Brook Hines - Associate Producer / Political Commentator
Susan Smith - President of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida
Lillian Taylor - Author, Activist Attorney
Nicole Williams - Water Keeper / Environmental Activist
1. Big doings in Big Cypress.
Nine Collier County landowners have applied to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) for an exemption from the Endangered Species Act for the impact their proposed development of 45,000 acres in Big Cypress would have on the 16 endangered species that live there. The applicants intend to develop a city the size of Washington, D.C.—roughly twice as large as Miami—that would support 329,000 people in an area that includes 10% of what remains of the core habitat of the Florida panther. The Eastern Collier Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) involves residential and commercial development, oil and gas development and mining.
The FWS is taking public comments for the Environmental Impact Statement it will write in response to this proposal through Monday, April 25th. FWS will review all impacts the proposed development would have on elements of the human environment, including habitat loss and impacts on wildlife, air quality, water quality and supply, loss of agricultural lands, traffic and roads, climate change, and economics.
But its primary focus is on the Endangered Species Act, specifically whether or not to grant the applicants an Incidental Take Permit (ITP). The ITP would absolve the developers of responsibility for any harm incidentally done to any of the protected species living in the area as a result of the development of their habitat for a period of 50 years. This would include animals dying and species going extinct.
The covered lands encompass roughly 152,124 acres in northeastern Collier County surrounding the town of Immokalee. They’re bordered to the south by the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and Big Cypress National Preserve; to the north and east by the Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest; and to the northwest by the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
State officials estimate the current panther population as 100 to 180 individuals. But as the population has expanded due to the species’ listing as an endangered species, its habitat has shrunk as a result of the development of new towns, stores and two colleges. A study by top panther experts that was published in July, 2015 calls for protecting what's left. "Because there is less panther habitat remaining than previously thought, we recommend that all remaining breeding habitat in south Florida should be maintained," concluded the authors of "Landscape Analysis of Adult Panther Habitat."
The options FWS will consider include: issuing the ITP, denying the ITP, and varying the scope and/or location of covered activities. We want them to deny the ITP. Because FWS is a lot more comfortable granting permits than it is denying them, it’s critical that those of us who appreciate the stakes involved submit a comment. I’ve outlined the key variables below in order to assist you in writing your comments, which you can make as long or short, focused or comprehensive, as you like. Please use your own words so that all our comments aren’t dismissed as the work of one person.
Comments can be submitted by email to email@example.com. If FWS doesn’t confirm its receipt of your comment, contact Brenda Tapia at 703.358.2104.
You can find the HCP, which is 300 pages long, here. Oil and gas development is mentioned on page 20 if you’re going by the numbers at the bottom of the page.
Loss of primary panther habitat. The HCP fails to protect the panther. Panther habitats are classified into three zones: primary, secondary, and tertiary. The panther has already lost 95% of its historical range and can’t afford any further loss of its primary habitat. The HCP calls for the development of 25,000 acres within the panther’s primary habitat despite the recommendation of the ranchers’ own review team, which is comprised of six panther biologists. Their 2009 report stated that development could easily be moved out of primary and into secondary habitat zones.
Narrow corridors. Panther corridors in the current proposal are too narrow. The Plan includes corridors that are hundreds of feet wide, but panthers need corridors over a mile wide.
New roads and increased traffic. The Plan calls for the development of nearly 60 miles of new roads, some of which will bring over 60,000 cars to the area daily, resulting in the vehicular deaths of many more panthers. As it is, 16 panthers have been found dead so far this year, 14 of them killed by vehicles. It’s estimated that the level of development that the Plan involves would increase vehicular trips on roads that are presently rural by six to eight times, and that traffic on Corkscrew Road, where several panther-vehicle collisions have occurred, would increase by more than 23 times.
Inadequate attention to the 15 other species at risk: The applicants are seeking incidental take authorization for the following federally-listed species: the (1) Florida scrub-jay, (2) Audubon’s crested caracara, (3) wood stork, (4) red-cockaded woodpecker, (5) Everglade snail kite, (6) eastern indigo snake, (7) Florida bonneted bat, and (8) Florida panther. The gopher tortoise, which is a candidate species, would also be included, as would the following state-listed and unlisted species: (10) the burrowing owl, (11) eastern diamondback rattlesnake, (12) Florida Sandhill crane, (13) little blue heron, (14) Southeastern American kestrel, (15) tricolored heron, and (16) Big Cypress fox squirrel. The Plan virtually ignores the unique habitats of all the species except the panther.
