ECOSWF works with local organizations to limit the scope of phosphate mining, particularly to keep mining operations out of the headwaters of local watersheds.
ECOSWF members regularly attend legislative hearings and government meetings to ensure state and federal mining regulations are enforced.
Contact: Sarah Hollenhorst
ECOSWF works with local organizations and local and state governments to ensure sustainable growth in Southwest Florida. In particular we work on issues such as over-development and monitor long-range growth plans of local counties and municipalities.
Contact: Becky Ayech
A Call to End Phosphate Mining in Florida
by Sarah Hollenhorst, December 2020
It’s time to end Phosphate Mining in Florida. We are calling for, at the least, comprehensive studies, independent of the industry, on the effects of mining on the health and safety of the residents surrounding mining operations, waste disposal sites (gypsum stacks), and on reclaimed lands. Anecdotal evidence shows that there may be serious health issues among those residents that justify these studies.
I’m asking for legislation that would cover studies done independently from the industry concerning the cumulative impact of mining on every county where mining occurs, and including those downstream and adjacent, on the estuaries downstream, and on the Florida aquifer.
The gypsum waste stacks are a ticking time bomb. As mining advances, and the gypsum stacks are added to, the threat to Tampa Bay increases. Sea level rise and increased and more powerful hurricanes tell us that it’s just a matter of time until there is a catastrophic event. What is also unconscionable is that these stacks are near underserved, low-income, and minority communities, putting them at greatest risk.
The Phosphate Industry has a history of accidents, including the sinkhole that released toxic, radioactive waste into the aquifer.
Our state is now tourism-driven; the fishing, fueled by our valuable Estuaries, is a huge draw, as are our shores and wildlife.
Agriculture is important in the Heartland. There are sustainable alternatives to phosphate application. The industry is irretrievably damaging the land, destroying the hydrology by removing the layers that form the upper aquifer, a system that developed over millions of years.
The industry is pumping out of Florida’s valuable aquifer to dilute the pollutants they generate as they run downstream. Studies need to be done as to that cumulative effect on the Estuaries.
Reclaimed land is not restored land, it is now poor quality agricultural land with spreading, invasive species such as cogon grass.
Phosphate mining is not a good steward of the land. It is a threat to the health and welfare of surrounding communities, to the productive Estuaries of the Gulf, to threatened and endangered ecosystems, and to our tourist industry. Its time is passed in our state, while we still have valuable Heartland agricultural land left, before they continue to destroy the streams and wetlands that make up the watersheds of the Gulf estuaries, and before they add any more waste to the gypsum stacks threatening Tampa Bay.
ECOSWF says no to offshore fish farms
November 18, 2020
ECOSWF asks that the permit to conduct an aquatic fish farm 45 miles off of Sarasota's shores be denied. It is not clear if the area used for fish farming would be off limits to boats thereby reducing their navigation in the Gulf.
Recently, this area has suffered from growing areas of red tide and toxic blue green algae blooms. These meances are fueled by high nitrogen and phosphorus levels.
Navigation through these blooms is oftentimes very difficult. Add to the blooms the amount of fish carcases in the blooms and again navigation is impeded.
The proposed fish farm will have concentrated amounts of fish in cages where the natural dilution is the solution approach will not be in play for the high levels of fish feces loaded with nitrogen and phosphorus. While trying to clean our waters from anthropogenic land uses that add to nitrogen and phosphorus to our waterways, this use would negate many of those efforts.
Although not a navigation issue, it must be noted that there will be a high level of antibiotics used to keep the fish healthy since they will be living in a stressed (cages) condition. We have learned that high levels of antibiotic use is harmful to all species. Think beef and chicken where antibiotic use caused many bacteria and people and animals to become immune to the benefits of antibiotics. This would only perpetuate this problem.
Thank you for your consideration,
Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida
Groups File Legal Challenge to Stop “Bomb Trains”
“These railcars are moving bombs,” said Becky Ayech, president of the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, one of the groups which joined the legal challenge.
A proposed new federal rule poses major explosion risk throughout U.S.: The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s rule proposes no restrictions onthe number or distribution of liquefied natural gas tanker cars in a particular train, nor on theroutes these trains may travel.
Earthjustice filed a legal challenge on August 18, 2020, on behalf of s the Center for Biological Diversity, the Clean Air Council, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, the Mountain Watershed Association, and the Sierra Club against a dangerous federal rule that would allow trains to travel the country filled with an unprecedented amount of explosive liquefied natural gas. The liquefied natural gas from just one rail tank car — without even considering a whole train — could be enough to destroy a city. “It would only take 22 tank cars to hold the equivalent energy of the Hiroshima bomb,” said Earthjustice attorney Jordan Luebkemann.
Earthjustice attorney Jordan Luebkemann: “It’s unbelievably reckless to discard the critical, long-standing safety measures we have in place to protect the public from this dangerous cargo. If it escapes containment, liquefied natural gas rapidly expands by 600 times its volume to become a highly flammable gas – and can turn into a “bomb train.”
“There's a very good reason liquefied natural gas has never been shipped by rail in this country, and that's because it's wildly unsafe,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of the Clean Air Council. “I don't want these dangerous trains going through my neighborhood, and trust me, you don't either.”
