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News Section: Opinion

Will the Real Herschel Vinyard Please Stand Up

Published Saturday, May 19, 2012 12:05 am

BRADENTON -- In the film, The Talented Mr. Ripley, actor Matt Damon impersonates his way into a world of prestige and power by persuading those suspicious of his credentials with his tremendous gall. It seems Herschel Vinyard, Secretary of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, has taken a page from character Tom Ripley's playbook. Only now he is also being asked to take off the Princeton Jacket.


Vinyard is changing his story to what he was really doing before Governor Rick Scott appointed him to head the FDEP. It seems he is no longer the permit guru he claimed he was. In fact, like Ripley, he's been faking it all along. This is where the persona of a jacket no longer works, this is where the pilot is asked to go and sit in coach.


Now, there are more questions than answers. First concern should be, did Governor Scott know? If he did, there are some serious legal issues.


Herschel Vinyard's appointment as Secretary of the FDEP is in violation of 304 (i) of the Clean Water Act, prohibiting persons employed by regulated dischargers from overseeing state agencies that administer National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. The statue clearly states there must be two years separation between the positions of "employed by" and "in charge of."


It appears Vinyard's previous status, just prior to accepting his FDEP position, is very much in conflict with the federal statute.


Vinyard, was director of operations for BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards, overseeing wastewater permits and other regulatory matters, and also chairman of Shipbuilders Council of America, where he represented 40 companies in 100 shipyards.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) too little too late policy hasn't acted on a complaint filed more than a year ago, challenging Vinyard's legal right to head the FDEP.


The Florida Clean Water Network and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed the complaint in February 2011. Currently, Vinyard is making decisions pertaining to NDEPS, the development of a narrative nutrient criteria rule and the Total Maximum Daily Loads program throughout Florida. It appears all of these positions conflict with the legal prerequisites of the federal CWA statue.


Governor Scott has not responded publicly. If he appointed Vinyard, knowing of his disqualifying status, decisions made by the department could be in jeopardy, and subject to federal claw-back laws.


Every decision Vinyard makes while under this cloud of legitimacy is in question. Scott announced, when elected Governor, that he was on an anti-regulation quest. What betterway to embark on one than appointing someone who was contesting regulation when chosen for the job. Trouble is, it wasn't legal.


Vinyard needs to come forward with the real truth and quit dodging inquiry, and so does Governor Scott. 

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As the DEP corruption continues......
Posted by Paul D. Harvill on May 21, 2012

I pray that the damage inflicted on all the people and the environment of our state can be repaired once the voters learn the true goal of these TeaParty Republicans is to line their pockets and steal the resources of Florida. Please educate your neighbors who do not understand how important the integrity of our elected officials must be and vote these bums out!
Posted by James Buckley on May 21, 2012

This governor selects his appointees by how it benefits his cronies in big business. As long as the inmates are in charge of the insane asylum called Tallahassee nothing will change. So much for the so called outsider who would change business as usual. The governor is looking forward to 2014, so are the voters.
Posted by William E.Moore on May 21, 2012

Mr vineyard travels the state lecturing employees about integrity and honesty. It seems perhaps those attributes are only important to him in his speeches. Typical.
Posted by wayne b pass on May 21, 2012

Quite honestly, isn't our governor doing exactly what we, the citizens, have come to expect of him? He is getting rid of all those pesky regulations that cut into a corporate bottom line. Who cares if the waters of Florida remain a major tourist attraction? After all, we sell the governorship and now we sell our water....So Florida continues shooting itself in the foot....can we recall Scott? Thanks, John, for alerting people to this violation of public trust.
Posted by Norma Killebrew on May 19, 2012

Thank you Bradenton Times for being our State and Local government Watchdog. These issues are rarely brought to light yet adversely affect citizens in Florida. The FDEP is charged with protecting our environment. Why would Governor Scott hire someone to head that Agency who lied on their resume and had no work experience with permits, let along the science behind their issuance.

No wonder the FDEP has 'rubber stamped' most or all of Mosaic permits to mine. It seems Vinyard's decisions have reflected a pro-polluter basis and now he wants to take on changing the EPA's Numeric Nutrient Standards in Florida. It's time he leave office and Governor Scott tell the people of Florida what he was thinking when he hired this guy.....or maybe he knew.
Posted by Barbara A. Angelucci on May 19, 2012

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