Special hearing for proposed oil drilling begins


As Reported by WBBH-TV – updated 2/25/2014 4:21:13 PM ET 2014-02-25T21:21:13

It’s only the first day of a legal fight over oil drilling in Collier County and conversations are already heated.

Protestors from two groups are trying to convince a judge to block the Dan A. Hughes Company from drilling near houses in Golden Gate Estates.

This is the biggest hurdle they’ve faced so far in this battle. There is no jury — just a state judge who will rule on whether to allow the drilling.

“My reaction is I’m worried. I’m worried that the information that should be there is not there,” said Matt Schwartz, South Florida Wildlands Association.

Oil can mean big profit, but some claim searching for it comes with dangers like hydrogen sulfide gas leaks.

“Accidents will happen. We are not prepared. We meaning the people who live in the area and the responders are not prepared,” said Joe Mule, President of Preserve Our Paradise.

Today an administrative judge listened to eight hours of tedious testimony.

“The experts that Dan A. Hughes will provide will be the only experts with mud on their hands, on the ground, oil and gas industry experience,” said a representative for Dan A. Hughes Company.

First up, the oil company focused on its research, planning and proven track record. Read more click here: Special hearing for proposed oil drilling begins.

Brain-eating amoeba found in Glades County

Glades County—A confirmed case of Naegleria fowleri has been reported in Glades County. Naegleria fowleri (commonly referred to as the “brain-eating amoeba”), is a microscopic amoeba which is a single-celled living organism.

It can cause a rare and devastating infection of the brain called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).

The amoeba is commonly found in warm freshwater such as lakes, rivers, ponds and canals.

Infections can happen when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. Once the amoeba enters the nose, it travels to the brain where it causes PAM (which destroys brain tissue) and is usually fatal.

Read more at:Brain-eating amoeba found in Glades County.

EPA Opens Public Comment until April 30, 2013

In response to public concern, the U.S. Congress urged EPA to conduct scientific research to examine the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources. EPA is undertaking a study to understand the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, if any, and to identify the driving factors that may affect the severity and frequency of such impacts.

The scope of the study includes the full hydraulic fracturing water lifecycle—from water acquisition, through the mixing of chemicals and injection of fracturing fluids, to the post-fracturing stage, including the management of flowback and produced water and its ultimate treatment and disposal. The study will include a review of the published literature, analysis of existing data, scenario evaluation and modeling, laboratory studies and case studies.

To ensure that EPA is up-to-date on evolving hydraulic fracturing practices and technologies, EPA is soliciting public involvement in identifying relevant data and scientific literature specific to inform EPA’s research study on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. While EPA conducts a thorough literature search, there may be studies or other primary technical sources that are not available through the open literature. EPA would appreciate receiving information from the public to help inform current and future research and ensure a robust record of scientific information. Consistent with our commitment to using the highest quality information, EPA prefers information which has been peer reviewed. Interested persons may provide scientific analyses, studies and other pertinent scientific information. EPA will consider all submissions but will give preference to peer reviewed data and literature sources.[1]

Using the online method is preferred for submitting information.  Follow the online instructions at http://www.regulations.gov, and identify your submission with Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-ORD-2010-0674.

Additional methods for submission are:

  • Email:      Send information by electronic mail (email) to: ord.docket@epa.gov, Attention      Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-ORD-2010-0674.
  • Fax:      Fax information to: (202) 566-9744, Attention Docket ID No.      EPA-HQ-ORD-2010-0674.
  • Mail:      Send information by mail to: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA      Docket Center, Mail Code: 28221T, 1200 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington,      DC 20460, Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-ORD-2010-0674.
  • Hand Delivery or Courier: Deliver information to: EPA Docket Center, EPA West      Building, Room 3334, 1301 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington, DC, Attention      Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-ORD-2010-0674. Deliveries are only accepted during      the docket’s normal hours of operation, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.      (Eastern), Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays. Special      arrangements should be made for deliveries of boxed information.

For further information contact Lisa Matthews, Mail Code 8101R, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460; via phone/voice mail at: (202) 564-6669; via fax at: (202) 565-2430; or via email at: matthews.lisa@epa.gov

[1] Dated: November 5, 2012. E. Ramona Trovato, Associate Assistant Administrator, Office of Research and Development.  https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2012/11/09/2012-27452/request-for-information-to-inform-hydraulic-fracturing-research-related-to-drinking-water-resources#h-4


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Another City Bans Fracking


Almost exactly nine months ago on May 22, 2012, I wrote an editorial in the Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper, Fort Colllins Should Ban Fracking. And yesterday, on Feb. 19, a sharply divided Fort Collins City Council voted 5-2 to ban fracking in the City of Fort Collins.

