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For Immediate Release: Jun 15, 2000
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

CALL FOR SPECIAL ENVIRONMENTAL PROSECUTOR IN PANAMA CITY

Local


Tallahassee - Citing an array of festering pollution enforcement problems and a conflict with the local state attorney, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) today filed a formal petition with Governor Jeb Bush for the appointment of a special prosecutor for Bay and Gulf Counties. The PEER petition was filed by Steven Medina, a former lawyer with the state Department of Environmental Protection specializing in enforcement.

At the heart of the PEER petition is the inability or unwillingness of local prosecutors to take action in a score of recent highly-publicized pollution cases. The petition notes that a prominent local firm has lawyers who serve as defense attorneys for potential violators and lawyers who work as part-time assistant state attorneys. Moreover, the daughter of the state attorney is herself an attorney for that firm. The petition asks that a special grand jury be convened, citing a litany of unresolved air, water and soil pollution cases, including:

* an exposed raw sewage pipeline across St. Andrew Bay;
* dioxin emissions from the Bay County garbage incinerator;
* toxic contamination of Martin Lake;
* sewage sludge disposal on Gulf County farms;
* sewage discharge in shellfish harvesting areas and direct discharge of storm water into the Gulf by Panama City Beach; and
* illegal destruction of wetlands by Panama City Beach.

Governor Bush has frequently issued executive orders appointing outside prosecutors when conflicts of interest or "appearance" of impropriety issues arise. "The power of the Governor to appoint special prosecutors circumvents the 'good ol' boy' gridlock stymying faithful execution of the laws," stated Medina, Florida Counsel to PEER. "These beautiful areas, known for their beaches, bays and lakes, are at risk of becoming notorious for fouling their waters and poisoning their soil."

A copy of the PEER special prosecutor petition is available upon request