It’s not surprising that industry would seek a handle on the government agencies that regulate it, but the process is not usually so wholesale as what is happening now in Florida. The Tampa Bay Times reports that under Republican Governor Rick Scott, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection has been laying off experienced regulators and replacing them with the industry folks they used to regulate:
The DEP’s deputy secretary in charge of regulatory programs previously spent a decade as an engineer who specialized in getting clients their environmental permits. Another engineer who worked for developers heads up the division of water resources. A lawyer who helped power plants get their permits is now in charge of air pollution permitting. An engineering company lobbyist became a deputy director overseeing water and sewer facilities.
And the DEP’s chief operating officer is a former chemical company and real estate executive from Brandon. He’s not an employee, though. He’s a consultant who’s being paid $83 an hour — more than [Secretary] Vinyard makes on a per-hour basis — to advise Vinyard and his staff on ways to save money.
The DEP “was never great,” said Mark Bardolph, a 27-year DEP veteran — and onetime whistle-blower — who was laid off from the Tallahassee office. “But now it’s all a political farce.”
The mix of industry and regulation has been a question in Florida since January 2011, when Governor Scott appointed an environmental secretary straight out of manufacturing. Two years later, that secretary’s department is being remade in his image.