Craig Pittman, Giving green the business - Covering the Green Economy


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Craig Pittman, an award-winning environmental reporter at the St. Petersburg Times and the author of two books. Pittman spoke at Covering the Green Economy in June 2010.

Pittman also presented a session on turning a good story into a book.

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Craig Pittman, Giving green the business - Covering the Green Economy

  1. 1. Giving “Green” the Business <ul><li>… or, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. </li></ul>
  2. 2. Paving Paradise <ul><li>Series on Florida’s vanishing wetlands May 2005-Dec 2006 </li></ul><ul><li>Won top awards for investigative enviro journalism </li></ul><ul><li>Led to book contract with University Press of Florida </li></ul>
  3. 3. They Won’t Say No <ul><li>Between 1999 and 2003, the Corps approved more than 12,000 wetland permits in Florida </li></ul><ul><li>Number of permits denied: one . </li></ul><ul><li>Efforts to mitigate with man-made wetlands fail repeatedly </li></ul>
  4. 4. Mitigation Banking <ul><li>Touted as free-enterprise solution to wetland losses </li></ul><ul><li>Congress & state spending millions on it </li></ul><ul><li>Florida permits: Surprise! </li></ul>
  5. 5. How it’s supposed to work <ul><li>Entrepreneur buys drained swamp </li></ul><ul><li>Restores flow, replants wetland flora </li></ul><ul><li>Gets credits from regulators </li></ul><ul><li>Sells credits to developers to make up for destroying wetlands elsewhere </li></ul>
  6. 6. When Dry Is “Wet’’ <ul><li>Florida gives credit for dry land as if it were swamp </li></ul><ul><li>One bank: 90% of credits for dry land </li></ul><ul><li>What about no net loss? “Good luck with that!” </li></ul>
  7. 7. From top dog to bad apple <ul><li>Ecobank in 1996: Top dog firm hailed by both Republicans and Democrats as industry leader </li></ul><ul><li>Ten years later Ecobank is “the bad apple” of the industry </li></ul><ul><li>Bankruptcy records led to discovery of civil court case that exposed how Ecobank really did its business </li></ul><ul><li>Records showed Ecobank paid politicians for help landing big-money contracts with government agencies </li></ul>
  8. 8. … .and one more thing <ul><li>Turns out Ecobank founders started as developers </li></ul><ul><li>They ran the 1st Florida company charged criminally with DESTROYING wetlands </li></ul>
  9. 9. What if there’s no restoration? <ul><li>More credits for dry land than wet </li></ul><ul><li>Did no restoration </li></ul><ul><li>Got all 138 credits for preserving land, not for restoring swamps </li></ul><ul><li>Flunks the “no net loss” test </li></ul>
  10. 10. Where do you mitigate? <ul><li>Restored 1,600 acres of wetlands </li></ul><ul><li>Mitigation bank lies a mile off coast </li></ul><ul><li>Selling credits for projects up to 30 miles away on mainland </li></ul><ul><li>Study: Island restoration not a replacement for mainland wetland functions </li></ul>
  11. 11. Who’s minding the store? <ul><li>Sundew “the poster child” for agency neglect </li></ul><ul><li>In 5 years, owner sold 60 credits but did no restoration </li></ul><ul><li>GAO: Sundew one of 10 Florida banks Corps never inspected </li></ul>
  12. 12. And what about the wildlife? <ul><li>Florida panther: State animal & most endangered mammal east of the Mississippi </li></ul><ul><li>Fish & Wildlife Service hasn’t blocked a single development in panther habitat since 1993 </li></ul><ul><li>Result: 40,000 acres of habitat paved over </li></ul>
  13. 13. Solution: Species banking <ul><li>Preserve ranch land & sell credits to developers…but: </li></ul><ul><li>Bank on 4,000A not occupied by panthers selling credits to developers of habitat </li></ul><ul><li>Land worth $713,000 selling $144M in credits </li></ul><ul><li>FWS: Ranch important as dispersal zone </li></ul>
  14. 14. The bottom line <ul><li>Banks allow regulators to OK environmentally destructive projects </li></ul><ul><li>But regulatory oversight lacking </li></ul><ul><li>Some banks miss point of why they’re allowed </li></ul><ul><li>End result: Mitigation banks don’t achieve same result as just saying no </li></ul>
  15. 15. Read the book & the blog <ul><li> </li></ul>
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