Coral Gables Styrofoam Ban Blocked by Florida Appeals Court

Biltmore Hotel Miami, Coral Gables (photo credit: Pixabay)

In February 2016, the City of Coral Gables, in Miami-Dade, approved an ordinance to prohibit the sale and use of expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam). The city was then promptly sued by the Florida Retail Federation, a powerful lobbying group that represents Publix, Target, Walmart, and other large retailers.

At the same time, Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature passed HB 7007 into law (F.S. 500.90) forbidding any Florida municipality from enacting local ordinances banning expanded polystyrene. Signed by Rick Scott (R) on March 16, 2016, the law was made retroactive to January 1, 2016.

A year later, on February 27, 2017, Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Jorge Cueto ruled in favor of Coral Gables. Last week, a three-judge panel of Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeal over-turned Cueto’s ruling.

The case focused heavily on a wide-ranging Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services bill that state lawmakers passed in March 2016. The bill barred local governments from regulating food-related polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, containers and made that prohibition retroactive to any local ordinances passed after Jan. 1, 2016.

CBS Miami, “Florida Appeals Court Blocks Coral Gables Styrofoam Ban“, August 14, 2019

In Florida Retail Federation’s original July 18, 2016 press release, then President/CEO Randy Miller misleadingly said, “The City of Coral Gables is another example of a local government believing that the laws of the State of Florida don’t apply to them in spite of the fact that the Florida Legislature passed a law this session that preempted municipalities from passing a local ordinance banning the use of polystyrene.” To be clear, Florida Legislature passed their law more than a month AFTER Coral Gables passed their ordinance.

Miller further claimed: “…implementing a patchwork of different ordinances like this, which could change from street to street or block to block, is not only confusing to customers but also difficult for retailers.” This, of course, ignores the fact that the very same legislation allows other municipalities to retain their polystyrene bans.

Miami Beach was the first community in Florida to pass a local ordinance and in 2014 banned Styrofoam products on beaches and in parks and sidewalk cafes. It has since expanded that ordinance to apply to all foam containers, except for those used with raw meat.

According to the Surfrider Foundation, Bal Harbour, Bay Harbor Islands, Hollywood Key Biscayne, North Bay Village and Surfside have also adopted some restrictions on polystyrene products in Florida.

Miami Herald, Legislature advances bill to prevent local regulation of Styrofoam trash, March 8, 2016

Meanwhile, Surfside is rescinding its new ban of single-use plastics after receiving threats of lawsuits from Florida Retail Federation, the same group that sued the City of Coral Gables.

The bottom line is that neither the Florida Retail Federation, nor our Republican-controlled Florida State government, seem to care about Florida’s environment. This seems particularly short-sighted for a state so reliant on tourism.

Plans to Protect

Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man.

Stewart Udall

August 29: Resiliency Through Landscape Design in Public Spaces

Join USGBC Miami and leading industry professionals as we explore how resilient landscape architecture can be an effective tool to mitigate impacts of more frequent tidal flooding, coastal erosion, and stronger hurricanes. Learn what local designers, city officials, and organizations are doing to manage our climate adaptation strategies and to improve our local blue-green infrastructure by building with nature.

PANELISTS

  • Susanne Torriente, Chief Resiliency Officer, City of Miami Beach
  • Marta Viciedo, CEO & Co-Founder, Urban Impact Lab
  • Christopher Counts, Principal, Perkins & Will

WHEN

Thursday, August 29, 2019 from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM (EDT)

WHERE

Miami Design District, Palm Court Event Space, 140 NE 39th Street (3rd Floor), Miami, FL 33137

COST

  • USGBC Florida Members: Free
  • Non-Members: $15
  • Partners: Free with promo code

SPONSORS

  • Perkins and Will
  • Witkin Hults Design Group
  • Miami Design District

Ron Magill: Changes to the Endangered Species Act are Driven by Human Greed

Ron Magill is an internationally known advocate for wildlife, and a locally beloved fixture at ZooMiami. Yesterday, an article he authored appeared in the Miami Community Newspaper, and it is a “must read” for anyone who cares about our environment.

