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This weekend everyone is focused on St. Patrick's Day, it falling on a Saturday makes for even more of a festive mood. Parties, both public and private are plentiful across the county.

In the next coming week, attention will be brought back to a more serious issue, Water Quality!

On Saturday March 24th, the second annual Fort Myers Beach Spring Break Wave Challenge will be held starting at noon, this year the event will be hosted by the Lani Kai and once again organized by Fear No Fin Apparel with arial video photography by LightMark Productions.

The event encourages everyone to come to the beach and come together along the shoreline and do an enormous wave to bring awareness for the importance of clean water and water conservation. Waves are very popular at sporting events and will travel around a stadium many times as organizers felt it would be an easy thing to do on the beach allowing all interested parties to show their support for keeping our coastal waters clean.

Those participating should arrive at the Lani Kai from noon to 1pm, where they can enjoy double DJs and a wealth of raffle prizes. Any donation to "Keep Lee County Beautiful" gets you entered to win a "two nights stay" at the Lani Kai.

Everyone will form a line along the shoreline behind the hotel, and continue on either side until everyone has a spot. The Wave will then start from one side to the other for about 15 minutes, with drones operated by LightMark Productions capturing the aerial action.

At 1:15 everyone will start lining up to do the wave. At promptly 1:30 Lightmark productions will start filming the wave. Immediatly after the "wave" the drawing will be held at the beach stage. You must be present to win.

I repeat, this event is to bring awareness to Water Quality and Water Conservation, over the past few months, the rain has been scant and water levels of Lake Okeechobee have remained low, so there have not been any water releases. While walking the shore these days, the water looks great.

The water quality on our beaches and surrounding bays comes under scrutiny again as we approach our rainy season. Heavy rains raise the water lever in the lake and then the Army Core of Engineers release water into the Caloosahatchee River which brings brown water to our beaches and shores sometimes causing Red Tide.

If you’re wondering what the challenge is, the promoters are putting out a challenge to other spring break destinations “Daytona, Fort Lauderdale, Gulf Shores, South Padre, South Beach, Panama City etc” to have Fear No Fin come to their beach to promote “The Wave” and see if they can do a longer wave than FMBeach, bringing more awareness to this issue. Any money raised will go towards water quality and conservation at their local beaches.

Last year the event was a great success with hundreds of participants and a wave that was over a quarter mile long. This year the hope is to double that or more! Come on out and bring a friend to support this worthy cause.

Published in News Around The Bay

Florida residents pay 6th lowest state taxes; some say burden can be still be lowered

Florida residents have the sixth lowest state tax burden in the U.S., according to a recent WalletHub report.

“Florida has the sixth lowest total tax burden at 6.79 percent mostly because the state has no income tax,” WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said. “One of the advantages is that residents here pay the third lowest total taxes at $2.385 per capita, but there’s also a notion of ‘you get what you pay for’ in terms of government services, according to our taxpayer Return On Investment report.”

Florida TaxWatch president and chief executive officer Dominic M. Calabro said the low tax burden is a plus for Florida families and businesses.

“Florida’s tax climate makes it an attractive option for families and businesses alike to move to and flourish,” Calabro said. “A lower tax burden allows businesses to create more jobs and expand, while allowing taxpayers to have more money in their pockets that can then be spent and funneled back into the economy.”

Calabro said Florida still could do more to reduce the tax burden. His organization “also called for burdensome taxes to be cut to improve our tax climate further.”

The proposed changes include reducing or eliminating the state’s business rent tax and communication services tax.

According to a briefing published by Florida TaxWatch, “Florida subjects commercial lease and license payments to the state and local sales tax and it is the only state in the nation that does so.”

As a result, Florida TaxWatch said the state government mandated an increase of up to 8 percent in occupancy costs for all business that rent property, “a cost they would not incur in any other state.”

“Florida businesses pay more than $1.7 billion a year as a result of this tax,” the briefing said.

In addition, Florida TaxWatch said renters must pay local option sales taxes, increasing the tax burden for these businesses by an estimated $230 million.

In a separate briefing, Florida TaxWatch said, although the combined state and local tax rate in the state tops out at 7.5 percent, the purchase of cell phone and other taxable communications services drives the tax rate to more than 14 percent and even in excess of 16 percent.

“Florida has one of the highest tax rates on communications services in the nation,” the briefing said.

Richard C. Auxier of the Urban Institute/Tax Policy Center, said it’s important to understand what rankings like the ones reported by WalletHub “say and what they don’t say.”

