Category Archives: State of Florida

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Tomorrow, June 1st, my friends and I will get our first actual day in Court (albeit via zoom due to COVID-19) in our climate change lawsuit, Reynolds V. Florida, which we filed in April 2018. Since the suit was filed, the State and elected officials including the Governor, have done everything they can to have it delayed and dismissed. And yet again, that will be the point of Monday’s Hearing; the Judge will consider the state’s most recent request to dismiss our lawsuit which seeks to have the state enforce the laws that are already in place and is designed to protect the environment, including our precious atmosphere.

While our state government has let all of us down in protecting our climate, oceans and atmosphere, someone who has long supported me and my passion to fix the problem before it’s too late, someone who has never let me down, is my dear friend Dick Jacobs. Dick has posted guest blogs here at The Sink or Swim Project before and I am about to share another one with you that he wrote recently about the lawsuit. But before I do I want to make what is a very, deeply personal observation.

Dick, as you will read, is 89 and has been bravely fighting stage IV melanoma cancer for several years in what is, seriously, a fight for his life. Over the last year I’ve unfortunately had to learn a lot about cancer as my mother was diagnosed and then has been battling breast cancer. She has bravely and stoically navigated through dozens of doctor and hospital visits, decisions about chemotherapy, radiation and four surgeries. Whether you are 89 like Dick or 52 like my mom, cancer is, needless to say, a very serious matter.

And yet even at his age and dealing with such a critical issue, here is Dick, just as passionate about the need for our world to address our climate change crisis for future generations before it’s too late as are any of my friends and I who are the plaintiffs in this lawsuit. Talk about an “inspiration”, a word people sometimes use when referring to us kids for asking the court to make the state to do the right thing. Nah. If you want to learn about a real inspiration then you need to learn about Dick Jacobs. He’s a real inspiration. And a hero.

And you know what else? To those who say they can’t do anything to solve the climate crisis or are too old to care or some such thing, then I hope you will consider my friend Dick who is right in the middle of the fight, on the front lines, at nearly 90 years of age. He knows the stakes are high for future generations and is serious about wanting to leave the world he’s lived in for nearly nine decades in better shape for that future than it’s been during his life. And that’s what I want too. To fix the climate crisis before it’s too late so that kids in the future can enjoy the places that I love and cherish but that are at risk of disappearing from our fossil fuel use. No matter your age I sure do hope you will join us in the most important battle that my generation will ever face and if you don’t believe me then consider the wisdom that Dick offers…

These gutsy kids called out Florida officials on climate change | Column

They will have their day in court on Monday. A long-time attorney explains why they’ve sued.

The kids with Dick Jacobs on courthouse steps in Miami in April 2018. Learn more at ourchildrenstrust.org/florida. [Courtesy of Robin Loznak, Our Children's Trust]

The kids with Dick Jacobs on courthouse steps in Miami in April 2018. Learn more at ourchildrenstrust.org/florida. [Courtesy of Robin Loznak, Our Children’s Trust]

My name is Dick Jacobs. I’m 89 years old, mostly a retired business attorney. For the past four years I’ve been in the fight of my life battling stage IV melanoma cancer. But as tough as that fight is, there’s another life or death battle – one that is a far tougher, and more important than my bout with cancer – that’s inspired me to action.

It all started after more than four decades of venture travel, trekking over the seven continents and writing Wonderlust, which chronicled my treks and the lessons I learned about caring for our Earth, the only home we have. I became convinced that I had to devote myself to helping our Earth with its growing cancer.

Thus, I became involved with eight gutsy kids and their suit against Florida, its governor and its key officials. The kids’ lawsuit isn’t about money. Their lawsuit is about protecting the kids’ constitutional, and fundamental rights, sourced in ancient laws over 1,500 years old, to a stable climate, which is essential to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

The kids are represented by a bevy of pro-bono, top notch trial lawyers from the Panhandle to Miami. The team of lawyers originally included the late Sandy D’Alemberte. Sandy was President of the American Bar Association and both President of Florida State University and Dean of their law school. Sandy was known as “The Father of Florida’s constitutional law” and believed in the profound importance of this case and the rights of these kids to get their day in court, as do all the lawyers involved.