Land preservation. The Plan sets aside 107,000 acres for conservation in exchange for intense development of 45,000. But much of this land is already set aside for conservation, meaning that the same acreage would be counted twice in the mitigation process. Furthermore, this “conserved” acreage could be used for conventional farming, oil exploration, and fracking, intensive and highly polluting activities that are incompatible with conservation and would render meaningless the applicants’ attempt to mitigate the damage development would do.
Length of the permit. The length of the permit—50 years—is unacceptable. If populations begin to decline or fail to meet recovery goals, which they’re liable to do in the midst of intensive development, it would be nearly impossible to reverse development allowances once the permit is in place.
Air and water quality and water supply. The proposal specifies oil exploration and drilling and leaves the door wide open for fracking, acidizing, and other forms of extreme extraction (which I’ll refer to as “fracking” for the sake of brevity, but it’s important to reference all the processes mentioned above because technically, this area wouldn’t be fracked; it would be acid-fracked). In fact, the Department of Environmental Protection has already issued a permit for seismic testing in the area.
Research has shown that no amount of oversight can make fracking safe. The majority of concrete well casings and all pipes leak. Frackers drill right through aquifers with dirty drill bits. The EPA found evidence of more than 36,000 oil spills in the U.S. in six years’ time. Excess gas is released directly into the atmosphere, polluting air and increasing already-spiraling temperatures, [with alarming implications for the sea level rise and saltwater intrusion with which South Florida is already having to contend.] Fires, blowouts, explosions, trucking accidents, and bomb trains are common.
Research has found that two counties in Pennsylvania that were fracked experienced a 49% increase in cancer-related hospitalizations in four years’ time. Other studies have found that the rate of birth defects increases significantly within 10 miles of a single fracked well, livestock in the vicinity of fracking die in large numbers, and fracking increases infant mortality.
Not to mention that one average fracked well uses enough water to last seven Floridians their entire lives.
Or that well over 1,000 cases of fracking-related water contamination have been documented.
Or that Colorado has over 100,000 fracked wells, and on a summer day the air in Denver looks like that in Beijing. It turns out that fracked gas isn’t the “bridge fuel” it was held out to be because fracking generates methane, and methane is about 82 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide.
In October, 2015 Physicians for Social Responsibility released research that summarizes hundreds of peer-reviewed studies of fracking. It concludes that “fracking poses significant threats to air, water, health, public safety, climate stability, seismic stability, community cohesion, and long-term economic vitality.”
As of this writing, 85 Floridian cities and counties, representing 74% of the state’s population, have passed resolutions, ordinances, or both against fracking. Not only is it clear that fracking does grave damage to air, water, and soil; it’s equally clear that Floridians adamantly oppose it.
Mining should be mentioned in this context as well. The mining that would be done in this area would be limestone rock and/or sand mining. In fact, the sand might be fracking sand quality. All mining is seriously damaging to land, air, water, and public health. Fracking requires a special silica sand the mining of which causes erosion and does damage that is more or less irreparable. People living in the vicinity of these mines see the nearby forest disappear, hills get flattened, and the air become hazy with silica dust, which can cause permanent lung damage.
Climate change. In May, 2015 the EPA released a report on the impacts of climate change on public health in the U.S. that lent new confidence to the conclusion that we have a very narrow window of time in which to drastically reduce our emissions if we are to have any hope of slowing climate change. We’re perilously close to two degrees of warming on an ongoing basis, at which point we’ll see increased ocean acidification and other habitat loss that will kill off 30-50% of the species on earth, tropical diseases exploding out of control, the irreversible thaw of the ice caps leading to between five and nine meters of sea level rise, and intensified heat waves that cause thousands to tens of thousands of deaths each summer in the U.S.
Nowhere in the U.S. will this be more of a crisis than in Florida, where we’re already dealing with routine flooding and salt water intrusion into our drinking water supplies. Meanwhile, the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station sits ominously on the coastline threatening to contaminate the Atlantic Ocean the way Fukushima has the Pacific if it isn’t moved or remediated in time.
