TALLAHASSEE, Fla.- As Gov. Rick Scott's financial ties to big energy begin to surface, Florida's citizens and environmentalists start to turn up heat.
The governor's investment in the French energy company Schlumberger is in the six-figures. At the same time, it is Gov. Scott and his Cabinet that oversee the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and are tasked to regulate oil drilling in Florida. This is obviously a conflict of interest if the governor has investments in businesses that should be regulated by DEP and other state agencies.
According to Steve Bousquet of the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau, Scott put his assets in a blind trust in 2011 to "avoid conflicts" after the public began to question he and his wife's ties to the health care industry.
Scott last week said, "I put everything in a blind trust, so I don't know what's in the blind trust." All while the original blind trust from 2011 showed an investment of $135,000 in Schlumberger Ltd. - which happens to be the world's largest oil services company.
Bousquet continued saying that the Schlumberger Ltd. "stock has risen steadily over the past year and trades at $107 a share, but the blind trust prevents the public from knowing whether Scott still has a stake in the company - or whether it has grown."
The Dan A. Hughes Co., a Texas oil company who recently was fined and told to halt fracking operations in Southwest Florida, was aided by Schlumberger Ltd. In their application process with the Florida DEP according to Bousquet. Bousquet went on to say Schlumberger Ltd. has been surveying abandoned oil wells and conducting groundwater tests for Collier Resources who maintain the mineral rights of the drilling sites.
According to Stephen Harris of Schlumberger Ltd., "Schlumberger Water Services has been involved primarily in the permitting of the saltwater injection wells for Dan A. Hughes and has assisted with the oil well permit application."
In an interview with Bousquet, Joe Mule, president of Preserve Our Paradise (an organization opposed to drilling and fracking in South Florida) is one of many Floridians shocked by Gov. Scott's continuing financial ties to Schlumberger. Mule said, "This makes a huge difference to me," and that now he is "more suspicious of DEP's layoffs of dozens of employees charged with regulating polluters in 2012."
Alexis Meyer of the Sierra Club program that is charged with protecting panther habitats in Southwest Florida said that "It's very two-faced...and to have a governor who invests our money for Everglades restoration but also supports a company that wants to drill in the Everglades makes me very uncomfortable."
Recently, Carl-John X Veraja of the Nightly Citizen (a citizen watchdog blog) posted a list of Gov. Scott's insider ties that began in 2011. Here is just a small sample of 2014. Click here for entire history.
-January 14. 2014: FGCU employee, Rep. Ray Rodrigues, pushes his fracking bills at the Florida House of Representatives.
-March 11, 2014: DEP doesn't tell public about the fracking by Dan A. Hughes despite hours of discussion at the Golden Gate Estates Community Center.
-March 8 -30, 2014: As it turns out, Rep. Ray Rodrigues' campaign manager, Terry Miller, works for Strategic Advocacy. Strategic Advocacy is part of an organization that writes legislation to create loopholes for frackers. They change their webpage after I report this. The organization in question has ties with the Koch brothers.
-March 31, 2014: DEP doesn't tell public AGAIN about fracking at the Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Committee. It votes to stop drilling...
-April 15, 2014: DEP decides against the Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Committee, saying it's BEYOND OUR PURVIEW". And then, 3 DAYS LATER-
-April 18, 2014: DEP finally tells the public Dan A. Hughes fracked Florida. Dan A. Hughes finally signed consent order.
-April 4, 2014: I am asked for $725.00 for a public records request relating to these matters. The charge is for the material to be redacted by lawyers, so I'd be paying to not see what I ask for.
-April 22, 2014: Stonecrab Alliance and John Lundin get Collier County commissions to consider a petition against DEP and Dan A. Hughes.
-May 30, 2014: Jeff Littlejohn turns in his resignation letter. He intends to resign June 6, 2014. He writes to Herschel Vinyard about his "more consistent" regulatory process, and about rules.
-June 3-6, 2014: Jeff Littlejohn spends his last days trying to derail the Collier County Commissioners petition against the DEP.
-June 10, 2014: New Deputy Secretary Clifford Wilson III interrupts a Collier County Commission meeting with a threatening email, the Commissioners express outrage and proceed with the petition.
-June 13, 2014: Herschel Vinyard steps in to arrange closed meeting with Tom Henning.
-June 15, 2014: Rick Scott shown to have a financial stake in fracking Florida.
-June 17, 2014: Ethics complaint filed on Rick Scott after it is revealed he invested in Schlumberger, international fracking material supplier.
-June 18, 2014: Herschel Vinyard sends letter to Collier Resources and Dan A. Hughes asking them to answer public's questions, but making no indication of other conditions on the industry, or of specific promises of the manner of water testing that will be conducted.
Photo: Gov. Rick Scott. Chris O'Meara/AP