Local Plastic Straw Bans to be Banned if Florida State Republicans Have Their Way

“I realized that I was kind of putting my own thoughts into this. … It was government overreach. So what I did was file an amendment that would put a moratorium but give us a study.”

Florida Senator Travis Hutson

The headlines read: “Florida lawmaker wanted to ban plastic straws. He ended up with a ban on banning them” when, last week, multiple news sources printed a report by Samantha J. Gross regarding Florida Senate Bill 588:

The Senate Commerce and Tourism committee approved a bill Monday that, instead of taking aim at plastic straw use, sets up a study to look at the effects of plastic utensils. It also puts a five-year moratorium on locally enacted bans on plastic straws.

The amended bill, introduced by committee member Sen. Travis Hutson, now sets up a study to be carried out by the Department of Environmental Protection. Local governments would not be able to ban plastic straws until 2024.

The Miami Herald

The article seems to say Republican Florida Senator Travis Hutson really wanted to ban single-use plastic straws in Florida, but my reading of the bill and other documents leads me to the opposite conclusion. The very title of CS/SB 588 tells us Hutson’s purpose:

“Preemption of Local Regulations”

Prohibiting local government entities from adopting or enforcing local ordinances or regulations relating to single-use plastic straws before a specified date; requiring the Department of Environmental Protection, or an entity designated by the department, to conduct a study evaluating the environmental impact of single-use plastic straws; providing penalties for violations of the moratorium by a local government entity

summary of Senate Bill 588

There are three other bills in front of committees in Florida’s capital, but Hutson is not a co-sponsor on any of them; and a review of Bill Track 50 doesn’t reveal any other legislation he has sponsored or supported that would limit or ban the use of plastic straws.

  • Senate Bill 502: Prohibition of Plastic Carryout Bags and Straws – sponsored by Senator Kevin J. Rader (D) – Prohibiting a store or food service business from providing a carryout bag made of plastic film to a customer; prohibiting a food service business from selling or providing a single-use plastic straw to a customer.
  • House Bill 603: Single-Use Plastic Straws – sponsored by Representatives Anthony Sabatini (R) ; Randy Fine (R) ; Walter Bryan Hill (R) ; Stan McClure (R) ; Daniel Perez (R) ; Spencer Roach (R) – Authorizes food service establishments to distribute single-use plastic straw to customers upon request & to make single-use plastic straws available through self-serve straw dispensers; preempts regulation of single-use plastic straws to state
  • House Bill 1299: Governmental Powers – sponsored by Spencer Roach (R) – …provides that food service establishment may distribute single-use plastic straw to customer only if requested to do so by customer; preempts to state: regulation of single-use plastic straws…

Only Senate Bill 502 seeks to prohibit single-use plastic straws at a state legislative level. The other three bills, including Hutson’s, are actually attempts to reverse local ordinances that ban or limit single-use plastic straws, and to prevent any future local municipalities from passing future local laws to protect their local environments.

This is a crime

Yea they bite hard !!!

Posted by Hunter Hardesty on Thursday, March 7, 2019

Literally. Harassing pelicans & other wildlife is illegal in Florida. It is unfortunate that Hunter Hardesty, of Davidson, Maryland, it such a poor example of a human being that he would first lure, then JUMP ON a wild pelican for a Facebook photo op. But here he is. So let’s take a quick look at what laws he may have broken.

Don’t Feed the Birds

Intentional feeding or the placement of food that attracts pelicans and modifies the natural behavior of the pelican so as to be detrimental to the survival or health of a local population is prohibited.

Florida Administrative Code 68A-4.001

Even beyond the law, feeding wild water birds like this Brown Pelican is bad for them – and not just from jerks like Hunter Hardesty jumping on top of them. The University of Florida Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, UF/IFAS Extension, has an excellent explanatory publication:

Brown Pelican (photo courtesy: Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren; Wiki Commons)

Cruelty to Animals

A person who unnecessarily overloads, overdrives, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, or unnecessarily mutilates, or kills any animal, or causes the same to be done, or carries in or upon any vehicle, or otherwise, any animal in a cruel or inhumane manner, commits animal cruelty, a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.

Florida Statute 828.12

The video clearly shows Hunter Hardesty tormenting this pelican; treating it in a cruel and inhumane manner.