The Gutting of the Endangered Species Act

Ron Magill with a baby elephant
Ron Magill in Kenya at an Elephant Orphanage

Recently, the United Nations, a non-partisan global authority, issued a sad and sobering report stating that under the present conditions, there is a strong possibility that up to 1 million species of wildlife will become extinct within the next several decades. We are presently experiencing what is officially called the “Anthropocene,” also known as “The Sixth Mass Extinction” which is the highest rate of extinction since the loss of the dinosaurs 45 million years ago. Yet, rather than striving to provide additional support towards preserving our world’s precious wildlife, this administration has chosen to eviscerate the Endangered Species Act, the most effective piece of legislation ever written in this country to protect our world’s precious natural treasures.

He goes on to describe how changes to Endangered Species Act regulations issued this past week will devastate protections to our wildlife. In an administration that censors scientists from even using the word “climate change”, it should be no surprise “that climate change cannot be considered as a factor when deciding if a species qualifies to be protected.” But it still feels like a punch to the gut.

The second major issue is the change that now allows governments to consider the “cost” of protecting a species. In other words, how much money is being forfeited by not being able to disturb a protected habitat to dig for oil or gas, and allowing the financial benefits of the exploitation of the land to trump the importance of protecting it for future generations. When an administration starts to put a price tag on something that is priceless, we are going down a very slippery slope.

As Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, notes: “In trying to gut Endangered Species Act, Trump administration puts profits ahead of people.” Because this isn’t just about endangered animals. It’s about an endangered planet that we all have to live on. By weakening the Endangered Species Act, Trump is trying to make it easier to use public lands & protected habitats for oil drilling and coal mining that contribute to pollution and climate change. Or as Jay Inslee put it, “this isn’t just bad for the bald eagle or the grizzly bear – it’s bad for our kids and their health.”

Ron Magill speaks for me here as well:

I am dumbfounded trying to understand how at a time when we are losing species at a rate of up to 1,000 times faster than past historical times, this administration is trying to make it easier to remove species from the protected list while making it harder to place a species on it.

August 24: Green Urban Planning & Bird-Friendly Buildings

Earn your Wings — the Audubon Ambassador Program is open to anyone 18 years and older who is curious to learn more about the environment. Our August session spotlights Smart Growth, Green Urban Planning and Bird-Friendly Buildings. Learn about South Florida’s history of development and ways you can ensure a better future for our region. Hear from members of Dover, Kohl & Partners about sustainable urban planning and Smart Growth.

  • WHEN: Saturday, August 24, 2019 from 9:30 a.m to 1:00 p.m.
  • WHERE: Tropical Audubon Society, 5530 Sunset Dr, Miami, Florida 33143

The Audubon Ambassador Program is a series of workshops and field trips designed to make you a more engaged, educated and effective advocate conservationist. Learn from leaders in their fields and become a strong advocate for the water we drink, the air we breathe and the habitat that nurtures, shelters and sustains our region’s birds and other wildlife. You’ll come away knowing more about South Florida ecosystems, environmental challenges, sea level rise and hurricane resilience issues — and, most important, practice making a difference.

Trevor Talks Trash

Recycling has become one of those “too much of a good thing” things, particularly recycling plastics.

What happened in the 1960s and ’70s wasn’t that recycling was invented, but that the reasons for it changed. Rather than recycle in order to get the most out of the materials, Americans began to recycle in order to deal with the massive amounts of waste produced during the second half of the 20th century.

Olivia B. Waxman, The History of Recycling in America Is More Complicated Than You May Think, Time magazine, November 15, 2016

With this shift, recycling programs & propaganda skyrocketed in the U.S. Now, however, countries that previously took our recyclable trash are sending it back. Here is The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah with a humorous and informative take on the problem:

And remember, it’s “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” – in that order

World Environment Day 2019

Today, China hosts the global World Environment Day celebrations with the theme: #BeatAirPollution.

Approximately 7 million people worldwide die prematurely each year from air pollution, with about 4 million of these deaths occurring in Asia-Pacific. World Environment Day 2019 will urge governments, industry, communities, and individuals to come together to explore renewable energy and green technologies, and improve air quality in cities and regions across the world.


The Government of China has committed to organizing World Environment Day celebrations across multiple cities, with Hangzhou, in the province of Zhejiang, to host the main event…


China with its growing green energy sector, has emerged as a climate leader. The country owns half the world’s electric vehicles and 99 percent of the world’s electric buses.

UNenvironment.org

An Inconvenient Truth for Miami

“Miami, in terms of assets at risk, is the number one city at risk in the entire world for sea level rise. This is a major crisis.” ~~ Vice President Al Gore in “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”