Environmental review board doesn’t have much to do
The roots of a tree descend into a freshwater spring in Crystal River, Florida. (Photo: Ethan Daniels)


A former member of the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission said the group doesn’t have “jack” to do.

That’s why the commission — charged with reviewing rules to protect the state’s environment — hardly ever meets, the person said. The former commissioner asked not to be named.

But a current member explained the body, whose members don’t get paid, always meets when there’s business to handle.

“Is it every month? No,” said commissioner Adam Gelber of Miami.

A review of the commission’s meeting schedule for this year shows all of its monthly meetings from January to June have been cancelled, according to its website.

There’s no meeting scheduled for July. The August meeting is set as “TBD,” or “to be decided.” Gelber said he’s confident, however, the commission will meet then.

The former commissioner wasn’t so sure. That person recalls two meetings being called in one two-year stretch.

The commission “sets standards and rules that protect Floridians and the environment,” according to its website. “Most issues … relate to air pollution, water quality and waste management.”

“I was honored when I was first appointed, then I realized I wasn’t doing jack,” the former member said. “There were no decisions to make. It really needs a closer look on what it’s supposed to do.”

The newest member is Craig Varn, an environmental attorney in Tallahassee who was the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) top attorney. Gov. Rick Scott appointed him this week.

The panel works under the supervision of his former job, the DEP’s Office of General Counsel.

The commission is a “non-salaried, seven-member board selected by the Governor, who represent agriculture, the development industry, local government, the environmental community, citizens, and members of the scientific and technical community,” its website says.

Gelber, an environmental scientist, represents “science and technical” interests on the panel.

He said the commission has put in a lot of work during his time on board, including on rules to reduce water pollution.

In 2013, state and federal environmental authorities struck a deal for a special set of Florida-specific regulations to prevent contamination that can lead to algae blooms.

At the time, environmental activists said the rules were too liberal on the amounts allowed of fertilizer and other pollutants.

“We meet when there is policy to review,” Gelber said. “If there are no agenda items in the works, we don’t meet.”

Jim Rosica ([email protected]) covers the Florida Legislature, state agencies and courts from Tallahassee. 

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at [email protected].


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