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Fired Up Freshwoman Tells the Florida Municipal Electric Association to SAY NO to Nukes in Florida

Submitted by Meghan Ryan, entering Freshperson at University of Central Florida:

Ever since Power Shift in February, it seems like I get daily reminders to do something about the environment, to get involved, and to get out of my comfort zone already! When I saw a posted opportunity for Lake Worth residents to get out there and be heard on nuclear issues, I knew I finally needed to get my act together and hit the ground running. I replyed to the post, and got more details about the meeting. Even though I showed interest in making a statement, I was secretly very nervous and very excited for the opportunity! Over the past week, I researched Nuclear power and related arguments so I could write a proper comment that would be effective and would relate to the board members of the Florida Municipal Energy Authority. With support from SEN and guidance on everything from what points to hit on and what to wear, I was ready to go!

The night before, I read over my comment, tweaked it, and finally put it away at midnight so I could get some sleep. I woke up at 8 in the morning to look over my comment one more time, print it out, eat some breakfast, and head up to the PGA Resort where the meeting was being held. I got there a few minutes early and, as I walked up to the ballroom, read my comment out loud again. A valet guy noticed and made a comment that made me laugh, so my nerves eased up a bit.

Within moments of entering the ballroom, I met Panagioti, an Earth First! activist from Lake Worth, as well as Cara Jennings, a Lake Worth City Council Member. Then three more girls from the Earth First Organization arrived. We all represented different interests, but were all speaking out against Nuclear power in Florida. I think it looks good that many people, young and old, activists and decision makers, are concerned about what is going on with Nuclear.

Some final edits to my comment and it was finally time for the meeting to start. Right before it was my turn to speak I was so nervous, but I knew I had to bite the bullet and get up there and speak about something I care about.

“Over the next two months, I encourage you all to do the responsible thing, and reseach Nuclear power, and the alternatives. You all here today have the power to do something great by Saying No to Nukes. The future of my generation and our potential to cut greenhouse gas emissions lies in your vote against building new nuclear plants. We need to make way for green renewable energy solutions and I think you all are going to be the people to do something about it. It starts today, so please go home and do your research, learn about the alternatives, and Say No to Nukes! “

Once I was done speaking, I sat down and started thinking, “This is just the beginning.” I’m so excited to move up to Orlando and attend UCF! Go Knights! But I am also excited to get very involved and do more with the issue of the new nuclear reactors proposed in Florida. I’m also excited to get the word out to my friends and whoever I happen to meet about how vital it is to be aware of the environmental movement and to get on board! I hope more people who are nervous about getting involved just jump in there and get excited, get pumped, do whatever you have to do, and get involved! I had so much fun and I can’t wait for what the future has planned for me!

For more information, see the Florida Municipal Electric Association
Also, see Regress Energy to get the facts on rate increases in Florida.
Want more on Levy County and Progress Energy? Levy County Fact Sheet

July 20, 2009 at 8:04 pm 2 comments

Florida Student Association is Going Green

During the last week of June, the Florida Student Association (FSA) met to plan for their legislative and campus priorities for the upcoming 2009-10 school year. The FSA is comprised of Student Government Presidents and Executive Officers from the 11 universities in the System of Florida.

They met in Orlando for a 3-day planning and strategy meeting, interspersed with educational presentations on topics relevant to students in Florida. These topics included the Bright Futures Scholarship, Student Health Insurance, and Student Representation on Student Fees Committees. Organizers for the meeting invited Southern Energy Network to address the Green Fee and to facilitate a conversation on how to move forward. Earlier this year, in January, the FSA Board of Directors voted to support the Green Fee campaign in Florida. With 8 out of 11 University System schools engaged in some level of the campaign, gaining the support of the state-wide student government association was a celebrated victory for students. Despite intense lobbying efforts from students and the FSA, the legislation that would enable implementation of the fee at schools with approval of the measure stalled out in the 3rd Committee.

I had the opportunity to network with student government from around the state, and met amazing student leaders! Students at Florida International University and Florida A&M University had a keen interest in the Green Fee and other ways their university might increase its efficiency and improve its environmental friendliness. Students at University of North Florida wanted to know how to get their student body engaged on the issues, while University of South Florida wanted to know how to focus the energy of their active campus groups.