It’s critical for us to avoid degrading healthy ecosystems or those in the process of being restored because their soils store carbon very efficiently. It’s critical that we refrain from further oil and gas development because it’s such a potent source of greenhouse gases. It’s critical that we conserve the water supplies we have. And it’s critical that work to preserve our endangered species rather than subjecting them to 50 years’ worth of incidental take.
Conclusion. The Plan thus falls short of FWS requirements for Incidental Take Permit approval. It ignores pertinent scientific findings, the recommendation of the ranchers’ own panther biologists, and the opposition of local citizens. The fate of the Florida panther, one of the world’s most endangered mammals, depends upon denial of this permit. Ultimately, the fate of the Floridian depends in part upon it too.
Thank you for all you do,
Unilever -- maker of big brands like Magnum ice-cream and Dove soap -- claims to be a leader in the fight against climate change. But it is sneakily one of the biggest members of FoodDrinkEurope, a massive, pro-corporate lobby group pushing to get negotiators to pass TTIP -- a massive trade deal between Europe and the United States, with eerie similarities to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
If passed, TTIP will spell disaster for our climate.
The Canadian corporation TransCanada, is suing the US government for a whopping $15 billion. And it's all because Obama stopped a controversial, climate-wrecking oil pipeline.
Worst of all, climate-friendly laws all over the world could never end up seeing the light of day if this trade deal passes. The pact grants business lobbyists the right to challenge laws they don't like -- before our leaders in parliament have even seen them.
We can stop this massive trade deal by destroying the power of those lobbying hard for it. And that means making Unilever withdraw from FoodDrinkEurope.
We’re shaking things up for Unilever from the inside by mobilising its employees to ask questions, and therefore forcing senior executives to hear our demands. But right now, we need your help being heard.
Unilever is vulnerable -- it has invested too much in its image as a climate-saviour. This is what makes this campaign winnable. Unilever’s CEO, Paul Polman, has talked publicly and passionately about the devastating effects of climate change.
Winning this campaign could be a gamechanger. Unilever is one of FoodDrinkEurope’s biggest members. An exit would seriously damage FoodDrinkEurope's credibility -- forcing it to reconsider its TTIP lobby efforts.
But we can’t do this without you.
Already, over 150,000 members of the SumOfUs community have demanded that Unilever take its commitment to climate change seriously, and drop out of FoodDrinkEurope. In our palm oil campaigning, SumOfUs members are also pressuring Unilever to clean up its palm oil policy -- and we're making huge progress.
It’s now time to take the campaign to the next level, so that Unilever knows that we won’t be letting this one go until it stops complicitly supporting one of the biggest corporate power grabs of a generation.
Thanks for all that you do,
Kat and the team at SumOfUs
5. A Peace Candidate
We have met in the past.
I am running for office as Florida's Peace Candidate.
If this interests you, please call me.
Basil Dalack (561) 746-1544 Tequesta
6. Online Debate
Tomorrow, we will conduct the first-ever Internet-based Senate debate in Florida, where We, the People choose the questions.
Today, and through noon tomorrow, you can suggest debate questions, or vote for questions, at www.FloridaOpenDebate.com. And then, at 7 pm, you can watch the debate there, live.
I opened up the SuperDelegate system to We, the People, and now I’m opening the debates as well. Please make a contribution of $30 or more to our We, the People campaign >>
I took a look at the questions that people have submitted for the debate tomorrow, and frankly, I’m impressed. These are good, solid questions that embody the important issues of the day. They are questions that anyone who hopes to serve in the Senate ought to answer. And I’m ready to do that.
I also noticed a distinct lack of “gotcha” questions, and I respect that. We live in a time when every “journalist” looks in the mirror and sees either Woodward or Bernstein. They all think that it’s somehow heroic to ask inane questions like whether Bernie Sanders has dual citizenship with Israel. (Answer: no, and what the heck is wrong with you for even asking that question?) We’re taking the debates away from the ADHD media.
