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As Sea Levels Rise, Cities Must Build Climate Ready Infrastructure
By Alexis K. Segal
On Tuesday Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper (BBWK) submitted comments on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Miami-Dade County’s Consent Decree outlining the $1.6 billion dollar plan to start repairing Miami-Dade’s sewage infrastructure without accounting for the impacts to the system resulting from sea level rise, erosion and storm surge.
Despite articulated policies by the EPA, the Obama Administration and Miami-Dade County for a strong commitment to climate change adaptation and resilient critical infrastructure, the EPA and Miami-Dade decided to move forward with a zero sea level rise consent decree, lodged on June 6, in federal court pursuant to the EPA’s enforcement action against Miami-Dade for long standing violations of the Clean Water Act.
On May 14, BBWK won a hearing and was granted intervenor status, becoming a party in the EPA's enforcement case against Miami-Dade.
BBWK has been closely tracking the frequent sewage spills around the county since 2011, but Miami-Dade has been plagued with this issue for decades. The current settlement agreement will replace the governing decree lodged in 1994 and 1995, stemming from an earlier Clean Water Act enforcement case also related to sewage spills. Pursuant to that case, Miami-Dade received the largest civil penalties at the time for their violations. Although the former consent decree addressed many of the issues in the infrastructure—and Miami-Dade has been in compliance with those terms—it only accounts for one piece of the whole system. The Water and Sewer Department has been underfunded for years, and the sewage infrastructure system was described by a department manager as “held together by chewing gum.”
Joined by many local municipalities, advocates and national groups, BBWK lobbied hard for changes to the decree for months, providing multiple expert reports, practical solutions and specific suggestions to dramatically improve the draft consent decree before passage by the Miami-Dade County Commission.
Reports by Miami-Dade’s Water and Sewer Department approximate 12 billion is needed for total repair costs over the next 15 years, with approximately 1 billion for repairs that must be addressed immediately. The 1.6 billion dollar consent decree is slated to rebuild and repair significant aspects of the system, including the decrepit central wastewater treatment plant located on Virginia Key, a barrier island in Biscayne Bay.
The ongoing viability of Miami-Dade County depends on resilient critical infrastructure that will withstand foreseeable storm incidents, rising seas and population growth and will set an example for similar opportunities around the country. The strength of federal and local policies on climate adaptation will be determined by their application to the situations like the sewer system rebuild in Miami-Dade County.
The time is now for all stakeholders, near and far, to call for a safe and secure future and demand climate resilient infrastructure in Miami-Dade county. The world just witnessed the recent catastrophic devastation of Hurricane Sandy. We must make smart, thoughtful decisions to plan for the future.
Now, since local and federal leaders have turned their backs, it will be up to a federal judge to decide how to proceed. We need climate-ready infrastructure. Let us, as a nation, make the decision to invest in prevention and not waste billions more in future repairs or preventable cleanups; let us spend our money wisely; let us prepare for continued growth sustainably; let us have a long-term vision of our future.
The comment period ends August 11, so there is still time to get your voice heard. BBWK’s comment letter was accompanied by 28 exhibits. You can make a big difference in the final outcome of this situation.
Visit EcoWatch’s WATER page for more related news on this topic.
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‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.
"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."