New Environmental Secretary Appointed as Florida Ecosystems Deteriorate

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In: New Environmental Secretary Appointed as Florida Ecosystems Deteriorate | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
Expectation. “Will He Not Come Soon?” by Christian Dalsgaard. Public Domain.

So the interim Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection will now become the new appointee.  Shawn Hamilton, being selected by Gov. Ron (the Bully) DeSantis, arrives with low expectations from those who care about protecting our environment.

Notwithstanding the Audubon group.

At any rate, Hamilton has a huge task before him, and unfortunately, even if he sincerely wants to do his job he will likely not be permitted to do so.  Until DeSantis is gone there is little hope for the DEP.

Read the original article here in the Florida Phoenix.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
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– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum

New Environmental Secretary Appointed as Florida Ecosystems Deteriorate

By: Laura Cassels – August 31, 2021 5:51 pm
Shawn Hamilton, newly named secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, has a daunting task ahead of him, say environmental experts who have been calling for dramatic changes in policy since Gov. Ron DeSantis was elected.

Hamilton has been interim secretary since June 4, when Noah Valenstein departed. He has been at DEP for 13 years, most recently as deputy secretary of Lands and Recreation. His bio indicates his expertise is in administration, permitting, compliance and enforcement.

Hamilton Shawn DEP2 1 e1630445699511 In: New Environmental Secretary Appointed as Florida Ecosystems Deteriorate | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
Shawn Hamilton. Credit: Florida DEP 

While the governor’s press release about Hamilton included a litany of compliments from environmental groups such as Audubon Florida and the Everglades Foundations, several others were conspicuously not represented, including Sierra Club of Florida, the Florida Springs Council, and Waterkeepers Florida.

Those groups have been fighting the DeSantis administration over water quality since he promised to reduce blue-green algae blooms, red tide, and water pollution. This summer, communities around the state continued to be plagued by algae, red tide, fish kills and the disastrous collapse of a toxic retention pond at Piney Point near Tampa Bay.

Sierra, the Springs Council and Waterkeepers condemned DeSantis and Republican legislators who backed the so-called “Clean Waterways Act” that they insist largely ignores the findings of the scientist-packed Blue-Green Algae Task Force DeSantis commissioned to in fact make waterways cleaner.

Florida state government also has taken not a single step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change that fuels excessive heat, stronger and more frequent hurricanes, and unprecedented flooding.

Deborah Foote, deputy director of the Florida chapter of Sierra Club, said she has met with Secretary Hamilton and urged him to be ambitious and transparent because Florida’s environment “needs all hands on deck” and is not getting the help it requires.

“He should start with fully implementing the recommendations of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force,” Foote told the Phoenix.

“I’m hopeful that under his leadership, the department may become much more of a partner with stakeholders and the public as we work to improve Florida’s environment,” Foote continued. “We are looking forward to working with him in a transparent and engaged manner.”

Audubon Florida was among the organizations that provided complimentary statements cited in the governor’s press release.

“Audubon has been pleased with Secretary Hamilton’s interim leadership and we are glad to see his role made permanent,” said Julie Wraithmell, executive director of Audubon Florida. “Not only does he bring long experience at regional and state levels of DEP, but his background spans DEP priorities from regulatory oversight to state land management. DEP is a big agency with big responsibilities and we’re glad to see someone with Shawn’s talents and experience chosen for the role.”

Update, 8 p.m.: Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Nikki Fried, Florida’s only statewide-elected Democrat, a Cabinet member, and a gubernatorial contender, wrote to DeSantis Tuesday evening that the appointment is not entirely up to the governor.

“As I reminded the governor in June, he lacks the legal authority to unilaterally make this appointment. State law is very clear: It requires the unanimous approval of the Cabinet, in addition to confirmation by the Florida Senate,” Fried wrote. She said she has met and interviewed Hamilton and has no “quarrel” with him but wants full deliberation on filling the vital post.

“Given the red tide environmental and public health emergency, given the serious issues facing over two dozen phosphogypsum stacks like Piney Point, and given DEP’s direct enforcement on thousands of BMP [water-quality] cases my agency has referred, circumventing the appropriate process belittles the urgency of the crises facing our state,” she wrote.

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