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WEEK FOUR: Hope for land-buying; Florida’s “broken” tanks program

Sat, Mar 30, 2013

Energy, FDEP

With the Senate and House only holding meetings on Wednesday and Thursday this week, there was time to catch up on some stories that were slowly bubbling up. Like natural gas from a hydraulic fracturing well.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
“I think this issue has become radioactive, pardon the pun, for a lot of folks,” said Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, referring to the 2006 state law allowing utilities to charge customers in advance for nuclear projects.

GREEN CERTIFICATION BACKLASH

A bill that supporters describe as representing a backlash against an environmentally sustainable building certification program is moving through the House.

In 2010, the state completed work on three new buildings that received certification under the U. S. Green Building Council’s LEED program. But some in the timber industry aren’t happy that their Sustainable Forestry Initiative isn’t the certification standard.

See “‘Backlash’ bill against LEED green-building certification program moving in House,” March 25, The Florida Current.

FRACKING BILLS

House bills that would require disclosure of certain chemicals used in oil and gas hydraulic fracturing while providing exemptions for others as protected “trade secrets” are facing increasing environmental opposition.

Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting large volumes of water, sand or other materials and specialized chemicals into wells under enough pressure to fracture the formations holding the oil or gas, according to the Congressional Research Service. Concerns have been raised about groundwater contamination and air pollution from fracking.

See “Once unopposed, fracking bills gain opposition as they move in House,” March 26, The Florida Current.

THE OTHER SIDE ON NUCLEAR

After a Senate hearing described by a Democratic representative as a “three-hour commercial for nuclear,” the House heard a more balanced presentation on a 2006 law that allows utilities to charge customers in advance for nuclear projects.

Bradford, right, talks to Rep. Diaz.

Bradford, right, talks to Rep. Diaz.

Former U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission member Peter Bradford said the law shifts the risk for nuclear projects from utilities and their investors to utility customers.

The question remains whether there is time to deal with the issue this session.

See “Nuclear cost recovery law shifts risk to customers, critic says, as legislation remains in question,” March 27, The Florida Current.

FISCAL YEAR 2013-14 BUDGET PROPOSALS

House and Senate budget proposals included new revenue for the Florida Forever land-buying program, Everglades water quality projects and beach restoration programs.

The House had not included Florida Forever in its budget proposals for the past four years. The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee proposed $25 million in new revenue for Florida Forever and $25 million for paying agricultural landowners to conserve.

“That is certainly significantly more land protection capacity that we’ve seen since 2008,” said Janet Bowman of The Nature Conservancy.

See “House, Senate budget proposals include money for land-buying, beach restoration,” March 27, The Florida Current.

DEP’s VINYARD SAYS TANKS PROGRAM WILL BE FIXED ON HIS WATCH

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. said Thursday he’s not happy with the length of time or cost for cleaning up thousands of petroleum contamination sites in Florida.

Vinyard’s came comments during an interview after the ouster a week ago of Robert C. Brown as chief for DEP’s Bureau of Petroleum Storage Systems. Brown said in a March 21 letter that he was resigning in lieu of dismissal.

Vinyard said the department is determined to “reform a program that has been broken for far too long.”

See “Following ouster of DEP bureau chief, Vinyard says he wants to fix “broken” cleanup program,” March 28, The Florida Current.

SO MANY STORIES, SO LITTLE TIME…

“Environmental groups to sue over feds handing endangered species duties to state,” March 28, by Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times.

(Story and photo copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Floridaenvironments.com. Do not forward, copy or reproduce without permission, which can be obtained from brucebritchie@gmail.com .)

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