Scott names defense contractor to head environmental protection

That’s the headline today from Central Florida Political Pulse about Rick Scott’s appointment of Herschel Vinyard to head up the Department of Environmental Protection. The headline alone should be enough to give you pause, since the defense industry is not exactly known for its love of the environment. Taking a closer look at Vinyard doesn’t make me excited that he’ll be an environmental champion, particularly in a Rick Scott administration, when Scott has already signaled he wants to cut environmental regulations. Here’s what CFPP said about Vinyard:

Vinyard served as a member of Scott’s Economic Development Transition Team, is currently director of business operation for BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards, and treasurer of the Jacksonville Port Authority. He got his undergraduate and law degrees at Louisiana State University.

“Herschel is a man of deep environmental knowledge and practical business experience. He has a love for our great state’s natural resources and a passion for job creation. He will effectively balance those interests for the benefit of all Floridians. We are fortunate to have recruited Herschel from the private sector into government service,” Scott said.

The Scott announcement came less than a minute before the Florida Chamber of Commerce also put out a release with canned quotes praising the selection as a good one for business. Here’s one:

“Florida businesses need predictability and stability,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “With Governor-elect Rick Scott’s jobs agenda and Herschel’s background of balancing natural resources and free enterprise, this choice is a big win for the citizens of Florida, and it will help move our state forward toward a new economy.”

The fact that the Chamber likes this pick makes it look even worse. From the official release:

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. That wastewater is now being used for irrigation purposes and eliminates a discharge to one of Florida’s most significant water bodies.

In addition, Vinyard led his company’s three-year effort to obtain state approval for a sovereign submerged lands lease. His experience in this complex regulatory proceeding provided Vinyard with new insights on the challenges businesses face in the permitting process and the need to provide a more efficient and streamlined mechanism to meet environmental requirements.

“Good environmental practices make good business sense. Not only can such stewardship better protect the resources around us, they often save money and lead to new innovation. Herschel has been on the front lines of such efforts and will ensure that Florida leads the nation in new partnerships between government and industry that save money, streamline processes and create jobs,” Scott said.

During his practice at one of Florida’s most well-respected law firms, Vinyard represented numerous clients in a myriad of complex environmental matters. His expertise includes the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Clean Water Act and liability issues associated with the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, as well as Florida’s statutory counterparts in Chapter 376 and 403. He is also a past chair of the environmental and land use law section of the Jacksonville Bar Association.

Vinyard is involved in a number of volunteer efforts associated with conservation and environmental protection. As an advisory committee member of the Northeast Florida chapter of the Trust for Public Lands, Vinyard helped develop a strategy to identify and acquire sensitive environmental lands. He serves on the Florida DEP’s Lower St. Johns River TMDL Executive Committee to assist in the development of a basin management action plan for that water body.

So it sounds like the bulk of his “environmental” work to date has been based around the idea of helping businesses navigate environmental regulations, which is a nice way to say that he helped them meet the letter of the law, if not the spirit. Either way, it doesn’t seem he has much experience protecting the environment or with actual environmental issues.

What else do we know about him?

He gave money to McCain-Palin, those notable environmental stewards, Ander Crenshaw, the NRSC, his company’s PAC and Bill Nelson
-He was a legislative lobbyists for his company
-He led the First Coast Manufacturers Association
-He testified before Congress suggesting weaker environmental and safety standards at U.S. shipyards
-He previously seemed to support expanded offshore oil drilling as an opportunity for more business for his firm
-He served on Manufacture Alabama!’s Governmental Affairs Committee, presumably lobbying on behalf of manufacturers
-He served on George LeMieux’s Jobs and Business Development Advisory Council, which appears to have basically done nothing since it was created
-He served as treasurer for Atlantic Marine’s PAC when it gave contributions to presidential candidates George W. Bush (R) and Elizabeth Dole (R) and Congressional members/candidates Jo Bonner (R-AL), Allen Boyd (D-FL), Corrine Brown (D-FL), Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Terry Everett (R-AL), Randy Forbes (R-VA), Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Connie Mack (R-FL), Jim Saxton (R-NJ), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Richard Shelby (R-AL), David Vitter (R-LA), Sander Levin (D-MI), John Mica (R-FL), Mike Rogers (R-AL), Mel Martinez (R-FL), Ted Stevens (R-AK), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Katherine Harris (R-FL), Dave Hobson (R-OH), Jim McCrery (R-LA), Adam Putnam (R-FL), Johnnie Byrd (R-FL), Bill McCollum (R-FL), Harry Reid (D-NV), Helen Delich Bentley (R-MD), Sonny Callahan (R-AL), Tom Feeney (R-FL), Maria Guadalupe Garcia (R-CA), Katherine Harris (R-FL), Jeff Miller (R-FL), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Tom DeLay (R-TX), Hal Rogers (R-KY), Floyd Spence (R-SC), Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Not exactly a big group of environmental champions.
*The Everglades Foundation, run by Republican Kirk Fordham, is a fan


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