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Reply #2: 'These are the people in charge of Florida's environment.' [View All]

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seafan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-29-12 09:02 PM
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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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