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Jacksonville Environmental Symposium Brings Together Business, Conservation

For the 10th year, businesses and conservationists intersected at the city of Jacksonville’s environmental symposium Friday.

The Environmental Symposium’s success is measured in dialog, not concrete goals.

It’s part trade fair, part science fair, with everyone from Duval County Public Schools to the U.S. Green Building Council of Northeast Florida offering their answers to impending environmental crises.

Symposium organizers aren’t out to change the world, but Alan Mosley, who directs energy policy at the JAX Chamber, said it’s a good start.

“You really have to start at the local level and people coming together at the local level, kind of gaining an understanding of each other's positions and how to move forward,” Mosley said.  

The University of North Florida and Jacksonville University released their annual State of the River Report at the symposium too.

Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board Administrator James Richardson said it’s information like that the board considers when making decisions.

“They pay close attention to what it is that is occurring and where they can make changes, where they can tweak rules to try and address some of the things, they will do it,” Richardson said.

In Northeast Florida’s heavily Republican Congressional District 4, Democratic candidate Dave Bruderly is hoping attending events like this help bridge the differences between him and more conservative voters by highlighting what he calls his “business friendly” solutions to environmental problems.

At the event, Bruderly released his plan for expanding Northeast Florida’s green-energy industry.

“We’re proposing that we build on the success of the Clean Cities program in promoting alternative fuels to the business community, that we build on that success by creating a regional master plan that we’re calling the Regional Clean Energy and Climate Action Plan,” Bruderly said.

The federal Clean Cities program helped stimulate Jacksonville’s use of compressed natural gas in public vehicles like buses.

Bruderly said his platform parallels with traditionally conservative business goals by using public-private partnerships to expand the use of environmentally friendly fuels. Specifically, he wants JEA to adopt a greenhouse gas-reduction goal and partner with private businesses to bulk up its green-energy portfolio.

He said, he’d like to see Northeast Florida eventually abandon fossil fuels altogether and become a leader in renewable energy. 

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.