Nine months ago the conversation around fracking was relatively new in Colorado and few people and environmental groups were directly addressing it. Now, nine months later, very much has changed-fracking is in the news constantly, many environmental groups are engaged in the fight to stop fracking and the issue is escalating wildly throughout the public across the state.

What has changed in a mere nine months?

First, the threat of fracking has increased dramatically across the residential areas of the Front Range of Colorado. The Niobrara Shale geological formation underlies much of the landscape from Fort Collins all the way around suburban Denver and 150 miles south to Colorado Springs. The advent of horizontal drilling and horizontal hydraulic fracturing technology has allowed hundreds of thousands of acres of land to be leased and eventually fracked. Much of this land is squeezing up against suburban homes, neighborhoods and even schools, and those residents are speaking out in an increasingly feverish pitch. In fact, one of the biggest segments of the population speaking out as “fracktivists” is suburban mothers. And as we see in many types of politics in a purple state like Colorado, when suburban moms take up an issue, elected officials really start to pay attention.

Second, a few activists-in part let by retired U.S. Environment Protection Agency “whistleblower” and Gasland movie star Wes Wilson-started touring the state giving dozens and dozens of presentations to local government officials, local homeowners groups and local activists about the threat of fracking. These activists spent hundreds of hours (and miles) pressing the case that fracking is a serious concern, and left unregulated, fracking could turn many suburban communities into mirrors of Weld County, Colorado (in the northern part of the state) which has more active oil and gas wells (more than 18,000) than any county in the U.S. With those wells has come health problems, air quality problems, water pollution problems, water supply problems, social problems, real estate problems and financial problems. No surprise, but this exploitative extractive industry tends to take the oil and gas-as well as all of the money-and leaves local governments and people with pollution and financial trouble in its wake.   Read the full article here.

via Fort Collins Bans Fracking as Democracy Comes Alive in Colorado.
“If you don’t fight for what you want, you deserve what you get.” -Van Jones

Environmental groups welcome Susan Grandin as DEP’s new state lands director

Photo by Mark Grandin. Reported by Bruce Ritchie, the Florida Current, Environmental groups welcome Susan Grandin as DEP’s new state lands director, 11/12/2012.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection on Friday named lawyer Susan Grandin of Jacksonville as its new director of the Division of State Lands in a move welcomed by environmentalists.

Grandin is president of the Preservation Law Group and a member of the state Environmental Regulation Commission. She previously was director of the Jacksonville office of The Trust for Public Land and was assistant general counsel for the city of Jacksonville.

The position is high-profile one within DEP, overseeing a conservation land-buying program that was the largest in the nation through 2008 when $300 million per year was being spent.

The program has received $23.3 million in the four budget years since 2009. In its 2013-14 state budget request, DEP proposes identifying and selling up to $50 million worth of surplus state land to buy new conservation lands — a move that drew criticism from some environmentalists.

DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard said more than a year ago that the department was slowing down its land-buying process to come up with new land-buying standards.  Click here to read the full story.

Florida’s water balance is showing a loss | Ocala.com

By Robert L. Knight – Special to the Star-Banner – Published: Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 6:30 a.m.

Florida is blessed with an abundant freshwater income — an average of about 175 billion gallons per day (BGD). Yet, we are having serious trouble living within our means.A water balance is an analysis of the inflows and outflows, and the resulting change in the amount of water in storage (equivalent to the “balance” in a bank account).

For example, Florida’s water balance includes an estimated average inflow of 150 BGD from direct rainfall over the state’s 38 million acres of land, and 25 BGD from river and groundwater inflows from Georgia and Alabama (e.g., Apalachicola, Suwannee and Withlacoochee rivers).

During dry years, this inflow might decline by about one-third, while during wet years, it may increase by the same fraction.As in a family’s economy, Florida’s natural economy is dependent upon all of these inflows of water. Right off the top, about 107 BGD of these inflows is lost to evaporation and transpiration. While these losses may seem unnecessary, this is nature’s air conditioning, and Earth would be unlivable if evaporated water did not…

Read the full story via Florida’s water balance is showing a loss | Ocala.com.

Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Genetically Modified Foods | Lawyers.com – JDSupra

By Lawyers.com author Aaron Kase

A Supreme Court case over a lawsuit brought by agribusiness giant Monsanto against a farmer for the use of patented seeds could have deep intellectual property ramifications for the nation’s burgeoning biotechnology sector. At question is whether the patent Monsanto holds over their “Roundup Ready” soy seeds extends to the self-replicated progeny of those seeds. The high court will hear arguments in Bowman v. Monsanto sometime during the current term.

Normally, purchasers of Monsanto’s famous soy seeds, which are genetically modified to withstand Roundup herbicide to make it easier for farmers to control weeds in their fields, sign a contract that they will not save any of the beans they produce for planting. Instead, farmers have to buy a whole new crop to plant each year from the vendor.