Endangered Animals

The brown pelican was delisted in the United States in 1985 and the current brown pelican now exceeds historical numbers. However, this species is still considered endangered throughout the rest of its range.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

So Hunter Hardesty may not have broken any U.S. laws protecting endangered species, he certainly doesn’t regain any ethical ground with his stunt. The National Audubon Society includes the brown pelican on it’s “Climate Endangered” list, as does the Endangered Species Coalition. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service notes:

Brown pelicans were almost entirely lost from North America between 1950 and 1970…

Modern threats to brown pelicans include oil spills and pollution, human disturbance of nesting colonies, and entanglement in fishing gear or debris.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Social media shaming can be misused, but in this case I do hope Hunter Hardesty will face charges and public censure for his actions. This isn’t a matter of “did he or didn’t he”. He chose to record & share his harassment & endangerment of a hapless brown pelican on Facebook, then followed it up with this gem:

For more information about protecting Florida’s wildlife and environment, I recommend another publication from University of Florida Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation:

91% of U.S. Coal Plants Have Unsafe Levels of Coal Ash Contaminants in Groundwater

Coal contains a long list of toxic chemicals, including arsenic, radium, and other carcinogens, several metals that can impair children’s developing brains, and multiple chemicals that are toxic to aquatic life. When coal is burned to produce electricity, these toxic chemicals become concentrated in the waste product – coal ash.

Report: “Coal’s Poisonous Legacy: Groundwater Contaminated by Coal Ash Across the U.S.”

This reminder of the health hazards caused by coal ash, a by-product of coal-fired power plants, precedes the alarming report that the groundwater beneath nearly every coal plant in the United States is contaminated. Specifically:

  • 91 percent of coal plants have unsafe levels of one or more coal ash constituents in groundwater, even after we set aside contamination that may naturally occurring or coming from other sources.
  • The groundwater at a majority of coal plants (52 percent) has unsafe levels of arsenic, which is known to cause multiple types of cancer. Arsenic is also a neurotoxin, and, much like lead, can impair the brains of developing children.
  • The majority of coal plants (60 percent) also have unsafe levels of lithium, a chemical associated with multiple health risks, including neurological damage.
  • The contamination at a given site typically involves multiple chemicals. The majority of coal plants have unsafe levels of at least four toxic constituents of coal ash.
View of the 2008 TVA Kingston Fossil Plant fly ash spill, appx. 1 mile from retention pond at Swan Pond Road. The pile of ash in the photo is 20-25 feet high, and stretches for two miles or so along this inlet. Photo credit: Brian Stansberry; Wikimedia Commons

The report compiles from data collected and made public under the “Coal Ash Rule”, a 2015 federal regulation establishing monitoring requirements for coal ash dumps.

“Coal’s Poisonous Legacy: Groundwater Contaminated by Coal Ash Across the U.S.”, released Monday, was researched and written by representatives from the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice, with assistance from the Prairie Rivers Network, Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, and NRDC. To download the full report:

Green Mile 2019 5K Run/Walk – February 16

Join Miami’s only eco-run this Sunday, February 16, on the Miami Beach Boardwalk at the 22nd Street entrance. The annual 5K mini-marathon coordinated by USGBC Miami helps promote healthy and sustainable lifestyles! Check-in begins at 8:00 a.m., the race starts at 9:00, and winners will be announced at 10:15 a.m. Discounts for pre-registration, and for teams of 5 or more.

2019 Green Mile flyer - USGBC Miami

U.S. Green Building Council Florida is working to make healthy, sustainable buildings a reality for the Sunshine State within a generation. Our diverse membership is comprised of builders, architects, engineers, environmentalists, nonprofits, corporations, students and individuals, providing our nonprofit organization with not only a remarkable passion for sustainability and green building, but also a wealth of knowledge and industry access at every level. As part of a large network that is creating sustainable places to live, work and play across the entire country, our amazing volunteers and staff work both collaboratively and independently to fulfill USGBC’s mission here in Florida.


Salon Urban Cholesterol – January 17

A multimedia DASS Salon to address critical issues downtown Miami residents confront daily: traffic congestion, walkability, and other urban cholesterol symptoms, and how to fix them.

