If Florida makes energy efficiency a priority, we’ll save money and combat climate change

BY MARK SAMUELIAN

Florida is at a critical energy turning point. The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) is reviewing the Florida Energy Efficiency Conservation Act (FEECA), which means it can establish better energy efficiency goals for our utilities and improve how they are measuring energy efficiency.

The PSC can meet our state’s energy needs, cut Floridians’ energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making our state more energy efficient.

Sound energy policy is a key component to maintaining a balanced energy budget. Florida uses more energy than it produces. We can ensure supply meets demand by increasing the state’s energy supply or decreasing its demand through energy-efficiency measures. Our state benefits more if energy efficiency is a priority.

A better way to balance the state’s energy budget is to decrease energy demand. Utilities can eliminate energy waste by offering programs that help or incentivize residents to be more energy efficient by taking measures such as replacing old water heaters, fixing air conditioners and adding insulation to ceilings and walls. This approach is the simplest, least expensive way to meet our energy needs. These measures not only reduce energy demand, they also shrink electric bills and reduce environmental impact…

October 1, 2019 | Miami Herald | If Florida makes energy efficiency a priority, we’ll save money and combat climate change

Balancing Historic Preservation with Adaptation for Sea Level Rise

“What’s the problem we’re solving?” Commissioner Mark Samuelian asked. “I’m not aware that we’ve had issues so I’m very reticent, for either of these parts, to do anything that would weaken our Board.”

“I’m also concerned about the talent pool,” he added. By requiring that someone be a current resident in a historic district, “What does that do to the number of applicants you get? We’re looking for very specialized skills here so I’m not yet convinced – though I’ll remain open minded here – but I’m not yet convinced what the problem is and the couple solutions, both parts, give me significant pause and I’m not comfortable with them.”

April 13, 2019 | RE: Miami Beach | Balancing Historic Preservation with Adaptation for Sea Level Rise

Videos Show Dirty Stormwater Pumped Into Biscayne Bay and Swallowed by Manatee

At the same meeting, Commissioners John Aleman and Mark Samuelian pushed back on the criticism, saying the city is doing the best it can. “We are constantly challenging what we’re doing,” Samuelian said.

“We collectively have to keep pushing the envelope, but we also have to acknowledge that the technology is not perfect,” Aleman added. “There’s no technology for that that can operate on an industrial scale. If there was, we’d be implementing it.”

February 5, 2019 | Miami New Times | Videos Show Dirty Stormwater Pumped Into Biscayne Bay and Swallowed by Manatee

Can she keep Miami Beach above the rising sea?

The city’s efforts have their critics. A citizens group, We Love Lakeview, is protesting a plan to raise roads in their neighborhood, worried about water drainage onto their land and property values. Miami Beach Commissioner Mark Samuelian agrees the city must respond to sea level rise but has concerns about what he calls “our one-size-fits-all policy of every street being raised,” both for the cost and the possible adverse effects on neighborhoods. The city has hired an outside firm to develop a sea level rise mitigation and stormwater strategy that will look at the street-raising policy, but also many other areas, such as ways to improve the aesthetics of a city while managing stormwater.

January 16, 2019 | OZY | Can she keep Miami Beach above the rising sea?

Keep raising roads, experts tell Miami Beach, but explain it to residents better

Critics of road raising, including Commissioner Mark Samuelian, argue the city’s “one size fits all” plan to elevate all streets to the same height doesn’t serve residents whose properties are at different elevations and need tailored approaches. The ULI report, Samuelian said, ‘has not materially changed my view.”

September 18, 2018 | Miami Herald | Keep raising roads, experts tell Miami Beach, but explain it to residents better

Miami Beach’s Road Raising, Stormwater Climate Adaptation Plan Reviewed

Residents reportedly unhappy with the road raising policy elected Commissioner Mark Samuelian as a lead voice reviewing resiliency projects and slowing some down.

Samuelian reportedly found that he supported City Manager Jimmy Morales’ goals to include permanent generators on stormwater projects, finish projects underway, fix issues on completed projects and integrate alternative solutions like green, blue and grey infrastructure.

September 11, 2018 | EfficientGov | Miami Beach’s Road Raising, Stormwater Climate Adaptation Plan Reviewed

As Miami Beach battles sea-rise flooding, some neighbors feud over the fixes

“Dramatic street raising causes the city problems. It elongates the projects, it causes there to be a lot more cost and complexity and it is losing the trust of the residents,” said Commissioner Mark Samuelian.

Fighting over whether to elevate road or how high to raise them slow down other work that could help residents now, like installing more pumps and clearing drains. One of improvements delayed over the dispute about North Bay Road was repairing area fire hydrants, where the water pressure suffers because of leaky, aging pipes.

Samuelian sees street raising as an answer to tomorrow’s problems, not today’s, and unnecessary in some neighborhoods.

In some cases, he said, elevation could even hurt the neighborhood. Neighbors opposing street elevation consistently cite a loss in their property value as a big concerns. They also worry higher streets will make their front doors will look funny and potentially funnel damaging water into their homes.

“We’re counting on our property base to fund the projects. We had to be very careful about anything we could do that would impact that,” Samuelian said. “I think we need to stop.”

Samuelian and some residents point to the findings of recent expert groups, which advised adopting more natural solutions, like plants, to soak up excess water.

June 7, 2018 | Miami Herald | As Miami Beach battles sea-rise flooding, some neighbors feud over the fixes

Revisiting Miami Beach’s Road Raising Policy

Samuelian acknowledges, “’Do nothing’ is not an option.” He said, “The City has made some important progress over the last few years.” With that learning and the recommendations of outside experts from the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and Harvard, Samuelian said, “We’re in a situation where we are going to… ‘reorient’ our resiliency program which, to me, means real change in how we’re doing it.”

“There’s one specific item that jumps off the charts and that is the idea that we have a policy in place to elevate streets to 3.7 NAVD across the City unless hardship is proven, so there is an out clause. That policy, in my opinion, is flawed and we need to change it,” Samuelian said.

“First, putting private property below grade is never a good thing. There are significant downsides and risks to doing that including potentially flooding. Why might you have flooding? It could be an event that’s outside of what was contemplated in the design. It could be a drain that gets clogged or the system may not function exactly as it was designed,” he said, mentioning Sunset Harbour.

June 2, 2018 | RE: Miami Beach | Revisiting Miami Beach’s Road Raising Policy