That’s exactly what Indiana farmer Vernon Bowman did since he began using Roundup Ready soy in 1999 — for his first crop of soy each year. However, Bowman also grew a second crop on his 299 acres after he harvested the first, and rather than shelling out the cash for Monsanto seeds he just bought commodity seed from a local grain elevator. For subsequent years, Bowman saved some of the beans he grew using the commodity seed to plant the next year’s second harvest.

The catch was, some 90 percent of soy in the region is Roundup Ready, so the commodity seeds that Bowman purchased already contained the genetically modified beans. That meant he was saving GMO beans and replanting them, which is what Monsanto had attempted to forbid in its licensing agreements. Monsanto sued, and won a $84,456 decision against the farmer in 2009.

Bowman appealed, arguing that farmers such as himself were free to sell their crop to grain elevators, with no restriction on how the elevators could then resell them. At that point, his attorneys asserted, the patent could no longer apply.

A lower court ruled in Monsanto’s favor, leading the 74-year-old farmer to bring his appeal all the way to Washington D.C.

via Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Genetically Modified Foods | Lawyers.com – JDSupra.

A legal form of extortion in land use decisions.

Property owner Coy A. Koontz, Jr. knows this issue all too well in what has now turned into an eleven-year battle.  In an effort to have Koontz bear the costs of 50 off-site wetland enhancements by replacing culverts and plunging ditches—located miles away from his property—rather than bear the expense itself the St. Johns River Water Management District placed these conditions on a permit request to develop Koontz’s property.

On October 5, 2012, the United States Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to revisit the Nollan-Dollan’s essential nexus and proportionality test for conditions placed on permit approvals.[1]  In what seems like a legal form of extortion developers are often required to bear the burden of the perceived adverse impacts that their development will place on the community.  The purpose of the Nollan-Dollan two-prong test is to prevent an out-and-out extortion.[2]  First, the essential nexus prong requires that there exist a reasonable causal connection between the prevention of the perceived adverse impacts of the development project and the health, safety, and welfare of the condition(s) that the government has placed on the permit.  The second prong, is whather a reasonable proportionality of the degree of the exaction must bear a reasonable relationship to the projected impact of the proposed development.  However, the issue is not a settled one, because the question remains at what point the exactions go too far and constitutes a taking.

In Koontz, the trial court held that the agency’s refusal to issue the permits was invalid and effected a temporary taking of Koontz’s property, and awarded just compensation, a decision that was affirmed on appeal.[3]  The Florida Supreme Court, however, reversed and announced another rule of law that a landowner can never state a claim for a taking where a permit approval is withheld based on a landowner’s objection to an excessive exaction, and the exaction demands dedication of personal property to the public.[4]

Although, the community is effected with each new development of land and each development should pay for those adverse effects on the community.  There should also be a limit to the number of ripples in the water one landowner must bear.  The results could be a scary one for developers in Florida, subjecting them to additional conditions on development.  For now, Florida must wait and see what the Supreme Court will hold.

[1] Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Mgmt. Dist., 2012 U.S. LEXIS 7808 (U.S. Oct. 5, 2012).

[2] Nollan v. Cal. Coastal Com, 483 U.S. 825, 837 (U.S. 1987).

[3] St. Johns River Water Mgmt. Dist. v. Koontz, 5 So. 3d 8, 2009 Fla. App. LEXIS 91 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 5th Dist., 2009).

[4] St. Johns River Water Mgmt. Dist. v. Koontz, 77 So. 3d 1220 (Fla. 2011).

Florida Is 6th Worst Toxic Polluter from Coal-Fired Power Plants Despite Natural Gas Gains

Published by FlaglerLive | August 9, 2012

Florida is the 6th worst state in the nation when it comes to exposing residents to toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants, according to an analysis released today in Florida by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Florida’s electric sector ranked 6th in industrial toxic air pollution in 2010, emitting nearly 16.7 million pounds of harmful chemicals, which accounted for 57 percent of state pollution and about 5 percent of toxic pollution from all U.S. power plants.

Florida ranked 15th among all states in industrial mercury air pollution from power plants, with about 1,710 pounds emitted in 2010, which accounted for 75 percent of state mercury air pollution and 3 percent of U.S. electric sector mercury pollution. Mercury contaminates fish and is most commonly absorbed by humans through fish consumption. Mercury poisoning can impair vision, speech and coordination, and lead to severe birth defects or worse.

On the national level, the report found a 19 percent decrease nationally in all air toxics emitted from power plants in 2010, the most recent data available, compared to 2009 levels. The welcomed drop, which also includes a 4 percent decrease in mercury emissions, results from two key factors. One is the increasing use by power companies of natural gas, which has become cheaper and is cleaner burning than coal; the other is the installation of state-of-the-art pollution controls by many plants–in anticipation of new health protections issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Read the rest of the story at: http://flaglerlive.com/42571/florida-coal-fired-pollution/