According to Auxier, Urban Institute has found that “state tax cuts do not automatically lead to economic growth.”

Auxier said “politicians certainly care about rankings like WalletHub’s, but the study only analyzed property tax, individual income tax, sales tax and excise tax.

A business considering moving its operations to Florida would want to know about other taxes such as corporate income taxes, gross receipts taxes, fees and all the taxes levied at the city or county level, he said.

In addition, he said state residents are also affected by different taxes.

“For example, Florida does not tax income,” Auxier said. “That’s great if you’re earning a lot of money. But if you’re not earning much, Florida’s no income tax is not helpful and its high sales tax is harmful, and there are states with far better tax systems for you.”

Auxier said “businesses think about a lot of things other than taxes.” He said a 2016 study ranked highway access, availability of skilled labor and cost of labor as the most important business location factors, “with tax incentives and rates ranking fifth or lower.”

Meanwhile, Auxier said individuals consider schools, commute times and other issues when deciding whether to move to a specific state or area.

“All those things – roads, workforce, schools, parks, etc. – are affected by a lot of things governments do and spend on,” Auxier said.

Auxier said some independent state tax commissions use rankings like the ones reported by WalletHub to boost their argument for cutting income taxes or corporate taxes.

Enterprise Florida communications director Nathan Edwards feels that Florida’s low state tax burden and lack of government interference in spending decisions have benefits for the state’s residents and businesses.

“Business dollars go a lot farther in Florida given the state’s tax advantages, tax exemptions and no state personal income tax,” Edwards said. “Businesses and citizens know how to spend their money better than government. Florida’s leaders recognize this and keep government out of the way.”

Carrie Salls
Watchdog.org

Published in Lee County & Florida

Air pollution in California cities is the worst in the United States, both for short-term and year-round pollution, finds new research published by the American Lung Association in its 2017 “State of the Air” report. Los Angeles, Bakersfield and Visalia topped all most-polluted lists in the report.

Each year the “State of the Air” reports on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution and particle pollution.

This 18th annual national air quality report card found that 125 million Americans, 38.9 percent, lived in counties with unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution in 2013-2015. This exposure places them at risk for premature death and other serious health problems such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardio- vascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm.

“This year’s ‘State of the Air’ report is a testament to the success of the Clean Air Act, which has reduced air pollution in much of the nation,” said Harold Wimmer, national president and chief executive of the American Lung Association. “As a result, Americans’ lung health is far better protected today than it was before the Clean Air Act health protections began nearly five decades ago.”

“However,” Wimmer said, “this report adds to the evidence that the ongoing changes in our climate make it harder to protect human health. As we move into an ever warmer climate, cleaning up these pollutants will become ever more challenging, highlighting the critical importance of protecting the Clean Air Act.”

Wimmer is feeling defensive about the Clean Air Act because President Donald Trump has issued a budget slashing by 31 percent funding for the agency responsible for administering the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Trump’s first budget has yet to be approved by the U.S. Congress, but already the EPA has rescinded what EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt called “an unjustified, premature evaluation of greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for model year 2022-2025 vehicles.”

The Trump administration is reviewing the entire Clean Air Act, and that could have a big effect on air quality in California.

California has a unique power under the Clean Air Act. At any time, the state can ask the EPA administrator for a waiver to restrict tailpipe emissions more strictly than the federal government. If its proposed rules are “at least as protective of public health and welfare” as the EPA’s, then the agency must grant the waiver.

No other state can ask for a waiver, but under the same section of the Clean Air Act, any other state can choose to adopt California’s stricter standards, and 15 state currently do so.

Not all the news in the American Lung Association’s report is bad. The analysis finds continued improvement in air quality over the 2013-2015 time period, but also finds that “a continued increase in dangerous spikes in particle pollution is putting Americans’ health at risk.”

Unhealthy particles in the air are emitted from diesel engines, wildfires, wood-burning devices and coal-fired power plants.

Known as PM2.5, these microscopic particles lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, cause lung cancer and shorten life.

The report grades both daily spikes, called short-term particle pollution, and annual average or year-round level that represents the concentration of particles day-in and day-out by location.

The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: through average annual particle pollution levels and short-term spikes in particle pollution. Both ozone and particle pollution are dangerous to public health and can be lethal.

But the trends reported in this year’s report, which covers data collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies in 2013-2015, are different for these pollutants.

