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Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer

Craig Pittman

Tampa Bay Times reporter Craig Pittman is a native Floridian. He graduated from Troy State University in Alabama, where his muckraking work for the student paper prompted an agitated dean to label him "the most destructive force on campus." Since then he has covered a variety of newspaper beats and quite a few natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and the Florida Legislature. Since 1998 he has reported on environmental issues for the Times. He is a four-time winner of the Waldo Proffitt Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism in Florida and a series of stories on Florida's vanishing wetlands that he wrote with Matthew Waite won the top investigative reporting award in both 2006 and 2007 from the Society of Environmental Journalists. He is the author of four books: "The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid" (2012); "Manatee Insanity: Inside the War Over Florida's Most Famous Endangered Species," (2010); and, co-written with Waite, "Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss," (2009). His new book, < a href="http://www.amazon.com/Oh-Florida-Americas-Weirdest-Influences-ebook/dp/B019CB3UNQ"> "Oh, Florida! How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country,"hits stores in July 2016. He lives in St. Petersburg with his wife and two children.

Phone: (727) 893-8530

Email: craig@tampabay.com

Twitter: @CraigTimes

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  1. Florida DEP secretary Jon Steverson going to work for firm that just got new DEP contract

    Environment

    At the end of January, two things will change about the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

    One is that Secretary Jon Steverson will leave his post after two stormy years in charge, to take a new job with the law firm of Foley & Lardner.

    The other is that Steverson's new employers at Foley & Lardner will take over representing Florida in handling the billions of dollars awarded to the state as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster....

     In April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew up in the Gulf of Mexico, more than 50 miles southeast of Venice, La. BP and five Gulf states announced an $18.7 billion settlement in 2015, that resolves years of legal fighting over the environmental and economic damage done by the energy giant's oil spill. The settlement involves Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
  2. Rick Scott's environmental protection chief resigns

    Blog

    Jon Steverson, who for two stormy years has led the state Department of Environmental Protection under Gov. Rick Scott, resigned late Friday, effective Feb. 3.

    Steverson, whose agency was criticized for not telling the public about a sinkhole at Mosaic's Mulberry phosphate plant last year, made no public announcement about his resignation, and did not respond to a request for an interview....

    Jon Steverson, Florida Department of Environmental Protection secretary, resigned Friday.
  3. DEP secretary Jon Steverson resigns after stormy 2-year tenure

    Environment

    Jon Steverson, who for two stormy years has led the state Department of Environmental Protection under Gov. Rick Scott, resigned late Friday, effective Feb. 3.

    Steverson, whose agency was criticized for not telling the public about a sinkhole at Mosaic's Mulberry phosphate plant last year, made no public announcement about his resignation and did not respond to a request for an interview. ...

    A spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott said DEP Secretary Jon Steverson was not forced to resign over his handling of a massive sinkhole that opened up at a Mosaic phosphate fertilizer plant in Mulberry and dumped contaminated water into the Floridan aquifer. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
  4. Judge refuses to reduce sentence of Nicholas Lindsey in police officer's shooting death

    Criminal

    Nicholas Lindsey has twice been sentenced to life in prison for gunning down St. Petersburg police Officer David Crawford in 2011.

    His punishment has once again become the object of courtroom debate.

    On Friday, Lindsey's attorneys made a pitch to have his sentence reduced to 40 years, arguing that new sentencing guidelines for juveniles force the hand of Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Thane Covert....

    Nicholas Lindsey hoped to cut his sentence to 40 years.
  5. A St. Petersburg mystery: Why are pelicans dying at Riviera Bay and Coffee Pot Bayou?

    Wildlife

    ST. PETERSBURG — Pelicans are dying around Riviera Bay and Coffee Pot Bayou and so far no one knows why.

    "It's awful, it is," said Eddie Gayton of the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary.

    Dead birds have been turning up since Wednesday. The sanctuary is caring for 14 pelicans that are still alive but lethargic and paralyzed, he said. They appear to have been poisoned by something, but by what is the mystery. Another 22 died, he said, along with an egret that may or may not be part of the pelican die-off....

    &#65279;Dead pelicans have been turning up in Riviera Bay and Coffee Pot Bayou since Wednesday, and experts are still investigating the cause.
  6. Mass sit-in targets controversial Sabal Trail Pipeline at Suwannee River

    Water

    The clash over the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota — and the success opponents have had temporarily blocking it — has inspired a Florida group opposed to a controversial new pipeline cutting through North Florida. They're planning to hold a major protest this weekend.

    Construction has already begun on the $3.2 billion Sabal Trail Pipeline, a 515-mile conduit for natural gas that when completed will snake through Alabama, Georgia and Florida. At 268 miles, the Florida section is the longest, and will involve drilling beneath the state's most famous river, the Suwannee....

    Demonstrators make their way down Second Avenue S during a march protesting the Sabal Trail Pipeline in downtown St. Petersburg on Dec. 29. Opponents fear the environmental consequences of the $3.2 billion Sabal Trail Pipeline, a 515-mile conduit for natural gas that is planned to snake through Alabama, Georgia and Florida. At 268 miles, the Florida section is the longest, and will involve drilling beneath the state's most famous river, the Suwannee. A mass protest is scheduled for Suwannee River State Park at 10 a.m. Saturday. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  7. Judge rejects 24-hour pollution notice rule prompted by Mosaic sinkhole

    Water

    A judge has tossed out a rule pushed by Gov. Rick Scott to require corporations and government agencies to notify the public via the media within 24 hours when there's any sort of pollution problem.

