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Regulator taps friend for deputy DEP chief

By CRAIG PITTMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 23, 2001


The state's top environmental regulator has chosen a longtime friend with no experience in Florida as the new deputy secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.

The state's top environmental regulator has chosen a longtime friend with no experience in Florida as the new deputy secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.

DEP Secretary David Struhs and Allan Bedwell met while on the staff of the first Bush White House. They did consulting work together for utility companies in California. When Struhs became head of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Bedwell served as his deputy, and for a while even stayed at Struhs' house.

Bedwell, who is supposed to start his new, six-figure state job June 11, will replace a Florida native and longtime Republican who has worked for the state for 23 years.

Deputy Secretary Kirby Green would not respond Tuesday to questions about whether Struhs had pushed him out.

"I'm not going to answer that," Green said. "It's immaterial. ... There's always talk."

Green would not say where he will go next. "I'm trying to make some decisions," he said.

Instead of returning a reporter's calls, Struhs released a brief statement calling Green "a results-oriented manager with a unique ability to work closely with a wide variety of constituents. Florida's environment is better off for Kirby Green's service."

Some of the state's GOP stalwarts have called Gov. Jeb Bush on Green's behalf. DEP spokesman Bob Sparks said Bush and Struhs discussed Green's departure last week but said he did not know what they said.

"A lot of people were quite upset he was asked to leave," said former House Majority Leader R. Dale Patchett, a lobbyist who once worked with Green. "I think it was a major mistake on the secretary's part."

Patchett said he and other friends were trying to find Green a new job, but "I don't think anything has jelled yet."

Green made $115,323.48 annually. DEP spokeswoman Lucia Ross said Bedwell will probably be paid the same, although she said, "I don't think he has any work experience in Florida."

Green, 51, a Jacksonville native, oversees the work of more than 1,500 employees statewide who are supposed to keep the air and water clean. He said his proudest accomplishments came in acquiring environmentally sensitive land for the state, particularly Topsail Hill State Reserve near Fort Walton Beach and Guana River State Park near Jacksonville.

Steve Medina, a former DEP attorney who now represents the activist group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said that in recent years Green has "not been pro-environment at all. From the environmentalists' side, he's been a real trooper for industry."

Officially, Green's last day will be Aug. 3. Although he and Bedwell will overlap, Green said, "I will be out of the office most of the time. I have some vacation time to burn."

Green's departure was announced to the DEP staff last week but not made public. Four days later, the DEP put out a news release announcing Bedwell's hiring, with no mention of Green.

In the early '90s Bedwell worked for the White House Council for Environmental Quality, where Struhs was chief of staff. Both worked for the Los Angeles-based Canyon Group, consulting with utilities. When Struhs was named commissioner of the Massachusetts DEP in 1995, he brought Bedwell too.

Bedwell did not return a call seeking comment. He is currently vice president of Goal Line Environmental Technologies in Tennessee, one of only three companies making zero-ammonia nitrogen oxide pollution control equipment for power plants.

In 1999 Struhs cut a deal with Tampa Electric Co. to clean up its coal-fired power plants. At Struhs' insistence, the deal required TECO to consider testing zero-ammonia nitrogen oxide control. (TECO subsequently discarded the idea.)

When questions arose about the TECO deal, Struhs denied that he was steering a multimillion-dollar contract to his longtime friend.

"I'm not stupid enough to make any kind of decision that would be perceived as showing favoritism," he said then. "My moral compass is true. I take great pride in being squeaky clean."

- Craig Pittman can be reached at craig@sptimes.com.

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