TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Enforcement of the state's environmental laws has plummeted under Gov. Rick Scott and the private company attorney he picked to lead the Department of Environmental Protection, according to a report to be released Thursday by a group that represents government workers who work in environmental regulation.
The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility report says that since Scott took office and Secretary Herschel Vinyard took over DEP in 2011, enforcement has dropped by just about every measure. For example, DEP opened 1,587 cases in 2010 and 663 last year. Similar drops were shown in consent orders, which dropped from 1,249 in 2010 to 482 last year, as well as penalties assessed and fines collected.
The report said the department essentially has become nonfunctional under Vinyard, who worked for a shipyard before Scott appointed him secretary.
"This is nothing more than that department taking a blind eye, looking the other way when these facilities pollute," said Jerry Phillips, director of Florida PEER. "The message is out to the employees that they should not be aggressive in this area. We talk to these employees, we hear from them and I haven't heard from a single employee that enforcement is better now under Herschel Vinyard. It's just the opposite."
DEP said it is taking its responsibility seriously and said the drop in cases is because of a focus on prevention.