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FL Wetlands expert suspended by Rick Scott's DEP after she refuses to approve permit

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seafan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-28-12 02:41 PM
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FL Wetlands expert suspended by Rick Scott's DEP after she refuses to approve permit
Source: Tampa Bay Times

Florida's top state wetlands expert has been suspended after she refused to issue a permit on a controversial project one that she said her boss was willing to bend the rules to approve.
The project: turning a North Florida pine plantation into a business that attempts to make up for wetlands that are wiped out by new roads and development. At stake: millions of dollars in wetland "credits" that can be sold to government and developers.

The problem, according to a May 9 memo from Department of Environmental Protection wetlands expert Connie Bersok, is that the owners want the DEP to give them lots of wetland credits for land that isn't wet.
After being told by Deputy Secretary Jeff Littlejohn to ignore the rules she had followed on other permits, Bersok wrote, "I hereby state my objection to the intended agency action and refusal to recommend this permit for issuance."
.....

The application that led to Bersok's suspension came from the Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank, which has repeatedly tussled with permitting officials.

"They're scrappy, these guys," said Glenn Lowe, who lost his job with the St. Johns River Water Management District after he refused to give Highlands Ranch what its owners wanted. Former water district executive director Kirby Green said Lowe and other employees lost their jobs because Gov. Rick Scott's pro-business administration didn't like the way they treated Highlands Ranch.



Read more: http://www.tampabay.com/news/environment/wetlands/wetla...



D$*#!these&$(%^#$%&@!$%#!!!!!


Let all of this sink in:


Florida's top state wetland expert, Connie Bersok, widely respected and experienced, was suspended by Rick Scott's administration for refusing to issue Rick Scott's Big Business buddies at Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank a controversial permit.... that would have issued a large amount of "wetland credit" for DRY LAND.

Her boss, Deputy DEP Secretary Jeff Littlejohn, instructed her to ignore the usual requirement for detailed plans for how Highlands Ranch would help the environment, and to just set some "goals" for assessing the bank's "progress" instead. Oh, and issue a large amount of "credits" for land that was high and dry. Neither of those actions could be supported ecologically, Bersok declared.

In her written statement, Bersok stated that to do this would be a violation of state law that requires "a reasonable assurance" that the environmental mitigation plan would help the environment, before a permit is issued.


She refused to ignore state rules for wetland protection, and two days later, was suspended from her job.
Science be damned, in Rick Scott's administration.



Two more searing facts from this article:

Her boss, Deputy Secretary Jeff Littlejohn is the son of Florida Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Chuck Littlejohn. The elder Littlejohn has negotiated with the DEP on wetland issues, including on how to change the way credits are calculated.


And:

Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank was formed in 2008 when the Carlyle Group formed a joint venture with a Jacksonville company, Hassan & Lear Acquisitions, spending $15 million on a 1,575-acre pine plantation in Clay County next to Jennings State Forest.



Ah, The Carlyle Group. The nest of Bushes.



----------


Floridians, our state government is shot through with Big Money Bloodsuckers; inside the Legislature, Governor's office, including a particular ex-governor sitting down in Miami, and scheming together with their Big Developer/Big Privatization cronies, they are destroying our state's resources, wetlands, water supplies, economy, public schools, university system and social safety nets.


We are VERY unfortunately stuck with Rick Scott for two more years. But we can slow down this filthy bulldozer sooner by voting every Republican out of the Legislature in November. That will effectively tie Rick Scott to the wall.


At that time, Scott's impeachment and removal from office will be attainable.



Here is the award-winning series on Florida's vanishing wetlands, from the-then St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times).


When dry is wet, by Craig Pittman, December 17, 2006 (Part 1 of 2)


The 'bad apple' of wetlands banking, by Craig Pittman and Matthew Waite, December 18, 2006 (Part 2 of 2)


Times writers win award for series about wetlands, September 7, 2007



Remember what we must do in November, Floridians.


We do not have much time left to preserve what is left of Florida for our children.









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madfloridian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-28-12 05:06 PM
Response to Original message
1. Yet all around me the Rick Scott groupies still sing his praises.
Makes me want to cry.
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seafan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-29-12 09:02 PM
Response to Original message
2. 'These are the people in charge of Florida's environment.'
Imagine, if you can, a state that actually protected the environment

By John Romano
May 29, 2012


Imagine you are a boss in the Department of Environmental Protection.

It is your job to preserve the state's wetlands. To ensure water quality is never compromised, and developers do not destroy that which makes Florida unique.

So now one of your experts is telling you an investment company is trying to pull a fast one. That it is claiming a batch of land it owns is valuable wetlands property.

Your expert says most of the land does not qualify as wetlands, and it's neither legal nor wise to take the landowner's word that improvements to the environment will be made.