On April 16, 2018, when the initial complaint was filed in the Leon County Court, I sent a thank you message to the trial lawyers on our team. It said: “As I read the final draft of the complaint, before I go to Moffitt Cancer Center this morning for the next step in my cancer treatment, I could not help but reflect on something that may surprise you: I am a registered Republican. I have always been a registered Republican, ever since I voted for Eisenhower for President in 1952. Unfortunately, the political party I once cherished has distorted the meaning of ‘conservative,’ which is grounded in ‘conserve,’ which means to preserve and protect, not to exploit or destroy. Florida’s leadership has totally abandoned those fundamental ideals.”

The email ended with, “These gutsy children, and this great team of trial attorneys, will remind us all of that being conservative means to conserve, to care for the only home we will ever have for ourselves and our future generations. This effort will make a difference. Thank you all.”

These young people—and young people across the globe—know that their future depends on the actions we take right now. They understand there is a short window to avoid the worst impacts of climate change by transitioning to clean energy solutions. They know Florida needs a plan to end the fossil fuel energy system the state has perpetuated.

These kids are role models for us all. I’ve heard comments shaming their parents for using their kids as pawns, putting them up to the litigation. Nothing could be further from the truth. As we met with the kids, it became clear that the kids were genuinely worried about the impacts of climate change on their future and they weren’t being pushed into this by parents. An amazingly sharp group, the youngest was Levi, then 8 years old. Levi’s been on 60 Minutes. Delaney Reynolds, now a University of Miami student, has been a speaker on climate issues before the United Nations. Luxha Aliheligi Phillips, an articulate 14 year old when I met her, is now a climate refugee, having left Miami. She is not alone. And it’s predicted that 2.5 million more people will be leaving Miami in the not too distant future because of global warming and rising seas.

The kids deserve our support. Won’t you stand with them before it’s too late?

Dick Jacobs, senior counsel with Johnson Pope law firm, practiced law in Pinellas County for more than 50 years. Learn more about the kids and their lawsuit.

Governor Reality? Let The Sunshine In

“Our economic potential will be jeopardized if we do not solve the problems afflicting our environment and water resources”

– Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis

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Congrats to Florida’s new Governor Ron DeSantis who was installed last Thursday as Florida’s 46th Governor. Thanks are in order to Governor DeSantis for quickly giving those of us who have been desperate for environmental leadership here in the Sunshine State following eight bleak, dark, years during your predecessor’s two terms some rays of, well, sunshine over the first few days of your Administration. I look forward to working with you, the Department of Environmental Regulation and other Florida leaders to protect our state’s future.

We have so much work to do to catch up on to protect and save Florida that I am hesitant to show too much optimism, eight years of Rick Scott will suppress anyone’s hope for solutions, but the news in the first few days of the DeSantis Governorship hold positive promise and include:

1. The appointment of a Florida “Chief Science” Officer. The fact that you understand the value of science and research is, on its own, a tremendous step in the right direction and a dramatic difference as compared to your predecessor. Thank you.

2. The creation of the Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency to coordinate science and data with the state government’s various departments and agencies is also welcomed news. Using the words accountability and transparency with the word environmental here in Florida are almost impossible to believe after the past eight years. Bravo.

3. Your Executive Order is about as important a change in direction towards protecting Florida as anyone could hope for. It seeks a whopping $ 2.5 Billion for Everglades restoration, a task force to address toxic algae and directs the South Florida Management District to begin fixing Lake Okeechobee (and in a separate, but surely related, step late last week the Governor requested that the entire Board of the South Florida Water Management District resign so as to ‘clean house’ and seemingly pave the way to clean the Everglades and Lake in the process). Wow.