During the hour-long breakout session that focused on taking action in the University System, representatives from 6 schools were present and actively engaged on discussion on the history and future of the Green Fee. They asked challenging questions and had some great ideas on how to move forward on the campaign. We also discussed other key energy related legislation, such as the Renewable Portfolio Standard.

Although the Green Fee did not make it onto the larger legislative agenda at this meeting, the Chair of the Legislative Committee, Stephen Mortellaro, has been working on the campaign for over 2 years at University of Central Florida. He considers it a worthy issue that deserves attention from the Association. With the next legislative session 6 months away, we have time to reinvigorate the campus campaigns before we take it back to the Senate!

Stay tuned for more exciting updates as this campaign continues !

For more information on the Florida Student Association, visit their website.

July 16, 2009 at 2:58 pm Leave a comment

From Florida to France, New Nuclear Shouldn’t Have a Chance!

Southern Energy Network represented at the Institute for Environmental Energy Research Carbon Free Nuclear Free workshop last week in Washington, DC. Jessica Burris, one of our interning volunteers, and I spent 5 days learning all sorts of technical information about nuclear energy. We covered a broad range of topics, everything from reprocessing and uranium enrichment to nuclear disarmament. We held strategy sessions to further the Carbon Free Nuclear Free campaign, and then we all had the opportunity to make a presentation to the panel of scientists that work at the Institute. We also heard from experts (from France even!) about why nuclear in France isn’t the love affair we understand it to be.

Jessica and I worked together on a presentation that begins the initial research phases of a larger project that will become her Master’s thesis. She is looking at the Environmental Justice implications of nuclear energy in Florida. Our initial findings were that the existing nuclear reactors in Florida, as well as the new reactor proposals, are all located in communities that have a combination of the following characteristics: well below the average median income for the state, majority minority, well over median age, and very high unemployment. Other characteristics of the areas in which these reactors exist or are proposed: high rates of asthma, high infant mortality, high cancer rates, high percentages of Spanish language homes, and low rates of high school or equivalency attainment. Although we had to revisit some of the science that supported our initial conclusions, our overarching and supported conclusion was that the communities that have nuclear reactors in their backyard are full of people that already have a lot of socio-economic factors to contend with in their daily survival, and that the additional burden on their health and environment is a serious environmental racism and justice issue.

If you are still undecided about nuclear energy, here are some things to consider:

**Nuclear reactors produce tons of spent fuel, which is high-level radioactive waste that is harmful to all life for over 10,000 years.
**There is currently no long-term storage for all of this waste.
**Nuclear reactors also produce tons of low-level waste that creates another “safe storage” problem.
**Nuclear reactors are VERY THRISTY. In a world with increasing water shortages, we need less water intensive alternatives.
**Nuclear energy is risky business. Wall Street won’t invest in it, why should you? Many states, including Florida, are passing the capital costs onto you with “Early Cost Recovery” and “Construction Work in Progress” rate-increases on your energy bill. See Regress Energy for more information on how this is playing out in Florida.
**Thermal discharge from reactors endangers surrounding marine eco-systems.

For more on the science behind this madness, check out www.ieer.org

The Southeast currently has 13 new nuclear reactor proposals. There are a number of local, state, regional, and national groups getting organized to keep these expensive, risky, water intensive, dangerous energy sources out of our communities. Here are some organizations that you can plug into to take action:

Southern Energy Network–We are looking to build a team of passionate youth to organize our region out of risky nuclear and into renewables! Contact mandy@climateaction.net for more information.
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
Institute for Environmental and Energy Research

June 28, 2009 at 6:11 pm 1 comment

Florida Green Fee: Legislation Fizzled, But Campus Campaigns Still Sizzle!

The Green Fee campaign in Florida has already seen so much activity this year! The statewide coalition of schools worked closely with Florida Senator Lee Constantine’s office to present a Renewable Energy Fund Bill in the Florida House and Senate. The bill would have provided the necessary legislation for universities in the state system to implement the Green Fee. Florida and Texas are two of the only states that require students to navigate the legislative process in their quest to create funds to increase sustainability on their campuses. For more info and a nice blog hit for the campaign, see this: New York Times Blog Hit for Florida Green Fee!

