West Palm mayor: Climate accord withdrawal ‘downright troubling’


West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — who recently chaired a Senate subcommittee hearing in West Palm on sea level change — raised their voices against President Trump’s decision Thursday to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.

Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alexander Acosta, who Trump recently appointed U.S. Labor Secretary, supported the President’s decision.

Said Muoio:
“The announcement that the U.S. is withdrawing from the historic Paris Climate Accord is more than a disappointment. It is downright troubling. This move signals that the U.S. will no longer be a leader on climate change and rolls back the commitments made to protect South Florida and the world from the harmful effects of CO2 emissions that lead to climate change. The City of West Palm Beach will continue to move forward as a model of resilience. We will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.”

Muoio, along with the city’s Office of Sustainability, has been a strong supporter of city measures to address climate change and sea level rise.

A release from the Mayor’s office noted that, in anticipation of the White House announcement, she:

  • Signed a joint letter by the Global Covenant of Mayors in support of climate change action.
  • Signed a joint letter by Climate Mayors to the UNFCC in support of climate change action.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, in April chaired a two-hour-long hearing in West Palm Beach city hall of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, of which he is ranking member. Nelson introduced the hearing by noting that, with 1,200 miles of coastline, and three-quarters of its residents living near its coasts, Florida is more vulnerable than any other state in the continental U.S. to rising sea levels already causing increasingly frequent flooding.

On Thursday Nelson decried on the President’s decision to withdraw from the climate agreement:

“This is a huge mistake. Sea-level rise caused by the Earth heating up is a real threat to Florida. If the U.S. isn’t going to do its part to combat climate change, then the rest of the world won’t do theirs and millions of Floridians living along the coast will be at risk.”

Congresswoman Lois Frankel, former mayor of West Palm Beach, echoed those sentiments:

“Leaving the Paris Climate Agreement is both dumb and dangerous. Americans should lead the way in the mission to reduce our carbon footprint and protect our planet for future generations. Abandoning this agreement ignores the fact that an overwhelming number of scientists believe that human beings are significant contributors to global warming, a condition that will negatively affect our health, economy, and national security.

“Rejection of the Paris Agreement puts us at odds with and sends a message of contempt to the nearly 200 countries that signed the treaty. It also puts the United States at a disadvantage in the race to produce green technology and the millions of American jobs that would come with it. I am hopeful that our local and state governments, businesses large and small, and individual citizens of good conscience will rebuke this ill-advised action by President Trump with their own efforts to meet what many call the greatest challenge facing human survival,” Frankel said.

Standing with Trump was U.S. Secretary of Labor Acosta, who said he and the president are committed to supporting policies that grow jobs and stimulate the economy.

“The United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate accord is this administration’s bold commitment to promoting pro-growth principles and rebuilding America’s manufacturing base, which was under siege by the Paris accord,” Acosta said in a prepared statement. “The U.S. Department of Labor remains laser focused on ensuring all Americans have access to good, safe jobs and will continue standing arm-in-arm with the American worker.”


Boost for pollution-fixing Everglades protection plan


Kimberly Mitchell

The Everglades Trust is hailing as a major victory the Florida House passage Tuesday of  Senate President Joe Negron’s plan for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to filter and feed water to the parched River of Grass.

The House passed the plan 99-19, following in the Senate’s footsteps.

“With the passage of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan’s reservoir, which was approved and authorized by Congress in 2000, the legislature advances to the Governor the long-awaited and urgently-needed Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir legislation for his signature,” the nonprofit, led by former West Palm Beach Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell, said in a statement released this afternoon. “Today marks the most significant victory for Everglades restoration in more than two decades.”

“This is a very big day,” Mitchell said.

Keep Florida Fishing, advocates for the American Sportfishing Association, also hailed passage of the plan, saying it would provide money to speed creation of the reservoir to reduce fertilizer-contaminated releases to coastal estuaries.

The vote also drew praise from U.S. Sugar and Florida Sugarcane Farmers, who strongly opposed earlier versions that would have required more farmland be taken out of production to build the reservoir.

“Senate Bill 10 has been greatly improved, takes essentially no privately owned farmland and even removes the threat of eminent domain,” Judy Sanchez, Senior Director for Corporate Communications and Public Affairs for U.S. Sugar, said.

“The House deserves credit for quickly passing legislation that can provide some protection for our water resources while also protecting our farming communities and vital food production.”

She added: “U.S. Sugar always supports solutions that are based on science, which, in this case shows the source of the water significantly impacting the coastal estuaries flows from north of Lake Okeechobee, not the south.  Obviously, you’re going to have to build some solutions north of the lake to finally fix the discharge problem.  We look forward to working with legislators in the future to get that done.”

Florida Sugarcane Farmers also issued a statement praising the lawmakers for not taking private farmland out of production.

“While not perfect, Senate Bill 10 will ensure the planned reservoir is eventually completed on existing state-owned land,” the farmers group said. “Having turned the page on buying additional land south of Lake Okeechobee, the Florida Legislature in a future session can focus on plans that will address the excess water and nutrients originating north of the lake, which science shows can reduce the frequency of discharges by more than 60 percent.”

Not happy with the process was another landowners group, Everglades Agricultural Area Farmers, Inc.

“Farm families like mine were very concerned when government leaders, out of the blue, announced a plan to take our private land without even speaking to us,” member Keith Wedgworth said.

“Fortunately, they ignored an ill-intentioned, flawed plan championed by the anti-farmer Everglades Foundation and rewrote Senate Bill 10 to protect our private property,” he said. “We urge the Legislature to now focus on plans that will actually tackle water problems at their source, which is the only way to reduce discharges, clean pollution and avoid future algae blooms in the estuaries.”


Sustaining the effort for West Palm’s sustainability

Talking sustainability strategy. From left: Retired teacher Jacquelyn Taylor; Mayor Jeri Muoio;  Kevin Vollbrecht, director, engineering services; Jon Ward, executive director Community Redevelopment Agency; Scott Kelly, assistant city administrator; Liz Perez, president of Collective Water Consulting engineering firm.

On the heels of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s West Palm Beach hearing Monday on sea-level rise and climate change, the city conducted a workshop Tuesday aimed at getting staff and residents focused on sustainability.

The event in the Lakefront Pavilion was conducted as part of the National League of Cities’ Leadership in Community Resilience Program, a pilot effort to bring 10 cities together to share experiences and advance efforts to counter the impacts of climate change.

Idea boards. Among other questions, participants were asked: “When you think about transportation in West Palm Beach, what are the first three words, images or phrases that come to mind?”

West Palm has been working on a number of fronts to respond to climate change, from increasing its tree canopy to shifting its fleet of cars and trucks to alternate fuels, and encouraging mass transit, bike riding and walking as alternatives to cars.

SkyBike stands have been set up downtown, part of the city’s effort to encourage riding and walking.

Climate Leadership Summit coming to West Palm Beach

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Palm Beach County and West Palm Beach are hosting the 8th Annual Regional Climate Leadership Summit, Oct. 5-6.

The summit, at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, 650 Okeechobee Blvd., provides a forum for climate dialog and knowledge-sharing.

The theme is Resilient Communities – Prosperous Region, with a focus on business, agriculture, government, and residents. The event will show what’s being done and what can be done to ensure that adaptation strategies respect both economic vitality and environmental sustainability.


Details on the summit, the program and registration are available at www.ClimateLeadershipSummit.com and for more information about the Compact visit www.SoutheastFloridaClimateCompact.org.