The Panelists:


  • Victor Dover is the author of the influential book STREET DESIGN: the Secret to Great Cities and Towns. He is cofounder of Dover, Kohl & Partners Town Planning, and a design practice focused on restoring healthy neighborhoods as the basis for sound communities. He is a former Chair of the Congress for New Urbanism and lead designer of more than 150 neighborhoods, urban revitalization programs across the United States and abroad.
  • Martin Mittner is a professor of gaming and virtual reality at Miami Dade College. Prof. Mittner has extensive exerience with city simulation in video games, pursuing different techniques for accurately modeling the movement of city populations in a virtual world, including traffic patterns.
  • Ken Russell is City of Miami Commissioner, representing District 2, which includes Downtown. Commissioner Russell is quite savvy about urban issues and most importantly, will add his input as to applicability. He is also a candidate for the US Congress.

DATE: Wednesday, January 17, 2018
TIME: 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM EST
LOCATION: DASS at the LOFT 2, 133 Northeast 2nd Avenue, Community Room, Miami, FL 33132

Downtown Arts + Science Salon (DASS)

Modeled after Ted Talks and a local social club, we host salons ranging from archaeology and cardiology to urban planning and psychology, from the novel to the opera. And stuff like fencing, wine-tasting and tango. DASS Salons take place at Downtown iconic cultural venues.

Drill Baby Drill

The Trump administration proposes to open 25 of the 26 “offshore planning areas” to oil drilling over the next 5 years. This includes all of Florida’s coastline, including the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Straits adjacent to the Florida Keys National Marine Preserve. There is a 25-mile proposed buffer zone between the coasts and the “offshore planning areas”, but that will be little consolation in the event of a spill. Deepwater Horizon’s spill covered 68,000 square miles (180,000 km2) of the Gulf of Mexico in oil, polluting 1,100 miles (1,770 km) of shoreline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida; killing wildlife (including endangered species) by the  hundreds of thousands.

The U.S. Department of the Interior “National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (National OCS Program) for 2019-2024” under Ryan Zinke would auction 47 drilling rights leases in more than 90 percent of the U.S. outer continental shelf. Many of the areas have been “off limits” since the 1980’s due, in part, to the risk for endangered ecosystems. The last offshore lease sale for the East Coast of the lower 48 was in 1983; and 1984 for West Coast. As Bloomberg put it, “the plan is unprecedented in its scope; no prior administration has ever proposed so many lease sales in a single five-year offshore drilling program.” The only area exempt from drilling under this plan would be North Aleutian Basin in Alaska

“The administration’s backward-looking approach puts oil and gas profits first — and will place our coastal communities and all they support at risk of the next BP-style disaster,” said Natural Resources Defense Council President Rhea Suh, referring to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. “We’ll stand with leaders of vision, business owners and fishing families on every coast to protect our oceans and shores.”

Zinke, who previously served on the board of oil pipeline company, QS Energy, and has routinely voted “in opposition to environmentalists on issues including coal extraction and oil and gas drilling“, is clearly ignoring the first part of of the Department of the Interior’s mission statement: Protecting America’s Great Outdoors and Powering Our Future.

At last count, all three governors on the U.S. west coast – Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, California Gov. Jerry Brown and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown – oppose expanded offshore drilling. Likewise, the governors of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida all oppose the proposed 2019-2024 National OCS Program.

Georgia governor, Nathan Deal (R), has not yet taken a public position. Maine’s Paul LePage is the only governor who is openly supporting the plan, and he’s… well… LePage.

Citing concerns about tourism industry, coastal economy, and protection of natural resources hundreds of municipalities, state attorneys general and other elected officials have voiced their opposition. In Florida, in addition to Governor Rick Scott (R), Senator Bill Nelson (D), Senator Marco Rubio (R), Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine (D), City of Miami Commissioner Ken Russell (D) are a few quoted as against the proposal in recent days.

Even the U.S. military has “warned against allowing oil rigs near the Florida shore due to concerns they could interfere with F-35 fighter training maneuvers”, according to Politico

“This radical offshore drilling free-for-all is a clear example of politics over people, ignoring widespread local and state opposition,” said Diane Hoskins, a campaign director for the marine conservation group Oceana. “The Trump administration’s plan not only ignores the risky nature of dirty and dangerous drilling, but also the people and coastal businesses who would be most affected.”