The legislation flew through the first two committees, and met strong adversity in the third Higher Education Appropriations Committee. This committee is chaired by Senator Evelyn Lynn, who refused to place it on the agenda, but admitted on the floor that her office had fielded “40 or more calls per day” in support of the Fee. She used our display of Green Fee support as a testament to her overall disapproval for raising student fees. Although this is commendable in the face of the economic challenges we currently face, many students feel they should be given the choice to invest in their energy future to support a green economy. Most would be paying less that $20 per year, and with the current maximum being set at $1 per credit hour, the most a student would pay is $30 per year. A minimal investment considering the current peril of our climate and energy security!

So, what now? Well, all of this excitement has stirred up new campus campaigns and reinvigorated old ones! We are going to have a meeting sometime around August to flesh the plans out, but it looks like we are going to redirect our energies back onto the campus campaigns. Having other campuses join University of Florida and New College as leading institutions advocating for the students will increase the pressure on the state legislature to give the students and their universities what they demand: A Green Fee to Support a Green Future in Florida!

For more information, check out: www.floridagreenfee.com

or, contact mandy@climateaction.net

May 20, 2009 at 5:15 pm Leave a comment

FL YOUTH DEMAND TO BE HEARD! “Give us the Green Fee!!”

Many of you know that students in the University System of Florida have been rocking the Green Fee campaign all over! In fact, 10 out of the 11 universities in the state system are actively planning and campaigning to get the Fee on their campus. 5 schools have already passed student referenda in support of the Fee. This year, they took it to the state, working with Senator Lee Constantine to present the Fee in the form of and amendment to Senate Bill 1996. Following the Bill to the floor, students from 5 universities attended the original committee meeting, where it passed 3 to 1 with one absent. They were again present at the next committee meeting where the bill passed unanimously.

Late last night, we got the word that the Renewable Energy Fund amendment, along with Florida Senate Bill 1996 was stalling at the Higher Education Appropriations Committee. This committee is chaired by Senator Evelyn Lynn, who opposes the fee, which would allow schools that have approved the fee to implement it. It is not mandatory. The students are asking for it. It is their money!

If it passed, it would allow University of Florida to implement a mere 50 cent per credit hour fee, which would generate nearly $800,000 to be used to increase efficiency and invest in renewable energy. New College of Florida would also be able to implement the $1 per credit hour fee that their students and administration approved, which is the maximum that would be allowed under the legislation.

Please take time to show your support of the Green Fee in Florida! Send the email below, or your version of it, ask your friends to do the same! Help us make it viral! Link this in your Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere!

For more info on the history of this campaign, check out the Florida Green Fee Coalition.

Questions? mandy@climateaction.net

Dear Senator Lynn,

I, _______________________________, am a student strongly in support of the Green Fee currently being proposed for public universities across the state of Florida. Myself, as well as students at five other public universities within Florida, voted in support of referendums on our campuses dealing with funding for the Green Fee. Along with student backing from the remaining Florida institutions, the campaign has grown to all the public universities in the state over the past 2 years. The Florida Student Association has also endorsed the passage of this legislation. Students are not only willing, but eager to contribute financially to sustainability efforts on their own respective campuses.

With Earth Day quickly approaching, supporting SB 1996 would be an incredible effort in the fight against global climate change. With your support and this groundbreaking legislation, Florida will have the opportunity to be a leader in sustainability efforts on campuses across the country. Please support the concerns of university students in Florida by making every effort to see that the Green Fee becomes a reality.

Sincerely,
[name]

April 17, 2009 at 6:15 pm Leave a comment

Florida Green Fee Goes to Senate!

Hi, all! Things have been moving and shaking down in Florida these last two weeks, and while we may not be overjoyed at nuclear being included in the Clean Energy Standard that the House passed yesterday (more on that coming soon!), let us temper that with some good news about the Green Fee!

As many of you know, the Green Fee is a campaign that SEN has been involved with on campuses all over the Southeast for over 2 years. In FL, we have stepped those campus campaigns up a notch and taken it to the state level with the Renewable Energy Fee Bill that is being presented during this legislative session.

And, we have good news!!

