Florida expert suspended for refusing wetlands permit

Wetlands are a vital part of the ecosystem, and there are all sorts of shenanigans that go on with the state mitigation programs – Florida being infamous for all kinds of backchannel practices:

Florida’s top state wetlands expert has been suspended after she refused to issue a permit on a controversial project — one that she said her boss was willing to bend the rules to approve.

The project: turning a North Florida pine plantation into a business that attempts to make up for wetlands that are wiped out by new roads and development. At stake: millions of dollars in wetland “credits” that can be sold to government and developers.

The problem, according to a May 9 memo from Department of Environmental Protection wetlands expert Connie Bersok, is that the owners want the DEP to give them lots of wetland credits for land that isn’t wet.

After being told by Deputy Secretary Jeff Littlejohn to ignore the rules she had followed on other permits, Bersok wrote, “I hereby state my objection to the intended agency action and refusal to recommend this permit for issuance.”

Two days later, Bersok was suspended pending an investigation, her personnel file shows. She declined to comment for this article without DEP permission. DEP officials would not allow a reporter to speak with her. A spokeswoman would not discuss her case.

“It smells really bad to me,” said Aliki Moncrief, a former DEP attorney who is now executive director of Environment Florida, an activist group.

The application that led to Bersok’s suspension came from the Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank, which has repeatedly tussled with permitting officials.

“They’re scrappy, these guys,” said Glenn Lowe, who lost his job with the St. Johns River Water Management District after he refused to give Highlands Ranch what its owners wanted. Former water district executive director Kirby Green said Lowe and other employees lost their jobs because Gov. Rick Scott’s pro-business administration didn’t like the way they treated Highlands Ranch.

Rerun

You can understand why the U.S. government was so unhappy with Bradley Manning when we get to connect the dots on information like this:

“Days after the Deepwater Horizon blow-out, a message came in to our offices in New York from an industry insider floating on a ship in the Caspian Sea. He stated there had been a blow-out, just like the one in the Gulf, and BP had covered it up.To confirm this shocking accusation, I flew with my team to the Islamic republic of Azerbaijan.

“Outside the capital, Baku, near the giant BP terminal, we found workers, though too frightened to give their names, who did confirm that they were evacuated from the BP offshore platform as it filled with explosive methane gas.

“Before we could get them on camera, my crew and I were arrested and the witnesses disappeared.

“Expelled from Azerbaijan, we still obtained the ultimate corroboration: a secret cable from the U.S. Embassy to the State Department in Washington laying out the whole story of the 2008 Caspian blow-out.

“The source of the cable, classified “SECRET,” was a disaffected U.S. soldier, Private Bradley Manning who, throughWikiLeaks.org, provided hot smoking guns to The Guardian.The information found in the U.S. embassy cables is a block-buster. The cables confirmed what BP will not admit to this day: there was a serious blow-out and its cause was the same as in the Gulf disaster two years later—the cement (“mud”) used to cap the well had failed.

“Bill Schrader, President of BP-Azerbaijan, revealed the truth to our embassy about the Caspian disaster:

“Schrader said that the September 17shutdown of the Central Azeri (CA) platform…was the largest such emergency evacuation in BP’s history. Given the explosive potential, BP was quite fortunate to have been able to evacuate everyone safely and to prevent any gas ignition. … Due to the blowout of a gas-injection well there was ‘a lot of mud’ on the platform.”

“From other sources, we discovered the cement which failed had been mixed with nitrogen as a way to speed up drying, a risky process that was repeated on the Deepwater Horizon.
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