men. John is a straightforward, retired civil engineer, who worked for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Last year, he retired and settled into the dream home he built in Cape San Blas, a beautiful, relatively undeveloped area in the northwest Florida Panhandle.

John is also a man who acts on his convictions. He assisted in design and installation of a photovoltaic rooftop solar system for his home, using state-of-the art solar technology. “I’ve always been an advocate of alternative energy sources and I wanted to have back up power in case of hurricanes,” he said. “But my main reason for doing this is climate change. In the whole scheme of things, we’re using this fossil fuel, which is really ancient technology and we don’t need it. We have other sources that are so much less polluting, and essentially free once you put in the hardware. Solar is a never-ending source of energy.”

View from the house_John Ehrman_sm
The view of the bay from St. Joseph Peninsula near John’s home. “I hate the thought of seeing oil rigs on the horizon as future generations watch the sun setting in the Gulf of Mexico, or tar balls on the sugar white sands,” he said.

Once the design for John’s panels was complete, installation of the system was relatively rapid, just a couple of weeks. And because environmental and energy advocates were successful in achieving net metering policies in state energy law, John will be able to start selling his surplus power back to the electrical grid. He expects to have his inverter and firmware installed, and the kinks worked out, in a couple of weeks.

“I use between 12 and 15 kWh a day and I’ll have a surplus of 5 kWh per day to sell back,” John said. “My house is very well insulated. The key is to build a home that is energy efficient, using energy saver appliances, a tankless water heater, and things like that to decrease your power need. Your solar system will fully power your house or a good percentage of it and send the surplus back to grid.”

Once the system is working optimally, John expects to cover his full home power usage. For now, his electrical bills are significantly lower than other friends who do not have solar systems. During the cold winter when folks in his area were paying close to $200 a month, John’s bill never topped $110.

The federal tax credit and state rebate were incentives for John to install the system. He’s received his federal credit, though the state rebate has been slower in coming. If he does receive the state rebate, the system will pay for itself in a couple of years. If not, due to state backlog in applications, it may take longer to realize a return on his investment.

Solar Panels from man lift 006 John_Ehrman_sm
John’s home in Cape San Blas. Photo by John Ehrman

Dispelling Myths

Some of the myths used to push back against passing strong state policy to build a robust renewable energy market, with strong targets to expand solar energy supply in Florida, are that the sunshine state is too cloudy and that hurricanes can blow panels off of rooftops.

“Hurricanes are not an issue,” John said. “My panels are tested for 150 mph winds, and they are clamped onto the ridges on the roof along the metal seam. The whole roof would have to blow off before those panels would come off.”

As for the claim that solar power is unreliable, John shared that solar powers his home on average between 4 and 5 hours per day, including cloudy and rainy days.

Renewable Jobs in Florida

John’s experience demonstrates how solar and renewable energy produce good, clean local jobs in Florida. “I had 5 electricians on the job for two weeks while they were installing the panels, and all the wiring,” he said. “They were local people from Port St. Joe and were very happy to get the job.”

Standard Renewable Energy, the company that provided the system, was recently acquired by GridPoint and is based in Destin.  “They were very pleased to come out here to do the installation.” One unfortunate aspect of his project was that the solar panels had to be shipped in from China.

“Florida is so far behind. If we had the right state policies, Florida could be manufacturing solar panels right here,” he said. “We need to step up to the bat, especially with our renewable resources here. We’re the sunshine state—let’s use it.”

Promote Strong Conservation and Renewable Energy Policy for Florida

posted on April 7, 2010 in Climate Change,Online Advocacy,Renewables

haze_and_clouds_obscure_the_setting_sun_-_noaa

Now is the time to press your legislators to push back attempts to weaken energy conservation laws and to set stronger renewable energy policy for Florida.

Some legislators seem intent on reversing state policy on energy conservation and weakening gains to achieve strong renewable energy policy that would create a market for solar and other renewable energy.

Promote Energy Conservation

Audubon made energy conservation a top priority in 2008 and helped secure language that required the Public Service Commission to consider all costs of producing electricity, including costs related to climate change, when considering how much money utilities have to spend on conservation measures.

However, some utilities are complaining that the new conservation goals are too expensive and could increase rates – even though average bills will go down. Strong energy conservation policy promises to save eight million megawatt-hours of energy annually and in doing so allow utilities to avoid building dozens of expensive new power plants certain to raise people’s rates. Energy conservation is also one of the best avenues to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect Florida’s birds, wildlife and natural habitats from the effects of climate change.

solar pane2lFlorida Needs Strong Renewable Energy Policy

Strong renewable energy policy will also protect the environment, and as importantly, drive new job creation and attract clean, high technology industries—for solar and other renewable energy—to Florida.