The just released proposal is the first step to creating a new 5-year five-year schedule (2019 to 2024) for selling offshore oil leases to replace President Obama’s plan that was to run from 2017 to 2022. The proposal is now supposed to undergo environmental analysis, and will be open to public comment starting on January 16th. The Trump administration wants to finalize a sale schedule by the end of this year.

Public meetings will be held around the country starting on January 16, 2018, to receive comments on the DPP and to inform the Draft Programmatic EIS. Specific dates, times, and venues will be posted on BOEM’s website at https://www.boem.gov/National-Program/.

In spite of the loud and immediate bipartisan opposition, given the recent corruption of our public comments system on other matters such as “Net Neutrality” and the clear anti-environment slant of this administration, I must admit to feeling deeply pessimistic about the outcome of this “National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (National OCS Program) for 2019-2024” proposal.


U.S. Department of the Interior press releaseSecretary Zinke Announces Plan For Unleashing America’s Offshore Oil and Gas Potential, January 4, 2018

Bureau of Ocean Management,  2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program

Politico, Trump aims to open California, Florida, Atlantic waters for oil drilling, January 4, 2018

Time, President Trump Seeks to Open Most U.S. Coastal Waters to Oil Drilling, January 4, 2018

Bloomberg, Trump Seeks to Open Most U.S. Coastal Waters to New Drilling, January 4, 2018

Historic Resources as Green Infrastructure

Miami Beach’s Art Deco district is a testament to the benefits (and beauty) of historic preservation. At the same time, increasing flooding events is forcing Miami Beach to address climate change and sustainability in a way that many cities aren’t. On Sunday, January 14, from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m., the The Wolfsonian-Florida International University campus on Miami Beach is hosting a panel discussion: Historic Resources as Green Infrastructure: Advancing Miami Beach’s Sustainable Development.

Join a panel discussion moderated by Laura Weinstein-Berman centered around the benefits of historic resources to municipal sustainability initiatives and policies. An expert panel will present their interdisciplinary perspectives on achieving the status of a model sustainable city, while honoring Miami Beach’s architectural heritage. Laura is an architect with The Vagabond Group and manages MDPL’s newly formed Center for Resiliency and Sustainability. She is a Miami Beach resident and recently completed her Master’s in Historic Preservation from Columbia University, where she earned Faculty Honors.


Panelists include: Richard Heisenbottle, FAIA, President, R.J. Heisenbottle Architects, P.A.; Christine Rupp, Executive Director, Dade Heritage Trust; and Susanne Torriente, Assistant City Manager & Chief Resilience Officer, City of Miami Beach.

The event is FREE, and you can register at Eventbrite.

Date:  Sunday, January 14, 2018
Time: 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm EST
Location: The Wolfsonian-Florida International University, 1001 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139
Event organizers: by Dade Heritage Trust Miami, Art Deco Weekend, Center for Resiliency & Sustainability at Miami Design Preservation League, Miami Design Preservation League, The Wolfsonian-FIU Art Museum

Citizen Science Workday – January 20 – Virginia Key Beach North Point Park

Start your year off on a green note by volunteering for science and for the environment. On January 20, from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m., the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is hosting a Citizen Science Workday at Virginia Key Beach North Point Park.

Join Frost Science as we work on several citizen science activities at the Virginia Key Beach North Point Park restoration site including:

  • Marine Debris Cleanup: Volunteers collect trash from the beach and log each item using Marine Debris Tracker, a free smartphone and tablet app.
  • Biodiversity Monitoring: Volunteers observe newly planted trees throughout our restoration site as well as observing native wildlife. Observations may be logged with iNaturalist.org – another smartphone app.
  • Invasive Plant Documentation and Removal: Invasive plants will be removed from the site to make way for native vegetation.

Taking place on the second Saturday of each month, Citizen Science Workdays are excellent opportunities to make an immediate impact on the environment by investing your time in one of our several restoration projects. Volunteers must only commit to a single workday at a time but can choose to do so regularly. Registration is required.


Parking Instructions: Enter Virginia Key Mountain Bike Park Trails in your GPS. Park at large lot adjacent to waste treatment plant.

Saving Miami with Jack Black & Years of Living Dangerously

Miami could be underwater by the end of the century if nothing is done to curb emissions.