Your Order also makes clear your opposition to oil and gas exploration, including fracking, along Florida’s coasts. Floridians, I am certain, appreciate your position but also how strongly you expressed your view by stating that Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection shall “adamantly oppose all off-shore oil and gas activities off every coast in Florida and hydraulic fracturing in Florida”. Floridians of every political party celebrate your position on this important topic and especially appreciate the word “adamantly”, something we all agree upon and a position that would seem to even challenge your number one supporter during last year’s campaign, President Trump.

And yes, within that same Executive Order we find your direction that Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection create the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection. As your Order stated, the purpose of this new Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection is to “help prepare Florida’s coastal communities and habitats for impacts from sea level rise by providing funding, technical assistance and coordination among state, regional and local entities”.

Wait.

What?

Did Florida’s new Republican Governor use the three words “sea”, “level” and “rise” together? That alone is a dramatic step forward and I for one am sincerely grateful that Governor DeSantis appears to arrive in office carrying a dose of reality that our state can’t survive unless we address climate change. It’s possible that the fact that we don’t have a day to wait to begin solving our climate change crisis and within it the threat to Florida’s very future, certainly that of South Florida, from sea level rise has begun to sink in.

His name might be Ron, but perhaps in time he will become known as Governor Reality and show what I have long thought, that Florida can have a robust economic future while addressing the causes and impacts of climate change. The Governor might not want to publicly debate or dissect man’s impact in causing this crisis but, as long as he sets in motion policies, processes and funding to allow Florida to begin solving its share of the problem and to mitigate its impact as much as possible, then that might just work. It sure is a start. And speaking of work, and a start, how about we work to make Florida a global leader in the production of solar panels and technology? How about we work together to see solar power installed everywhere and in doing so create new businesses and great paying jobs all over Florida so that The Sunshine State can become The Solar State?

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Okay, enough “hopeful” talking from a kid for now. Now “let’s get to work” on protecting Florida and trying to save South Florida in particular from the threat from sea level rise. With a new year, Governor and direction upon us let’s embrace what these initial steps suggest might be achievable; that we set politics aside as absolutely much as possible and focus on the science and solving our significant environmental problems.

You can read more about Governor DeSantis new policies and how both esteemed writer Carl Hiaasen and the Miami Heralds Editorial Board  by clicking here and here. You can read Governor DeSantis Executive Order by clicking here.

Sleight of Hand: Florida’s Magician Governor Rick Scott

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I love a good magic show and have been fooled by some of the best. When street magician extraordinaire David Blaine made ¾ of a deck of cards disappear in front of my eyes just prior his show here in Miami last year, I was stunned. By any measure, David is an amazing artist and makes his craft look, well, like real magic.

But as wonderful as he is, you know that he’s an expert at deception, at sleight of hand, of making uncomfortable, often impossible things appear normal. Right before your eyes.

Carter The Great

The longer I follow Florida’s Governor Rick Scott the more I become convinced that he’s also a world class necromancer, a magician of sorts (apologies to real magicians). In fact, David Blaine has nothing on our Governor and if you were to wonder why I think this, you need only to consider a few of the tricks he’s pulled on Floridians and our environment in recent years.

Alakazam: Making “Climate Change” Disappear

Houdini

Houdini would blush at how Governor Rick Scott made our climate crisis and phrases like “climate change”, “sea level rise” and “global warming” disappear from state records and reports during his terms in office as was widely reported in the media and press (click here to learn more).

Rather than deal with the issue in a direct, decent way, the Governor has insisted that those who work for him should avoid using these terms and others as if the problem does not exist. You can learn more about his tricks and even see him perform by watching the short video produced by Ahead of the Tide entitled Chapter Three: The Political Climate.

The Amazing Power Plant Vote Vanish

Thurston

Conjurer, I mean Governor, Scott pulled an especially big rabbit out of his hat in Broward County last month by making a long-expected vote in support of a gigantic new power plant disappear. Scott’s largest corporate donor (giving a reported $ 500,000 to his U.S. Senate campaign), Next Era Energy’s Florida Power & Light (FPL) plans to build the new power plant in Dania, a facility it describes as world class. Unfortunately, we’ve also learned that the planned “Dania Beach Clean Energy Center” plant will produce a “net increase from some pollutants”.

