Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Watchdogs slam DEP choice

A pair of environmental groups are complaining to federal officials that the shipyard executive Gov. Rick Scott picked to lead the Department of Environment Protection cannot oversee a program that regulates how much industrial pollution can be dumped into the state's waters.

The reason: Herschel Vinyard's previous employer, a Jacksonville shipyard, held just such a pollution permit. They say putting him in charge of the program to control it and other polluters is against the law.

At issue is something called the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. In Florida, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows the DEP to issue the permits.

But federal law says anyone overseeing the permits cannot have received a "significant portion of his income directly or indirectly from permit holders or applicants for a permit." In this case, that means more than 10 percent over the previous two years.

Last month Scott tapped Vinyard, director of business operation for BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards, to head up the DEP.

But BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards holds federal permits for its treated wastewater, said Jerry Phillips of the Florida chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER.

"This law exists because Congress did not want our national clean water safety net co-opted by corporate infiltration," said Phillips, a former DEP enforcement attorney.

PEER and the Clean Water Network have filed a petition asking the EPA to take action on the matter. If the EPA agrees that this is a violation, it could withhold federal grants or other financial assistance to the state, or it could revoke Florida's power to issue water pollution permits.

Another option, said Clean Water Network's Linda Young: Scott could appoint someone "more appropriate."

When Scott named Vinyard to the position, he highlighted Vinyard's work on the shipyard's permit.

"As an example of Vinyard's focus on environmental responsibility and effective business practices, he provided counsel to BAE Systems in their recent, successful efforts to remove its treated wastewater outfall from the St. Johns River," Scott said in a January news release. "That wastewater is now being used for irrigation purposes and eliminates a discharge to one of Florida's most significant water bodies."

Vinyard also has served as chairman of the Shipbuilders Council of America, which among other goals tries to get the EPA to lighten the regulatory load of its members.

In other words, Scott "has appointed a man whose professional career has been dedicated to ensuring that the very regulations that he would now oversee are significantly weakened," the petition to the EPA states.

A request to DEP officials for a comment on the petition regarding Vinyard drew no response Tuesday.

The DEP has not found any pollution violations or pursued any enforcement actions against his shipbuilding company in the past five years.

Craig Pittman can be reached at

Watchdogs slam DEP choice 02/22/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 22, 2011 9:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Boy Scouts apologize over Trump's remarks at jamboree


    Facing an angry backlash from parents and former members, the chief executive of the Boy Scouts of America apologized on Thursday for political remarks made by President Donald Trump at the organization's national jamboree this week, during which the commander-in-chief crowed over his election victory, attacked the news …

    President DonaldTrump, front left, gestures as former boys scouts, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, left, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, watch at the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree at the Summit in Glen Jean, W.Va. Boy Scouts president Randall Stephenson told the Associated Press on Wednesday, July 26, in his first public comments on the furor over President Donald Trump's speech on Monday that he'd be "disingenuous" if he suggested he was surprised by the Republican president's comments. [Associated Press]
  2. Drones restrictions coming at Tampa Bay area airports


    Starting Sept. 1, Tampa International Airport officials will be enforcing new height restrictions for drones and other unmanned aircraft systems, according to a press release.

    In this February 2017 file photo, a drone flies in Hanworth Park in west London. Starting Sept. 1, Tampa International Airport officials will be enforcing new height restrictions for drones and other unmanned aircraft systems,
[John Stillwell/PA via AP, File]
  3. Hit-run driver who refused to leave van threatened to shoot, Hillsborough deputies say

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Eddie Carly Colon Soto peeked his head out the broken side window of his van as a SWAT team closed in.

    The driver of this van tried to flee the scene of a crash in north Tampa Thursday morning until he could travel no farther, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said. Then he refused to leave the van and threatened sheriff's deputies, they said. [TONY MARRERO   |   Times]
  4. Get the latest Tampa Bay Buccaneers news delivered daily to your email inbox


    They narrowly missed the playoffs by thismuch.

    Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans (13) celebrates with quarterback Jameis Winston (3) after they connected for a touchdown during a win over the Seattle Seahawks in November in Tampa. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. Police release name of man found dead in north Tampa vacant lot


    TAMPA — Authorities have released the name of a man found dead in a vacant lot in north Tampa on Tuesday and have confirmed his death is a homicide.