Monday, it was confirmed that the bill was going to make it to the floor on Wednesday, so Zak Keith, Florida Green Fee Coordinator extraordinaire, worked quickly to organize a lobby day. Tuesday evening (March 24), several students, representing University of FL, University of Central FL, University of South FL, and Florida State University, went to Tally to lobby for the bill on Wednesday. Also, to our advantage, this coincided with University of Central’s student government lobby day. So, a contingent of that delegation of students lobbied on the Green Fee, as well as other issues that concerning their student population.

On March 25, 2009, the FL Senate’s Higher Education Committee unanimously approved the Bill with the “Green Fee” Amendment! Lee Constantine is a champion of the Bill (now amendment) and has worked closely with students to refine it and find an appropriate Bill to attach the amendment to. Of course, the Bill still has Committees to travel through and the Senate to contend with, but we are off to a good start. Unfortunately, the House Bill that the Fee was supposed to be amended to did not get introduced. I will update as soon as I know more on that front.

Also, there has been quite a bit of media attention to this. There has been some unfortunate messaging from some reporters, with emphasis being placed on statements like “could cost full time students up to $150 per year” when no school has even come close to passing anything more than $1 per credit hour (which would be closer to $30 per year for full time students). Of course, this is an unfortunate spin, so we’ll have to make sure that folks understand that $150 per year is unlikely, and that the fee will be nominal for many students. Also, that for those that cannot afford to pay increased fees, they will be able to “opt out” just as they do their other student fees. Certainly, no one is interested in this fee becoming prohibitive to those that are not financially privileged!

I know many of you have worked on this campaign for a long time and are excited to hear this news. I look forward to hearing more of your experiences!

Here is a link to the Bill:
Bill

You can check out some of the media here:

Blog Media

AASHE Interview with Zak Keith

TV Media

Happy campaigning and, as always, hit me up if you have ideas, questions, or news!
mandy@climateaction.net

April 1, 2009 at 5:46 pm 2 comments

Tales from Florida on Power Shift #1

~Youth for Power Shift~Noel LaPlume at Power Shift rally
Submitted by Noel LaPlume
Student at Miami Dade Community College in Florida

From the moment our group of 11 people from Miami, FL set foot on the pleasantly cold city of Washington, D.C. we were afflicted by the excitement that penetrated the air. Apparently it was a widespread epidemic, with over 12,000 young people from all over the states convened together for a long weekend with one sole purpose in mind- to rock the House for Power Shift ’09. On Friday night we kicked-off the convention with a series of motivational speakers which were nothing short of excellent, followed by a series of workshops and two great concerts that left us in a sensationally groovy mood.

By the time Monday rolled around, the adrenaline was kicking in to our system as we entered the Congressional House to meet with our Representatives. This turned out being fun rather than stressful since they tended to be inclined to listen to our inspirational voices demanding change- one that would turn our fossilized fossil fuel system to an updated one fueled by alternative energy. They understood. Each and every voice expressed the desperate need to fix the pool of mistakes we have been swimming in for such a long time. Representative Kendrick Meek understood the urgency of the message we were trying to convey to him – it is no longer acceptable to keep swimming idly because precious time is being wasted while millions of ecosystems are suffering from it. Rep. Meek started telling us of strategies we could use to further work in our local town. On the other hand, not every representative in the House and Senate has the ability to see the benefits of investing in this, most are brutally short-sighted and can’t see beyond the end of their own agenda. For this reason, we rallied in front of Capitol Hill amongst thousand of our fellow comrades, where we chanted for a better, cleaner and safer future. Then, many of us continued on to march toward a coal power plant located just a few blocks away from the Capitol. Believe it or not; there we assembled strong and united and carried on our support for a sustainable earth by blocking the entrances to the dirty plant. We endured cold temperatures with inadequate protective clothes for snow, and became very ill because of it, but I know that there are many more hardships to come and I welcome them with glee, for protecting The Earth is the greatest challenge and greatest satisfaction any one person can every experience and so we must keep going strong until we prove them wrong.

Now back home, preparations have begun to spread the good news and experience gained at the capital. The goal is that all 12,000 of us, together but separate, work locally to produce a massive Power Shift in both infrastructure and general philosophy. I’m so excited. Are you? Don’t fret, we’re in this together. Get ready, set, GO !

March 11, 2009 at 3:01 pm Leave a comment

VICTORY! YOU DID IT!

From Nuclear Information and Resource Service:
(**side note from Mandy: Florida had the highest number of letters and emails of any other state….THANK YOU!!)