.....

If you are Deputy Secretary Jeff Littlejohn, you suspend your expert and clear the path for the investment company to recoup the millions of dollars it has spent on this land deal, according to an outstanding report by the Times' Craig Pittman on Monday.

This is after you had essentially allowed the landowner's attorney to rewrite the rules of your organization so it would be easier to reclassify property as wetlands.

.....



This flouting of Florida law for raw political reasons doesn't include the actions of Littlejohn's boss, DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard, a former shipyard executive with little to no environmental experience, who managed to slip controversial pro-developer legislation into approval on the last day of the 2011 legislative session. Now it is "legal" for corporations to avoid the requirement of first having to prove that their projects are not harming the environment, and putting the burden back onto the public to prove that there is pollution occurring.


This also doesn't include Vinyard's boss, Rick Scott, who shoehorned this former shipyard executive in as Secretary of DEP, regardless of his prior activities as the chairman of a council that lobbied the U. S. EPA to loosen regulations on his shipbuilding group.


Nothing like putting thieves in charge of protecting our fragile environment. Or running the state of Florida.


Rick Scott, whose former company, Columbia/HCA hospital chain, defrauded millions from the U. S. Government in Medicare/Medicaid funds and was forced to repay the government $1.7 Billion in fines;

Rick Scott, who bought his way out of incarceration for it and never was officially questioned in the federal criminal investigation;

Rick Scott, who ended up taking the Fifth Amendment 75 times in related testimony in another case against his company, and ultimately walked away in "disgrace" with a $300 million golden parachute;


Rick Scott, who then bought his way into the Florida's governor's office, is entirely responsible for this.




Failed stewardship puts Florida wetlands at risk

May 30, 2012
Times Editorial


.....

As the Tampa Bay Times' Craig Pittman reported Monday, DEP scientist Connie Bersok has been on suspension since May 11. That is two days after she added a memo to the file of the Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank permit application objecting to its request to expand its wetland mitigation credits from 193 credits to 424. That apparently didn't sit well with her boss, Deputy Secretary Jeff Littlejohn, who had suggested this permit expansion could be part of a performance-based experiment approved by Vinyard. The only problem: State law requires a "reasonable assurance" that wetland mitigation plans will actually work.

.....

Under state law, a mitigation bank can receive wetland mitigation credits by creating or restoring wetlands property. It can then sell those credits to developers elsewhere who destroy wetlands to build a project. But what Bersok objected to was that Highlands Ranch was seeking credits for dry land that would do nothing for wetland preservation. Apparently, the company was counting on politics not science to cash in on credits that can go for as much as $100,000 in northeast Florida.

Among Highlands Ranch's owners is the highly successful Carlyle Group, a private equity firm that once counted former President George H.W. Bush among its team.

Scott's environmental credentials are in shreds. His first year in office, the governor pushed extraordinary tax cuts onto the state's five water management districts that are charged with protecting the state's long-term water supply. And Vinyard's leadership of DEP has been marked by significant retreat on long-standing policies, including challenging water management districts on buying land they deem necessary to protect watersheds. Now it appears DEP's leaders are willing to ignore state law to grant a well-connected landowner the ability to make money off wetlands that don't even exist. If not for Bersok, it might have even gone unnoticed until years after environmental damage was done.

.....




Now, coupled with his voter purge assault on Floridians, Rick Scott is doubling down on criminality.



Where is the Department of Justice?






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seafan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-06-12 11:30 AM
Response to Original message
3. UPDATE: Florida's top wetlands expert reinstated, but details remain murky
Florida's top wetlands expert reinstated, but details remain murky

By Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
June 6, 2012


The state's top wetlands expert has been reinstated after a three-week investigation, but the question of who initiated it and why remains unclear.
Connie Bersok was put on paid leave from the state Department of Environmental Protection on May 11, two days after she refused to approve a permit for the Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank in Clay County.

.....

But the official investigation report released Tuesday makes no mention of Highlands Ranch. It says Bersok's division director complained about her not showing up at work and emailing official documents on her private email account. Both charges were ruled unfounded.
Corporate records show the Highlands Ranch project is backed by a private equity firm from Washington called the Carlyle Group that's known for its global political connections.

.....

Then, Bersok wrote, she was told by her boss, Tim Rach, that she was being transferred from the wetlands office. That was done, she wrote, by order of water resources division director Mark Thomasson, who was hired by the DEP a year ago.

The reason Rach gave, she wrote, "was that I was not a good match for the mitigation/mitigation banking section and the direction the section was going. I asked if this was in relation to my handling of the Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank, and Tim would not answer."

.....




Here is the backstory.


Rick Scott.

Thief of environmental protections and voting rights.

Criminal fraudster posing as a governor.

Among other things.










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