7 Elizabeth Warren's Big Win: The New, Much-Needed Rule That Could Rein in Wall Street
By Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg, Salon
24 April 16
A new Labor Department requirement is giant victory for consumer advocates over Wall Street and financial advisers
re you in the market for some good news? While everyone is being told to follow the excitement of the 2016 campaign to the exclusion of all else, out of the spotlight but not far away, the Obama administration is calmly trying to enact lasting progressive change. In the Labor Department earlier this month, consumer advocates won a big battle, as the vast middle class was “gifted” with a new requirement being placed on the financial services industry. As Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren explained, a glaring conflict of interest has been resolved in the favor of people saving for retirement. No longer can investment advisers recommend funds to their clients that reward them or their firms; instead, they must, without exception, direct customers into the best financial products, with lower or, sometimes, zero fees.
In her inimitable style, Warren crowed: “No more pushing products that generate financial benefits for advisers, while draining the customer’s savings.” It’s a very simple principle: “No more free vacations, cars, bonuses, fees, and other kickbacks.” Her mantra, as we know, is fairness. Her legislative agenda is to introduce new legal protections for consumers. She is quick to point out that most financial advisers are ethical, and work hard to help their clients. But these individuals have, for many years, been forced to compete with “slick-talking” advisers whose recommendations reflect personal incentives and produce “terrible results” for middle-class savers, amounting, the Labor Department says, to many billions of dollars.
Firms must now make a full disclosure. Facing the music, the largest independent company that manages retirement savings, with $450 billion in retirement assets, right away cut account fees for investors by “up to 30 percent.” Retirees win. The system can adapt. As Warren stated: “Americans are tired of a Washington that works great for the big guys and doesn’t work for anyone else.”
You know who she sounds like? Frances Perkins, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s secretary of labor for the entirety of his presidency, and the first female cabinet member in U.S. history. She should never be forgotten. Having personally witnessed the Shirtwaist Triangle fire of 1911, a tragedy in New York’s Greenwich Village that took the lives of 146 garment workers, a young and inspired Fannie Perkins resolved to devote herself to the cause of the American worker. As the accomplished business journalist Kirstin Downey lays out in her 2009 biography, Perkins pushed constantly for child labor laws, for safety regulations and a host of other fair labor practices. To prevent workers from descending into poverty, she urged compensation for workplace injury; she saw to the imposition of a minimum wage for the first time–which in the mid-1930s was around 45 cents an hour–and she pioneered unemployment insurance as we know it.
As compellingly up-front, if perhaps less pleasantly in-your-face than Warren is, Perkins told FDR when he was president-elect to think twice about naming her to the cabinet: “If you don’t want these things done…, I’d be an embarrassment to you.” She fed public demand. Fortunately for Roosevelt’s own historical reputation, he was not afraid of a strong woman. It is arguable that, were it not for Secretary Perkins, Social Security would never have happened.
At the same event at which Warren spoke, Sen. Cory Booker put in his own two cents when it came to the resistance of established financial firms to the “best interest standard” that the DOL has given life to. The New Jersey senator called the previous system that for so long “bilked” investors of their retirement saving “an assault on the ideals of this country.” Under the old rules, brokers only had to honor a level of ethical performance that was euphemistically called a “suitability standard,” and Republicans predictably complained that the Obama administration was trying to place “an undue burden” on finance professionals. Booker, like Warren, would have none of that. “We’re not surrendering to cynicism in this country,” he challenged.
With many billions of dollars now saved through the new requirement on financial advisers, we should all be giving renewed attention to the fight for a fairer minimum wage. California and New York have announced a raise from the current federal minimum of $7.25/hour to $15.00/hour. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti explained the common-sense thinking that went into the decision: “Poverty is bad for business.” CEOs and small business owners alike, he said, “understand the impact economic justice can have on the workforce and the local economy—better paid employees are more likely to stay on the job, and when folks have more money in their pockets, they spend it.”
Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, who previously led the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, has been acting in the best tradition of his hard-charging predecessor in standing up for the American worker and for all retirees. In fact, in his blog on the DOL website he states that a portrait of Frances Perkins hangs proudly above his desk. She brought about the Fair Labor Standard Act of 1938, which continues to set minimum wage and overtime pay standards. The old rationale that minimum-wage jobs are for teenagers, or a stepping-stone for adults, and therefore should not be tampered with too severely, is misleading. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 80 percent of hourly wage workers are over age 25; and the Economic Policy Institute states that 26 percent of the workforce earns less that $10.55/hour. Of the 22.9 million American workers who stand to be affected by a prospective increase in the federal minimum wage, over 80 percent are at least 20 years old; one-quarter are either single parents or married parents. The emotional, as well as financial, health of families is at risk.
For quite some time, our flat minimum wage has not reflected gains in worker productivity. President Obama and Senator Warren have been pressing for an increase for three solid years now. The family values voters out there–that is, if we define “family values” the way it should be done–are clearly in favor of a sensible minimum wage hike. Warren tells the story of how, when she was 12, her father suffered a heart attack and her mother was forced to take a minimum-wage job at Sears; at that time, it was enough to save the family from losing their home.
For all kinds of reasons, Warren has been out on the front lines, constantly reminding all who will listen that we need watchdogs in government. And like Secretary Perkins before him, Perez is helping to realize the progressive reforms President Obama is intent on accomplishing in his final year in office. Booker said it best: “This fight ain’t over.”
8. Stonewalled by the NSA, Members of Congress Ask Really Basic Question Again
By Dan Froomkin, The Intercept
23 April 16
bipartisan group of lawmakers is none too happy that the executive branch is asking them to reauthorize two key surveillance programs next year without answering the single most important question about them.
The programs, authorized under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, are called PRISM and Upstream. PRISM collects hundreds of millions of internet communications of “targeted individuals” from providers such as Facebook, Yahoo, and Skype. Upstream takes communications straight from the major U.S. internet backbones run by telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Verizon and harvests data that involves selectors related to foreign targets.
But both programs, though nominally targeted at foreigners overseas, inevitably sweep up massive amounts of data involving innocent Americans.
The question is: How much? The government won’t answer.
Fourteen members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper on Friday asking for at least a rough estimate.
“In order that we may properly evaluate these programs, we write to ask that you provide us with a public estimate of the number of communications or transactions involving United States persons subject to Section 702 surveillance on an annual basis,” said the letter. Signatories included ranking Democrat John Conyers Jr. and a senior Republican member, James Sensenbrenner.
Sen. Ron Wyden has asked for a number since 2011; the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board recommended in July 2014 that the government provide several. In October, more than 30 privacy groups asked for an estimate and explained how easy it would be to come up with one.
“House Judiciary Committee members have lent their voices to the growing chorus demanding hard facts about how foreign intelligence surveillance affects Americans,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program, in a statement. “The NSA will soon be asking Congress to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and it will repeat its past claims that any collection of Americans’ communications is merely ‘incidental.’”
But, Goitein said, “We still don’t have this basic information.”
PNN - Fabulous Foursome of Florida's Finest Fems, Lillian Taylor, Susan Smith, Nicole Williams, Brook Hines
PNN - Fabulous Foursome of Florida's Finest Fems, Lillian Taylor Author, Susan Smith Pres. DCPS, Nicole Williams WaterKeeper and Brook Hines Associate Producer
PNN - Fabulous Foursome of Florida's Finest Fems, Lillian Taylor Author, Environmentalist and , Susan Smith President Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, Nicole Williams Water Keeper, Wildlife Activist and Ecologist, Brook Hines Associate Producer and Political Columnist
Brook Hines Associate Producer and Political Columnist discussing the latest Political News
Lillian Taylor Environmental Attorney, Human Rights Activist and Author will provide her take on the choices facing Democrats today.
Nicole Williams Florida Waterkeeper and Environmentalist will discuss the New FPL Project in Hendry County which with impact native lands and waters of of the Seminole and Miccousukee, the Wildlife Corridor, and the waters feeding south. The ongoing damage done to Fish Eating Creek by backpumping Lake Okeechobee waters into the Creek. And the recently exposed problems of FPL's Turkey Point Nuclear Plant expansion damaging not only Biscayne Bay but the water resources of Miami Dade, and Monroe County.
Susan Smith President of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida will talk about the upcoming Democratic Progressive Caucus Conference
TUNE IN LIVE Sunday 7pm Eastern / 4pm Mountain time or Anytime