PEER Blasts Herschel Vinyard, DEP for Trying to Water Down Pollution Permit Process | The Daily Pulp | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida


PEER Blasts Herschel Vinyard, DEP for Trying to Water Down Pollution Permit Process

The nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has been tearing up the Department of Environmental Protection with public-records request. 

First the left-leaning group, more commonly known as PEER, called into question whether DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard lied on his résumé, triggering an ongoing investigation by the feds. Then it released a bunch of seemingly free-form brainstorming notes from a DEP meeting that included cooky ideas like selling state land to Germany and building a wood-pellet mill. 

The latest dispatch from PEER is a bit more serious than wood pellets and puts Vinyard and his industrial ties back in the crosshairs. 

PEER says the latest documents show that Vinyard is pushing to make it easier for companies to obtain general pollution permits and avoid having to get individual permits. Presumably, individual pollution permits are tailored for each holder and contain more specific stipulations, baselines, and regulations. 

General permits, PEER says, are intended only for actions that cause "minimal adverse environmental impact." 

Yet under Vinyard's direction, these general permits could be issued to asphalt plants, concrete production sites, and companies building underground storage systems for oil. These activities surely carry the potential for causing far more damage than "minimal adverse" environmental impacts. 

The issue of doling out these pollution discharge permits is at the heart of the controversy surrounding Vinyard's résumé. 

The résumé Vinyard submitted for the DEP gig showed that he worked for BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards where he "counseled [the] company on major environmental permitting decisions." Sounds like a good gig, but federal law prevents anyone who earned a substantial portion of his income from permit-holding companies in the prior two years to be appointed to a government position where he'll be making the final call on pollution permits. It looks like Vinyard walked from the lobby of BAE to the lobby of DEP within a few weeks.  

PEER also raises concerns about Vinyard's determination to fulfill Gov. Rick Scott's vision of turning the DEP into a streamlined, customer-service-oriented government agency. 

Enhancing customer service within the DEP, according to PEER, means that "environmental compliance would be negotiated behind closed doors."

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Chris Sweeney

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