With the right policies, Florida can become a leader in providing an ideal business environment for solar and biomass energy providers, for manufacturers of clean energy parts and systems, for electricians and installers, and for innovative energy research. The Blue Green Alliance studied the benefits a renewable electricity standard would have for Florida and found that this policy would generate business for 1,617 firms and create as many as 18,704 green jobs. Florida must act to put in place a state renewable energy policy that will create new jobs right here in Florida where they are most needed.

Stay tuned for updates on legislative proposals and help Audubon push back attempts to roll back the 2008 conservation language and promote strong renewable energy policy.

Renewable Energy Policy Still Alive, Energy Conservation at Risk: Take a Stand for Conservation and Renewable Energy

posted on April 2, 2010 in Online Advocacy,Renewables

take action

Take a Stand for Conservation and Renewable Energy

The House Energy & Utilities Committee is planning to take up renewable energy policy next Friday.  However one member of the committee appears to be intent on reversing state policy on energy conservation and has said he will try to amend the House energy bill to eliminate recent conservation gains.

energy_sunAudubon made energy conservation a top priority in 2008 and helped secure language that required the Public Service Commission to consider all costs of producing electricity, including costs related to climate change, when considering how much money utilities have to spend on conservation measures.

However, some utilities are complaining that the new conservation goals are too expensive and could increase rates – even though average bills will go down.  Representative Mike Horner (R-Kissimmee) actually mislabeled the practice of utilities paying for customer conservation efforts a “tax.”  He also claimed that rate payers were being charged for societal benefits.

Of course this is not true.  It is not clear why Rep. Horner would mischaracterize a program that helps create jobs, save consumers money and saves energy and water.

Based on his public statements we expect that Horner will try to roll back the 2008 conservation language, which promises to save eight million megawatt-hours of energy annually and in doing so allow utilities to avoid building dozens of expensive new power plants certain to raise people’s rates.

Please help save energy by saving state energy conservation policy.  Write the Members of the House Energy & Utilities Policy Committee.  Ask them to vote for renewable energy and against amendments to weaken state energy conservation goals.

Awards Reception: ‘Honoring Our Pioneers, Heroes and Champions’

posted on March 18, 2010 in Calendar,Climate Change,Renewables

event invite

Renewable Energy is Florida’s Best Bet for Economic and Environmental Security, Not Offshore Drilling

tall capitol

Be in Tallahassee March 22nd and 23rd to voice your concerns about this urgent issue. See the invitation for all of the details.

Audubon of Florida is part of the Renewable Energy Alliance, REAL, that brings together environmental and clean business partners to achieve robust renewable energy policy for our state.

Together with our partners, we just launched a new fact sheet that outlines why we need robust renewable energy policy. Solar power, biomass and other renewable sources of energy are affordable, protect Floridians from price shocks, provide reliability to the transmission grid, and create jobs right here in Florida. Read the REAL fact sheet and share it to urge others to add their voices to the chorus of Floridians dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas pollution to protect the environment and ramping up new, sustainable job growth through the development of a renewable energy market.

To take your commitment a step further, join Audubon and its partners in Tallahassee for a lobby day on March 22nd and 23rd.

Clean Energy Advocates & Oil Drilling Opponents,
We Need You March 22 at the Capitol! Register Now

Help Pass Clean Energy Jobs Legislation This Session;
Jump-Start Florida’s Economy and Stop the Threat of Risky Offshore Drilling

Be in Tallahassee March 22nd and 23rd to voice your concerns about this urgent issue. See the invitation for all of the details.

Clean Energy Advocates & Offshore Drilling Opponents Needed!

tall capitol

Clean Energy Advocates & Offshore Drilling Opponents
We Need You on March 22nd and 23rd 2010!
 
Florida State Capitol, Tallahassee
Register Now
 
Help Pass Clean Energy Jobs Legislation This Session
Jump-Start Florida’s Economy and Stop the Threat of Risky Offshore Drilling

Did you know that Florida could generate nearly 20 percent of current electricity sales from already available renewable energy technology?  This session, the Florida State Legislature will decide Florida’s energy future.  Will our elected officials choose to unleash a clean energy economy in our state that will bring much needed jobs and opportunity or will they decide to sell off our coasts to the oil industry?

Renewable energy in Florida is poised to expand the state’s economic base and create good jobs while reducing global warming pollution.  Last year, the Florida Public Service Commission delivered a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) rule to the Legislature for ratification that adopted Governor Crist’s goal of 20% renewable energy by 2020.  It’s an exciting time for those who value environmental and consumer protection as well as economic growth.

The good news is that Florida has immense renewable energy resources that can exceed Governor Crist’s goal of 20% renewable energy by 2020.  The bad news is that the opportunity for renewable energy stands to be undermined by oil industry lobbyists and that want to open up Florida’s shores – 10 miles to the shore – to drilling.

Be in Tallahassee March 22nd and 23rd to voice your concerns about this urgent issue. See the invitation for all of the details.

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