The largest improvements in air quality tracked in this report result from the ongoing reduction in high ozone days and in levels of year-round particle pollution.

Steps to clean up emissions that produce these widespread pollutants have allowed many cities to reach the lowest concentrations of these pollutants since the “State of the Air” report first reported them.

By contrast, and despite these improvements, many cities hit their highest average number of days when particle levels spiked.

Many cities experienced their highest number of spikes since the monitoring for particle pollution began in 2000-2002, with 43 million people living in counties that experienced too many days when particle pollution peaked at unhealthy levels.

Increased heat, changes in climate patterns, drought and wildfires – all related to climate change – contributed to the extraordinarily high number of days with unhealthy particulate matter, the report shows.

“Even with the ongoing improvements, too many people in the United States live where the air is unhealthy for them to breathe. This is simply unacceptable,” Wimmer said. “Everyone has a fundamental right to breathe healthy air. Our nation’s leaders must do more to protect the health of all Americans.”

Short-term spikes in particle pollution increased in eight of the 10 most polluted cities in 2013-2015, including in the city ranked once again as having the worst short-term particle pollution problem, Bakersfield, California.

Situated at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, Bakersfield is the capital of Kern County, the most productive oil producing county, and the fourth most productive agricultural county, by value, in the United States.

Industries include natural gas and other energy extraction, aerospace, mining, petroleum refining, manufacturing, distribution and food processing.

 

 

Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Short-Term Particle Pollution
Bakersfield, California
Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Ca.
Fresno-Madera, California
Modesto-Merced, California
Fairbanks, Alaska
San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, Ca. Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah
Logan, Utah-Idaho
Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
Reno-Carson City-Fernley, Nv.

 

By contrast, year-round particle pollution levels have dropped across much of the nation, including in half of the 10 cities most polluted by year-round particle pollution.

While fewer people suffered from unhealthy year-round levels of particle pollution, 19.9 million people were still living with unhealthy levels in 2013-2015.

Several cities, including four among the 10 most polluted, reached their lowest levels ever.

This continued progress is due to the cleanup of coal-fired power plants and the retirement of old, dirty diesel engines, steps taken because of the Clean Air Act.

Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, California was an area where levels worsened, and it ranked as the city with the worst year-round level in 2013-2015.

Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution

Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, California

Bakersfield, California

Fresno-Madera, California

San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, Ca. Los Angeles-Long Beach, California

Modesto-Merced, California

El Centro, California

Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, Pennsylvania-Ohio-West Virginia

Cleveland-Akron-Canton, Ohio

San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, California

 

The 2017 report found that far fewer people suffered from unhealthy ozone pollution than in the 2016 report, although 116.5 million people lived in counties that earned an F for too much pollution.

Los Angeles remains the most polluted city for ozone, yet it’s one of the six of the 10 most ozone-polluted cities list that have reached their best levels yet.

This progress is due to steps taken under the Clean Air Act to clean up the emissions nationwide that create ozone, including emissions from cars and trucks as well as power plants.

Inhaling ozone pollution acts like a sunburn of the lung, and can trigger coughing and asthma attacks, and may even shorten life.

 

Top 10 Most Ozone-Polluted Cities:

Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
Bakersfield, California
Fresno-Madera, California
Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, California
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona
Modesto-Merced, California
San Diego-Carlsbad, California
Sacramento-Roseville, California
New York-Newark, New York–New Jersey-Connecticut-Pennsylvania
Las Vegas-Henderson, Nevada-Arizona

 

The report also identified the cities with the least air pollution in 2013-2015, and found that only six cities had no days when ozone or particle pollution reached unhealthy levels and also had the lowest year-round levels of particle pollution.

Top Cleanest U.S. Cities,

Burlington-South Burlington, Vermont

Cape Coral-Fort Myers-Naples, Fl

Elmira-Corning, New York

Honolulu, Hawaii

Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fl.

Wilmington, North Carolina

“The Clean Air Act is the most important tool in the fight for healthy air; it has successfully saved lives and improved health by driving emission reductions for more than 47 years, as ‘State of the Air’ continues to document,” Wimmer said.

“We urge President Trump, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and members of Congress to fully fund, implement and enforce the Clean Air Act for all pollutants,” he said, “including those that drive climate change and make it harder to achieve healthy air for all.”

© Environment News Service (ENS) 2017. All rights reserved.
www.ens-newswire.com

Published in Outdoor

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