Saturday, August 29, 2015

Court Suit Demands Funds Go To Conservation Land Purchases

The Sierra Club, the Florida Wildlife Federation, St. Johns Riverkeeper and the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida represented by Earthjustice filed suit today asking the courts to force the Florida Legislature to return Amendment 1 funds to a conservation land buying fund.

"We are asking for Florida’s courts to uphold the constitution as amended by the voters,” said Sierra Club Florida Conservation Chair Tom Larson. “The legislature needs to be held accountable for ignoring the will of the people."

The funds from documentary stamps on land transactions, which are expected to reach $740 million next year, were diverted by the Legislature to accounts that had nothing to do with land acquisition. Among other things, they were used to pay state executive salaries, agricultural pollution subsidies and insurance premiums.

According to the suit: “The Legislature owes the people of the State of Florida a duty to honor and effectuate the intent of the voters in the use of the funds placed in trust under this constitutional amendment.”

The November 2014 ballot summary stated:

Funds the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands including wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; land protecting water resources and drinking water sources, including the Everglades, and the water quality of rivers, lakes and streams; beaches and shores; outdoor recreational lands; working farms and ranches; and historic or geologic sites, by dedicating 33 percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents for 20 years.

An extraordinary 75 percent of the electorate voted for Amendment 1 proving that the people of the state understand the need to protect the richness of Florida's wild heritage and unique waters.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Sandbags Stations Open For Possible Stormy Weather

LABELLE, FL. -- Tropical storm/Hurricane Erika is expected to begin effecting Hendry County around midnight on Sunday, August 30th and remain over the area for about 24 hours. Heavy rains are expected with an estimated 4-8 inches of precipitation and the possibility of up to 12 inches locally. Residents with businesses or homes areas prone to flooding are encouraged to take protective measures.

The National Hurricane Center estimates western Hendry county will have about a 25 percent chance of tropical storm winds of 39 mph and a zero percent chance of winds of 58 mph.

But even though winds will not be a factor, the Hendry Schools are closing Monday, along with Hendry county government offices.

However, expect television weather reports to exaggerate the "fear" factor for the next few days showing scenes of past hurricane damage and pictures of weather radar showing huge blogs of red. For more exact and more accurate depictions of what is actually predicted by the Hurricane Center it is recommended that the National Hurricane Center website be consulted daily to see what is really expected. In reality, it is a very remote possibility that the neighborhood in which you live will be severely affected by wind or damaging rain.

National Hurricane Center wind probability graphics showing the storm predicted track and probability of excess winds in each zone.

In an effort to assist residents in protecting their properties, Hendry County has established four self-serve sandbagging stations around the County. Beginning Friday afternoon, August 28th, residents may bring a shovel and fill sandbags to protect their property free of charge. Residents are reminded to be courteous to each other by taking only the minimum amount of sandbags needed to protect their homes and businesses.

The self-serve sandbagging stations are located at the following sites:

North LaBelle – Bob Mason Park located on County Road 78.
LaBelle – LaBelle Rodeo Grounds - Parking lot on State Road 29 South.
Felda – Felda Volunteer Fire Department – The corner of CR 830 and Willis Ranch Rd North
Montura-Flaghole – Montura- Flaghole VFD - Parking lot on Avenida Del Club.
Clewiston – City of Clewiston Public Works Yard on South Olympia Street.

These sites will not be manned by County or City employees and will operate on a first come, first serve basis while supplies last only. Please remember to bring your own shovels and someone to help lifting as filled sandbags can be heavy.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Boil Water Notice - Loss Of Pressure In Port LaBelle

LABELLE, FL. -- A boil water notice has been issued for Port LaBelle area in Hendry and Glades County. All Port LaBelle water users are advised to bring drinking water to a rolling boil for at least one minute prior to consumption.

The notice is necessary due to a malfunction which caused loss of pressure. This notice is effective immediately and will be in effect until further notice or a different notice is issued lifting the boil water action. 

For further information please call 863-675-5376.

Dean And Brenda Daniels To Prison For Biodiesel Fraud

LABELLE, FL. -- Dean Daniels, 52, Richard Smith, 57, Brenda Daniels, 45 and William Bradley, 58, all of Florida, pleaded guilty and were sentenced today in U.S. district court for charges related to a scheme involving the false production of biodiesel.

Dean and Brenda Daniels were noted in many Southwest Florida Online stories over the last several years. (Read arrest stories)

Dean Daniels was sentenced to 63 months incarceration, Bradley was sentenced to 51 months incarceration, Smith was sentenced to 41 months incarceration and Brenda Daniels was sentenced to 366 days incarceration.

Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Attorney Carter M. Stewart for the Southern District of Ohio, Acting Special Agent in Charge Troy N. Stemen for the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS) and Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Martinez of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Criminal Enforcement Program in Ohio and Regional Special Agent in Charge Max D. Smith of the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General announced the sentences handed down today by Senior U.S. District Court Judge James L. Graham.

According to court documents, the defendants profited by unjustly generating and selling biodiesel credits (RINs) and unjustly claiming biodiesel tax credits for the production and blending of fuel that was not actually biodiesel.

“Congress enacted incentives for the production of biofuels to make the United States stronger and more energy independent and to move our energy economy into the 21st century,” said Assistant Attorney General Cruden. “The fraud perpetrated by the defendants threatens these important public policies. The Justice Department will vigorously prosecute those seeking to line their pockets using scams like this one.”

The defendants were all employees and officers of New Energy Fuels LLC, a business in Waller, Texas, that claimed to process animal fats and vegetable oils into biodiesel. The defendants subsequently relocated, operating a similar scheme at Chieftain Biofuels LLC in Logan, Ohio.

The defendants would purchase low-grade feedstock and perform minimal processing to produce a low-grade fuel. The fuel was not biodiesel, however, the defendants would represent to the EPA that they had produced biodiesel. They would generate fraudulent biodiesel RINs and sell them to various third parties. Biodiesel RINs cannot be generated unless the biodiesel produced meets industry standards. In total, the defendants sold over $15 million worth of fraudulent biodiesel RINs.

The defendants also made false claims to the IRS in order to obtain the biodiesel tax credit that they were not eligible to receive. Throughout 2009, 2010 and 2011, refundable tax credits were available for renewable fuel producers. If companies complied with IRS regulations, they could earn one dollar per gallon of biodiesel. It was illegal to claim this tax credit unless the biodiesel was produced, blended and sold in compliance with rules and regulations. Among other requirements, the biodiesel had to meet industry standards, which the defendant’s fuel did not. In total, the defendants claimed over $7 million in false biodiesel tax credits.

In addition, New Energy Fuels’ production process generated substantial hazardous by-products. Defendant Dean Daniels arranged for an employee of New Energy Fuels to transport the wastes off-site at night. That employee, Lonnie Perkins, previously pleaded no-contest in Texas to several charges related to the dumping of hazardous waste in and around the city of Houston.

“The Renewable Fuel Standard helps reduce the climate impact of transportation fuel sold in this country,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Martinez. “The criminal activity by these defendants has real consequences. The defendants manipulated and utilized federal governmental programs to line their pockets by fraud. These guilty pleas demonstrate EPA’s commitment, working closely with our partners at the Department of Justice, to pursue these criminal cases vigorously. Companies and their managers need to understand there are serious consequences to skirting the rules and undermining the integrity of an EPA program.”

“Today’s sentencings mark the successful end of an investigation that uncovered a complicated fraudulent scheme that generated millions of dollars through false biodiesel tax credits,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Stemen. “We want everyone to take advantage of the deductions and credits to which they are entitled by law; however, no one is entitled to defraud the government."

“The Office of Inspector General is committed to investigating and seeking prosecution of those who choose to endanger the public by illegally transporting, distributing, or disposing of hazardous materials,” said Regional Special Agent in Charge Smith. “Today’s sentencing should send a clear warning that these fraudulent actions and illegal hazmat violations will not be tolerated.”

Each of the defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to defraud the United States. Dean Daniels also pleaded guilty to offering a hazardous material for transport without providing or affixing proper placards.

Assistant Attorney General Cruden and U.S. Attorney Stewart commended the cooperative investigation by law enforcement, including the Houston Police Department, as well as Department of Justice Trial Attorney Adam Cullman and Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Michael Marous, who represented the United States in this case.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Dennis Partain Dies At 68

Dennis Wayne Partain, age 68, of LaBelle, passed away August 25, 2015 in Lehigh Acres. He was born Apr. 23, 1947 in Clewiston, FL, to the late David Nalls and the late Addie (Chambers) Partain.

Dennis was a heavy equipment mechanic for Okeelanta Sugar for 44 years. He was also a member of Eastside Baptist Church in LaBelle.

He is survived by his loving wife: Carol (Pasetti) Partain, son: Randy Partain (Joy) of Houston, TX, daughter: Julie Bavington (Paul) of Jacksonville, FL, sister: Joyce Haynes of Christianburg, VA and grandson: Brian Bavington of Jacksonville, FL.

Funeral services will be held Friday, August 28, 2015 at 10:00 am at Akin-Davis Funeral Home, LaBelle with Pastor Wm. Ashley Butler officiating. Interment will be Friday, August 28, 2015 in Ortona Cemetery, Moore Haven.