Delaney Reynolds and Jack Black (photo courtesy MiamiSeaRise.com)

Jack Black and the #YearsProject are trending again following the December 22 YouTube release of this video short: “Saving Miami”. It is a compilation of clips from Season 2, episode 2: “Years of Living Dangerously: Gathering Storm”, which aired on the National Geographic Channel November 2, 2016.

YEARS of LIVING DANGEROUSLY combines the blockbuster storytelling styles of Hollywood’s top movie makers, including James Cameron and Jerry Weintraub, with the investigative skills of 60 Minutes veterans Joel Bach and David Gelber and a team of leading national news journalists and scientists.

An Emmy Award winning documentary television series, each episode is focused on a different aspect of climate change in different parts of the world. Celebrity hosts “with a history of environmental activism” narrate their segments and interview local experts. In Jack Black’s “Saving Miami,” he talks with South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, along with Miami architect Reinaldo Borges, University of Miami’s Dr. Harold Wanless and Professor Ben Kirtman, Florida Atlantic University’s Dr. Keren BolterNicole Hernandez Hammer, and the ever impressive Delaney Reynolds

Mayor Philip K. Stoddard and Jack Black (photo courtesy: Years of Living Dangerously)

Jon Meyersohn, who produced and directed this episode, was interviewed by Kate Stein for WLRN:

He says Miami was an immediate choice because people from across the country and the world move there and visit there.


“Everybody has an opinion about Miami or they’ve been to Miami or they have a relative who goes there,” he said. “It’s just the most fun place to be in the United States.”


And because the city’s well-known and embraced, it’s a good starting point to attract national attention to climate change.


Meyersohn described Miami as “ground zero” for climate change. He says that in contrast with cities like Boston and New York, where a lot of attention’s paid to climate change, Miami and Florida have a history of denial — notably among developers and state leaders like Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio.


“You have a massive amount of building, sea level rise, political denial. And, denial based on the fact that you have not had a major storm in more than 10 years,” he said.


Meyersohn said he and his team were encouraged that people here are getting involved in combating climate change. They interviewed a lot of them — activists, researchers, local officials and residents. One takeaway?


Because Miami’s so beloved, “it’s particularly hard to deliver a message like, oh, this place is sinking,” Meyersohn said.

The full episode of “Gathering Storm – Saving Miami” is available on demand at Google Play and Amazon, along with the rest of “Years of Living Dangerously” Season 2. Season 1 is available on YouTube, iTunes and Vimeo.

DEEP SEE – An Art Awakening for the Sea @ Art Miami

Join the U.S. Green Building Council Miami Branch at Art Miami for DEEP SEE – An Art Awakening for the Sea.

Conceived by artist Tina Spiro and developed by the MiART Foundation, the DEEP SEE project seeks to leverage the power of art as a means of communication to heighten awareness about and showcase solutions to climate change, marine safety and conservation, and sea level rise. The installation serves as a platform for like-minded organizations dedicated to the sea, as well as educational institutions, multi-media, performance and other related artworks, to create an immersive convergence for the sea leading to an action agenda. By creating an interactive experience for an audience who will enter individual shipping containers, three prominent environmental activist artists have created installations. Each artist has deep ties to both Miami and its environmental issues, which are integral to their bodies of work.

The exhibit is open Tuesday, December 5, through Sunday, December 10 at Art Miami, located at One Herald Plaza (right on Biscayne Bay at the former site of the old Miami Herald Building).


  • Tina Spiro
  • Edouard Duval Carrie
  • Jacek Kolasinski
  • Barry Fellman

Dates and Hours:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017
FIRST VIEW VIP Preview: 4.30pm – 5:30pm

Access for Art Miami + CONTEXT Art Miami First View VIP Cardholders

Tuesday, December 5, 2017
VIP Preview: 5.30pm – 10pm

Access for Art Miami+CONTEXT+Aqua VIP Cardholders, Art Basel Miami Beach, Design Miami, NADA & Untitled VIP Cardholders & Press | Sponsored by Christie’s International Real Estate and Benefiting the Perez Art Museum Miami


Wednesday, December 6 — 11am – 8pm
Thursday, December 7 — 11am – 8pm
Friday, December 8 — 11am – 8pm
Saturday, December 9 — 11am – 8pm
Sunday, December 10 — 11am – 6pm

For tickets and additional information: http://www.artmiami.com/home