Reynolds v. State of Florida Update

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Over the last few years I have come to learn first-hand that the “wheels of justice” often truly do move slowly as they say. When seven of my friends and I filed our landmark environmental lawsuit against the State of Florida seeking climate justice in April 2018, I was “just” 18. And today, as I am pleased to share news that our first Hearing in the case has been scheduled for April 21st, I am approaching 21.

Three judges assigned to our case and many motions by the State asking the Court to dismiss the suit later, the very first Hearing for Reynolds v. State of Florida is scheduled to take place by Zoom video conference at 1 PM. The delays and such aside holding it on April 21st, just one day before the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day (which takes place on April 22) is pretty poetic.

In October of last year we filed a motion adding allegations about recent ways Florida government’s officials have made the climate crisis worse.  A Hearing on that motion was scheduled for January 8th but two days before the Hearing, the Governor’s office stipulated to our request and the Hearing was cancelled. At that time the Court signed an order granting our motion and allowed us to supplement our briefing on the government’s pending motions to dismiss the case.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the State, Governor DeSantis, Agricultural Commissioner Fried or other elected “leaders” are serious about putting a stop to the pollution that is killing our state’s natural resources and harming our citizens. Their actions speak far louder than the buzz words they use when speaking to voters. In fact, recent actions by both DeSantis and Fried make their and the State’s ongoing dedication to an energy system based on the fossil fuels that principally cause the pollution clear.

Governor DeSantis has recently certified a large scale fossil fuel based project at TECO’s Big Bend Facility. He’s also done little to nothing to take actual action on our climate change crisis or sea level rise. His appointment of Julia Nesheiwat as Florida’s first Chief Resilience Officer received much positive fanfare and made folks pause to think progress could be made yet, other than travel around the state for photo ops and feel good speeches, she did nothing what-so-ever before predictably moving on to serve President Trump as Homeland Security Advisor. And what has the Governor done since Nesheiwat left her role in Resiliency? Nothing. He’s not replaced anyone in the position. #SheepsClothing.

To some, Commissioner Fried seemed ideologically well positioned to lead a fight for change, yet has since gone so far as to call for an end to the energy efficiency conservation goal setting program and has openly supported an energy system powered by fossil fuels. Simply stated, if Commissioner Fried were truly serious about addressing Florida’s climate change crisis, then she should end her opposition to our lawsuit and join us. The fact that she continues to oppose our desire for change says far more than some political speech she might give that’s geared to getting votes ever could. #DisappointedButNotSurprised.

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I want to again thank my brave young friends for their fortitude and passion. Thanks to Valholly, Luxia, Andres, Oscar, Oliver, Isaac, and Levi. I want everyone to know that the eight of us are in this for the long term. We know this will not be an easy fight, nor a fast one, but we also know it’s the most important issue that our generation will ever confront and how we fix the problem will define our time here on earth. I know that I speak for the other children when I say that if takes us a lifetime of litigation, then so be it. We will not rest until things truly change.

I also want to thank our amazing legal team for their passion and care. Listening to our concerns, often shared laced with anger and/or tears, can’t be easy but your support and guidance means more than I could ever say. So thanks to all of our lawyers and most especially Mitch, Andrea and Dick. You are more than our lawyers now, you are our friends and soldiers in our fight for what is just.

I look forward to our first day in court and celebrating this historic step while celebrating a historic Earth Day milestone at the same time. Just poetic in every way.

The Ancient Reefs of Texas & New Mexico

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I’m just back from another amazing scientific expedition with my colleagues and friends at the University of Miami. We spent a week in the field studying ancient reefs from the Paleozoic era (542 – 251 million years ago) in West Texas and New Mexico. It was an amazing learning experience filled with fantastic adventures to the El Capitan formation, McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Lincoln National Forest, White Sands National Park, Tularosa and Alamogordo.

My professor and longtime friend, climate and geologic scientist extraordinaire, Dr. Hal Wanless once told me that if I planned on being a scientist, it’s a good idea to start with earth science. Dr. Wanless is a wonderful teacher and an even better friend, it’s not too long ago that he was named one of Politico’s 50 Most Influential People (along with another friend of mine, Dr. Phil Stoddard). I remember reading a Rolling Stone magazine article about climate change five or six years ago that featured Dr. Wanless, calling him “Dr. Doom” over his grave predictions of what South Florida might become in a world of climate change and rising sea levels. Not only has he had a massive impact on my interest in our climate change crisis, but I can’t deny that he has also had an influence in my electing to select Geology as my second major. I sure am glad that he did.

My most recent expedition was led by the equally wonderful Dr. Jim Klaus, Dr. Don McNeill, and Dr. Alex Humphreys. As you will see from the pictures and video that I’m sharing, we had an amazing time. Whether admiring the El Capitan formation from a distance; hiking five miles through Guadalupe Mountains National Park while studying all sorts of carbonate formations; exploring the depths, stalagmites, stalactites, and columns of Carlsbad Caverns National Park; admiring the radiant sunset at White Sands National Park, extremely soft sand completely made of gypsum; or avoiding rattle snakes on voyages to summit mud mounds, the trip was an absolute blast.

Please enjoy the pictures (and video) below for just a small glimpse into our extremely fun and highly educational week.

El Capitan Formation, Texas

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Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

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White Sands National Park, New Mexico

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Tularosa, New Mexico

Good News… Bad News

I am sure you’ve had someone say “I have good news and bad news for you, which would you like first?” In my case I tend to lean toward wanting to get the bad news out of the way.

Bad News.

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The Bahamas has announced that it will soon start drilling for oil off its coast by approving the Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) plans to build its first deep water well. BPC predicts that it hopes to harvest at least  2 billion barrels of oil. The first well, named Perseverance # 1, will be located about 100 miles from Andros Island and 150 miles from South Florida. It’s been reported that BPC has five licenses for offshore drilling over about 4 million acres, one of which is about 50 miles from Miami. How anyone thinks this is a good idea (other than the oil company and those that have paid or been paid off), I can’t imagine but it’s really, really bad news.

Last year Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas and caused over $3 billion in damage while killing 67 people. Scientists predict that as our climate continues to warm we should expect an increase in the number and intensity of such storms so it seems to me that building oil drilling rigs right in the middle of the most prolific hurricane zone on earth is a really bad idea. It’s a bad idea given the environmental catastrophe an oil spill can cause (anyone remember the Deepwater Horizon spill from 2016?).

And it seems to me that it’s a really bad idea for an island nation that is at risk of extinction in a world of rising seas. How in the world could the Bahamian government, no matter how much money they might reap, add to the very problem that threatens them? If that’s not stupid, I don’t know what is. Tragically stupid.

Good News.

Bravo to Virginia lawmakers for passing what is being called a “historic step towards addressing climate change”.  Virginia’s state senate, led by a newly elected Democratic majority, passed the Virginia Clean Economy Act, a law that plans to get that state to 100% clean electricity and zero carbon emissions by 2045.

The new law intends to dramatically expand on and offshore wind generation, solar power use, and battery storage technology while also creating thousands of jobs. The law also intends to demand that regulated utilities, including the state’s largest provider Dominion Energy, meet aggressive efficiency requirements, set annual goals for the use of renewable power, and remove historic roadblocks to rooftop and shared solar energy. You can read more about the new law here and here.

So how about it Governor DeSantis? What do you say the State of Florida stops protecting FP&L and other regulated power companies from controlling solar and we create a law like Virginia’s along with the added enhancement that we begin eliminating (outlawing) fossil fuel use? The Sunshine State sure could use leadership like what’s happening in Virginia and having such steps take place here in Florida would be some very good news indeed.

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