Late last night, we got word that the $50 Billion in taxpayer loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors and “clean coal” plants has been stripped from the final economic stimulus bill!
Your actions made a huge difference.
To recap, you:
*sent more than 7,600 letters to your Senators in one week
*sent more than 3,000 letters to your Representatives in the House in three days
*sent more than 1100 letters to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid just yesterday afternoon (unfortunately, most letters to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were blocked; we’ll work on that problem with our Congressional database service).
*made thousands of phone calls to your Senators and Representatives
*brought needed attention to the issue through your blogs, letters to the editor, your Facebook and Myspace pages, and much more.

The final bill should be voted on in the House later today, and in the Senate probably tomorrow. The final bill almost certainly will pass, and there will be no amendments on this final bill, so the taxpayer money for the dirty and dangerous nuclear/coal industry will stay out of the bill.

Take a moment to celebrate today!

But make no mistake: the nuclear industry and its Congressional backers will try again, and sooner rather than later. Two days ago, for example, they began a new push to have nuclear power declared a “renewable” energy source in Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman’s (D-NM) upcoming Renewable Portfolio Standard bill, which is intended to increase renewable energy production in the U.S. (although first indications are that the bill is much weaker than it should be). This is likely to become a major issue in March.

And there will be new efforts to set up a federal “clean energy bank” to finance nuclear reactors with taxpayer dollars in the coming weeks and months.

In other words, we’ll have to stay vigilant and active, and continue growing this movement if we are to attain the safe, clean, nuclear-free, carbon-free energy future our nation and planet needs.

You have now proven your effectiveness, but we can and must do even more. President Obama’s campaign was successful in large part because of the support of a constantly growing number of ordinary people, taking action and making small donations, that built into an enormous political force. We are taking the same approach: in the past three months, NIRS contact lists have grown by more than one-third–a key element of today’s success. Let’s continue building this movement!

Please make a small donation on our secure servers so we can continue our outreach and build on this success. Your support is gratefully appreciated and every penny is used as wisely as possible.

And from all of us at NIRS: THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO!!!!

Michael Mariotte
Executive Director
Nuclear Information and Resource Service

February 12, 2009 at 4:35 pm Leave a comment

::The Green Fee Toolkit Unveiled::

Southern Energy Network is happy to announce the release of the Green Fee Toolkit! It has been a long time coming, but, finally, SEN staff have put the final edits in and Alex Abell has put on the final design touches.

This Green Fee Toolkit will be a valuable resource to those interested in learning more about the Green Fee Campaign, how to run effective Green Fee campaigns, and the successes and challenges of other youth who have run the campaign on their campus.

Aside from providing insight into the Green Fee campaign, this toolkit can provide structure to other campaigns as well. Although framed within the context of a specific campaign, it provides basic insight into campaign planning and can be applied to all sorts of campaigns on campus and within the community!

As one of the editors of the toolkit, I am excited and proud to present the SEN Green Fee Toolkit! Check it and get with your state organizer for more information!

Tennessee: Reggie@cleanenergy.org
North Carolina: Russ@climateaction.net
Georgia/South Carolina: Imran@climateaction.net
Florida: Mandy@climateaction.net

February 12, 2009 at 5:28 am Leave a comment

FSA says A-OK

Submitted by Zak Keith, Florida Green Fee Coordinator

Another success for the green fee mission, the Florida Student Association endorsed the campaign! The FSA is an organization of all the student government presidents of the state university system along with other Student Government senate members. They represent student interests statewide, and have a seat on the Florida Board of Governors.

On January 16th, students from UCF and state organizers made the journey down to Ft. Meyers to give their presentation. With budget shortfalls and the usual gut reaction against student fees, gaining the FSA’s support proved to be a worthy challenge. The green fee team made their presentation and helped planted the seed for approval from other student government members. At the end of the day, the Board of Directors of the FSA made their decision to promote the statewide effort for the green fee!

With this new found endorsement, the campaign expects to push hard in February to shore up final support from state and campus leaders leading into the March legislative session. Stay updated with the green fee by getting in touch with the Florida Green Fee Coordinator or checking the Coalition’s website.
www.floridagreenfee.com

January 27, 2009 at 11:25 pm Leave a comment

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