Under current federal law, it’s considered too dangerous to carry liquefied natural gas in tank cars. It can only be transported by truck and - with special approval by the Federal Railroad Administration - by rail in approved United Nations portable tanks. UN portable tanks are relatively small tanks that can be mounted on top of semi-truck trailer beds or on railcars.
The federal effort to cut critical safeguards for liquefied natural gas started on April 10, 2019, when President Donald Trump issued an executive order directing the Pipeline and Hazardous
Materials Safety Administration to initiate rulemaking to allow liquefied natural gas transport by rail. Tanker rail cars can hold roughly three times the volume of the UN portable tanks. Other than two isolated experiments on Alaska and Florida rail lines with the UN portable tanks, and one special-permit recently issued by PHMSA for transport between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, rail-based liquefied natural gas shipments have been effectively banned in the U.S., and for good reason.
The proposed rule would allow liquefied natural gas transport by rail in tanker cars that cannot withstand high-speed impacts. These rail cars are untested and unproven. “Under this new rule, it’s only a matter of time before we see an explosion in a major population center,” said Emily Jeffers, an attorney with Center for Biological Diversity. “Since the Trump
Administration isn’t upholding its duty to protect the American people from disaster, we’re taking them to court.”
Liquefied natural gas can also produce a BLEVE, or "boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion." During a BLEVE, pressurized liquid 'explodes' both chemically and physically (simultaneously vaporizing and combusting). A BLEVE creates three primary dangers: a blast wave, projections of the container fragments, and in the case of flammable vapors, a fireball.In 2013, a train carrying crude oil – less explosive than liquefied natural gas - derailed in Lac Mégantic, Quebec. The resulting fire led to BLEVEs of numerous tank cars, which leveled the town center and killed 47 people. A BLEVE of a liquefied natural gas tank car would potentially produce a fireball up to a mile wide and would be significantly more powerful than what happened in Lac Mégantic.
Under the rule, bomb trains would be subject to a voluntary speed limit of up to 50 mph through densely-populated cities. Officials at the Federal Railroad Administration have noted that tank cars are unlikely to survive impacts at even 30 mph. “Bringing such a dangerous substance through the heavily used railway along the Youghiogheny River (in Pa.) is a disaster waiting to happen due to failing infrastructure, the proximity to an invaluable drinking water source, and the threat to thousands of visitors enjoying Ohiopyle State Park, known as the crown jewel of PA State Parks,” said Youghiogheny Riverkeeper Eric Harder. “An explosion or spill would destroy the river and communities that depend on it. Landslides from the rail can be seen while floating down the Lower Yough, one of the busiest sections of whitewater rafting in the US. The steep terrain, combined with the impacts from climate change and outdated infrastructure, are a recipe for destruction.”
“When the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration rushed through this reckless proposal to transport liquefied natural gas in railcars that were designed 50 years ago and never tested or used for liquefied natural gas, it was clear this rulemaking presented a threat that
must be vigorously challenged,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “It is unconscionable to expose the public and the environment to the risk of a liquefied natural gas catastrophe and the unavoidable consequences of the cradle to grave impacts of fracking, especially considering the unique dangers of liquefied natural gas and the known human health and environmental costs of shale gas development. We join with or partners today to appeal for the protection we need from this wrong-headed federal
ECOSWF JOINS OTHERS
IN AMENDMENT 1 LAWSUIT
Despite an initial court victory in 2018 which found 185 appropriations totaling more than $420 million unconstitutional, an appellate court sent the case back to the trial court without deciding whether the funds are being misused.
The appellate court focused its decision on a narrow aspect of the initial ruling. It rejected the original judge’s determination that Amendment 1 funds could only be spent on lands purchased after the amendment took effect in 2015.
For the time being, lawmakers will still be free to use Amendment 1 money how they see fit, including in the legislative session that begins in January.
Protection of the Florida Panther and Florida Endangered Species
ECOSWF joins others in statement against Gargiulo, Inc.'s 50-year Incidental Take Permit application (easter Collier County) in order to prevent "incidental" taking of a listed species by permit holders allowed to proceed with an activity, such as construction or other economic development.
February 20, 2020
Public Comments Processing
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters,
5275 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041–3803
RE: Comment on incidental take permit (ITP) application of Garguilo, Inc.
Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2018-0079
Submitted electronically onwww.regulations.govwww.regulations.gov
Dear Deputy Regional Director Oetker:
The below-signed organizations and businesses urge U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to deny Gargiulo, Inc.'s application for an incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act. Joining 11 other permit applicants relying on the proposed, and inadequate, Eastern Collier Property Owners “Habitat Conservation Plan,” this ITP would authorize the taking of the Florida panther and other Federal or State-listed species for 50 years. Other listed species affected by the HCP and ITPs include: Everglade snail kite, Audubon’s Crested caracara, Roseate spoonbill, Red-cockaded woodpecker, Wood stork, Florida scrub jay, Burrowing owl, Florida sandhill crane, Little blue heron, Southeastern American kestrel, Tricolored heron, Florida bonneted bat, Gopher tortoise, Big Cypress fox squirrel, Eastern indigo snake, Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, Everglades mink, Gopher frog.
These 18 listed species, and especially the Florida panther, would be gravely impacted by the residential and commercial development, earth mining, and low-intensity rural land activities defined in the permit requests.
We request you deny Gargiulo, Inc.'s ITP application.