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Environment

Report: Florida Environmental Enforcement Agency Operating At Low Levels

An annual report by an government watchdog group said the state’s environmental regulatory agency is doing very little when it comes to regulating.

The group said there’s a dramatic shift in how the Florida Department of Environmental Protection operates under Gov. Rick Scott.

A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection wrote in an email the agency’s regulatory programs have “maintained a historic high 96 percent significant compliance rate for two consecutive years.”

That means less offenders. And for those that did fall out of step with the rules, Gov. Scott last year talked about tougher penalties for so-called “ bad actors.”

But, Jerry Phillips is skeptical. He’s the Director of the Florida chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility or PEER. He put together the 2014 report. He also worked for the DEP until the mid-90s.

Phillips said when the agency under the Scott administration does go after offenders, the amount the DEP fines them has dropped in many of its programs.

“If cases are being brought against the worst out there why are they assessing lower fines than they were previously?” he said.

It’s not just the fines for Phillips. The report also said the more than 200 cases the agency opened last year is an 85 percent drop compared to 2010.

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