The Governor did not, of course, use his magic to require his friends at FPL make the pollution disappear. Doing that would have been rude considering the price they’ve paid ($ 500,000) for tickets to his “show”.

No, what he did was postpone the long-planned September 11th hearing to approve the plant until after the upcoming election, likely deciding it better that news of the plant, its vote, his support and especially the news that it will actually increase pollution disappear until after the polls close. It’s like watching that age-old trick where the magician asks you to find where the ball is hidden under a set of cups, reliant upon the notion that the hand is quicker than the eye.

Florida’s Climate Change Litigation Levitation

Kellar

And that leads me to this week’s long planned legal Hearing in Tallahassee for the climate change lawsuit that seven other Florida children and I have brought against the State, our Governor and others. We filed our case (Reynolds v. State of Florida) in April (you can read about it here).

Late Monday, just three days before the October 4th Hearing and many months after the Judge was assigned the case, Judge Cooper announced that he was recusing himself due to a conflict of interest, turning the case back over to the Chief Justice and, thus, requiring that a new Judge and Hearing date be set. You can read about the Judge’s recent decision in the article from Politico below:

Key hearing in climate change lawsuit delayed after judge steps aside

By Bruce Ritchie

10/01/2018 05:49 PM EDT

A state judge today removed himself from a lawsuit challenging Florida’s inaction on climate change, indefinitely delaying a key hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday.

Circuit Court Judge John C. Cooper, in an order recusing himself from the case, said he had a conflict of interest and asked the chief judge to assign one of his colleagues to the matter.

Cooper provided no details about led to the decision and did not respond to requests for comment. He had scheduled the Thursday hearing to consider the state’s motion to dismiss the case.

The lawsuit, filed in April, alleges state officials ignored a constitutional policy requiring Florida “to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty.”

Briefs filed in July on behalf of Gov. Rick Scott several state agencies argue the state constitution is not self-executing and that the court is being asked to involve itself in policy decisions and executive branch functions.

The lawsuit was filed by eight Florida residents ranging in age from 10 to 20 and is supported by the Oregon-based nonprofit Our Children’s Trust, which has been involved in similar lawsuits in other states.

A copy of Cooper’s request can be viewed by clicking here.

 

 

The immediate reaction by many was to ask whether the Governor and politics have played a role in this surprise news just days before the Hearing. Lawyers tell me this type of decision this close to a planned Hearing is unusual but not unprecedented. And, of course, there is supposed to be a separation between our Executive and Judicial branches of government but the recent Supreme Court deliberations in Washington illustrate that that politics and the courts interact in strange and mysterious ways.

Whether the Governor performed some sort of sleight of hand to not face our concerns (and us) just before the election, I can’t say, but as a well-known climate change denier and someone who has spent two terms avoiding the topic he’s likely not unhappy with the news. Having to publicly answer tough questions about his total lack of action on an issue impacting millions of Floridians, one that local communities are already spending hundreds of millions of dollars on to mitigate could and should hurt his chances on November 6th, so the postponement could be seen as welcome news the same way delaying the polluting power plant vote might help.

Political hocus pocus?

Perhaps.

But you can rest assured that our Hearing will be rescheduled and that we will have our day, likely many days, in Court. My young friends and I are resilient, we will NEVER give up until we solve the climate crisis and our society shifts to sustainable energy solutions. Doing that will not require magic but hard work and perseverance to break through established politics and special interests.

Until then, please keep in mind that the real magic this Fall takes place in the voting booth where the Governor can be made to vanish from office and, I hope, disappear from politics all together faster than you can say Sim Sala Bim. The magic wand to make that happen is in your hands and appears on November 6th. I sure hope you use it wisely. Florida’s future depends on it.

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