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House Bill 789 amended thanks to you!

Chalk one up for the clean water cause! One of the worst bills of Florida’s legislative session is on the cusp of wholesale changes that would defang it. House Bill 789, filed by Rep. Toby Overdorf, initially sought to stifle environmental lawsuits by forcing anyone who challenges and loses a decision by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection or a water management district to pay the “prevailing party’s” legal fees. There are already provisions in state law to prevent frivolous lawsuits — so the only reason we saw for this bill was to grease the skids for developers and polluters. Another problematic part of the bill was Section 4, which would have required FDEP and water management districts to conduct [...]

Tell Rep. Stevenson to keep HB 789 off her committee’s agenda

We need you to speak up! One of the worst bills of the legislative session might get its first committee hearing this week — but you can help head it off at the pass. House Bill 789, sponsored by Rep. Toby Overdorf, would force anyone who challenges and loses a Florida Department of Environmental Protection or water management district decision to pay the other side’s legal fees. It would intimidate citizens and effectively prevent them from filing a challenge, because they literally can’t afford to lose. The bill is bad for other reasons, too. It may run afoul of a federal Environmental Protection Agency proposal which states that this sort of “fee shifting” blocks access to the [...]

Sugar Reform Now: Sign the U.S. Farm Bill petition to protect the Everglades

For decades, private sugar companies have received enormous government handouts via the U.S. Farm Bill — to the detriment of clean air and water in Florida.   Through controls on production and strict import limits, the cost of the federal sugar program is shifted to consumers and taxpayers. Windfall profits generated by the sugar industry, led by Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar, are then used to buy influence over lawmakers. This unjust, outdated policy enriches billionaire-backed sugar companies at the expense of the iconic, life-sustaining Everglades and nearby communities. It's a double-whammy for South Florida taxpayers, who also foot the bill to clean polluted water from sugarcane fields south of Lake Okeechobee. Meanwhile, people who live near those sugarcane fields [...]

WATCH NOW — Last call: SB 540 VETO requests

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9eCeQIy86M From the desk of our Executive Director, Eve Samples, your Voice of the Everglades update: The clock is ticking. Last Thursday, May 9, state lawmakers sent “Sprawl Bill” 540 to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis, triggering a 15-day deadline for him to either sign or veto this environmentally reckless bill. If approved, the legislation would be the death knell for responsible growth-management in Florida — putting citizens at huge financial risk if they challenge changes to local comprehensive plans, which are the blueprints for growth in cities and counties. Much is at stake. Florida is the fastest-growing state in the country; it's ground zero for the climate crisis; and it’s undertaking the largest ecosystem restoration effort on [...]

Gov. DeSantis, don’t disempower citizens. VETO Senate Bill 540

We need you to speak up! Senate Bill 540 , which the Legislature passed May 2, would be a death knell for citizen engagement in development decisions. It would make it almost impossible for average residents to bring challenges to legally flawed amendments to local comprehensive plans, which serve as the blueprint for growth in local communities. SB 540 undercuts the fundamental right to seek remedy from the courts if the political process fails. That’s bad for the future of Florida, bad for the Everglades, and bad for water and wildlife. It also flies in the face of Gov. DeSantis Executive Order 23-06, which called for protecting the long-term planning process that safeguards sustainable growth in Florida. To [...]

Everglades Illustrated: This is how many sugarcane burning permits are issued in a single day

Last week, Friends of the Everglades Executive Director Eve Samples took to the air with a volunteer LightHawk pilot to survey sugarcane burning in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee. It didn’t take long to find what they were looking for. Within five minutes of takeoff, they spotted several large burns, with smoke and ash blowing westward toward the Glades communities of Belle Glade, South Bay, Pahokee and Clewiston. Elsewhere in South Florida, it was a blue-sky day. But above the Glades, it looked like twilight due to the smoke, known to locals in the Glades as “black snow.” The burns produced so much smoke that the plumes showed up as rain on the LightHawk pilot’s radar. Keep [...]

Tell Sen. Mayfield to STOP SB 540

We need you to speak up! Senate Bill 540 (DiCeglie) would disempower citizens by requiring the losing party in challenges to local government comprehensive plans or plan amendments to pay the prevailing party’s attorney fees and court costs. This could be a significant burden for the average citizen, and runs the risk of scaring off well-meaning challenges, thereby leading to more development and sprawl. The bill was made even worse through an amendment that effectively greenlights a controversial Miami-Dade County proposal which Friends of the Everglades was involved in fighting last year — to bring dense industrial development to hundreds of flood-prone acres of farmland in Homestead, well outside the Urban Development Boundary. We’ve made it easy [...]

Help us reform the U.S. Sugar Program

A sugarcane field burns in the distance in the Everglades Agricultural Area on Jan. 6, 2023, in Palm Beach County. We need your help. For decades, Big Sugar has received a sweet deal in the federal Farm Bill — despite its damaging influence on Florida’s water policy and pollution of our air through sugarcane burning. We have an opportunity to change that by urging lawmakers in Washington to end the sugar program in the upcoming Farm Bill. The Farm Bill, which is reauthorized every five years by Congress, covers issues such as agriculture, nutrition, conservation, forestry, and rural development. The federal government underwrites Big Sugar’s profits through the sugar program in the Farm Bill. It's an outdated [...]

Bad Bill Alert: HB 1197/SB 1240

Speak out to stop ‘Dirty Water’ bills that would undercut local rules Today marks the start of Florida's annual 60-day Legislative session — a time when lawmakers convene in Tallahassee to consider bills that will impact Floridians and the natural environment. Communities across Florida have a huge stake in clean water. But if two bills filed in the state Legislature last week become law, they will abolish local governments’ ability to fight pollution — and inevitably lead to dirtier water. House Bill 1197 (Maggard) and its Senate counterpart, Senate Bill 1240 (Burgess) would strip municipal and county governments of their authority to regulate water quality, water quantity, pollution control, pollution discharge prevention or removal, and wetlands, including delineation of [...]

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