    In a 19-page ruling Friday, an administrative law judge said that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection had overstepped its authority in approving the new rule and that only the state Legislature can enact such a change in how the public is notified regarding pollution....

    Gov. Rick Scott has pledged to push for legislation.
  8. Here's a resolution, Florida: Let's stop being suckers

    Human Interest

    Florida has several leading industries that keep our economy roaring. Tourism is No. 1, of course. Without it, we'd have far fewer tattoo parlors and strip joints. Development is booming again, and (judging by their regular appearances in police reports) sales of machetes and Samurai swords are doing well.

    I recently learned we have another leading industry: conspiracy theories.

    Not just any conspiracy theories, either. Florida is home to the loudest voices claiming the 2012 massacre of 26 children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., never happened. They call themselves "Truthers," though the truth is not in them. We've got:...

    In this photo provided by the Newtown Bee, Connecticut State Police lead children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., following a reported shooting there Friday, Dec. 14, 2012.  (AP Photo/Newtown Bee, Shannon Hicks)  MANDATORY CREDIT BX101
  9. Baby boom: Sea turtles set new record in 2016 for nesting on Pinellas beaches

    Wildlife

    Two hurricanes didn't discourage sea turtles from nesting along Pinellas County's beaches this year. In fact, 2016 set a new record for turtle nests, according to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

    "We have never observed that many sea turtle nests in one year," said Lindsey Flynn, senior sea turtle nesting biologist at the aquarium. She said aquarium experts have been monitoring the nests on Pinellas beaches since 1978....

    Freed from it's nest, a sea turtle hatchling makes for the Gulf of Mexico on Oct. 14, 2014. In 2016, sea turtles made 318 nests on Pinellas County beaches and produced more than 13,000 hatchlings -- the highest number since 1978, when the Clearwater Marine Aquarium began monitoring the nests on Pinellas beaches. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]&#10;
  10. USF to study how commercial fishermen were affected economically by BP oil spill

    Water

    ST. PETERSBURG — Six years ago, when the Deepwater Horizon disaster forced the federal government to close off vast tracts of the Gulf of Mexico to fishing, some commercial fisherman weighed anchor and tried their luck elsewhere. Others quit fishing to work for BP on the cleanup.

    But exactly how many did which, and what impact that had on their finances, has never been gauged.

    Now, thanks to a $1 million grant, marine scientists from the University of South Florida, the University of Miami and University of California will try to figure that out. They will examine data that they expect will help them understand how the oil spill affected fishermen economically....

    Lorne LeBouef cuts a section of boom, an inflatable floating line designed to contain oil on the water&#8217;s surface. The Louisiana fisherman was helping BP clean up the massive 2010 gulf oil spill.
  11. The Sunshine State became the Surreal State during a weird 2016

    Human Interest

    Florida weirdness went national this year.

    A part-time Florida man was elected president, despite his campaign manager getting busted for grabbing a reporter during a campaign event here.

    We had no hanging chad in this election, but at least two fights broke out at the polls. Also, at a Tim Kaine rally in St. Petersburg, a car crashed into the press bus — a police car, that is....

    A Pensacola deputy who Tasered a woman during what he called &#8220;horseplay&#8221; sent this photo to her of a cake with an apology.
  12. Florida scientists want to meet with Trump, talk climate change

    Blog

    Ten Florida scientists have written President-elect Donald Trump a letter offering to brief him about climate change while he's spending Christmas at his Mar-A-Lago estate.

    Trump has repeatedly denied climate change exists, at one point calling it a "Chinese hoax" designed to ruin the American economy. More recently he asserted, "Nobody really knows" if climate change is real....

  13. Scientists propose meeting with Trump in Florida to talk climate change

    Global Warming

    Ten Florida scientists have written President-elect Donald Trump a letter offering to brief him about climate change while he's spending Christmas at his Mar-A-Lago estate.

    Trump has repeatedly denied climate change exists, at one point calling it a "Chinese hoax" designed to ruin the American economy. More recently he asserted, "Nobody really knows" if climate change is real.

    The scientists want to show him that he's wrong — somebody does know, and they know that low-lying Florida is the state most vulnerable to rising sea levels....

    President-elect Donald Trump, left, accompanied by Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, right, and retired Gen. Michael Flynn, a senior adviser to Trump, center, speaks to members of the media at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach on Wednesday. [Andrew Harnik | Associated Press]
  14. Controversial Public Service Commission member will be the next boss of Florida's parks

    Environment

    Last week, with no explanation, the longtime boss of the award-winning Florida state parks system was abruptly demoted. Donald Forgione was reassigned to run one single park in Gainesville instead of all 171.

    The Florida Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday announced that his replacement will be Lisa Edgar, a Public Service Commission member who has been repeatedly accused of favoring utilities over customers....

    Lisa Edgar said in a statement from the DEP, &#8220;I look forward to working with this team.&#8221;
  15. After two hurricanes in 2016, a dry Florida faces a new threat in 2017: Wildfires

    Water

    Florida was drenched by two hurricanes in 2016, yet it faces a completely different problem in 2017: an increased risk of wildfires this winter.

    The state has become so dry in recent months that officials are now concerned about wildfires burning across the peninsula in the coming year.

    "If it stays that way like they're predicting it will," Florida Forest Service director Jim Karels said, "then we've got a real potential for an active fire season."...

    Forest rangers supervise a burn-out operation May 31, 2011, to remove fuel from the Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve southeast of Oldsmar. There were 259 wildfires in Florida on that day.