DEP PREAPPROVAL/PRP TIMELINE OF INVESTIGATIONS BY THE DEP OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL AND THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF LAW ENFORCEMENT
In conjunction with our Feb/March 2018 Specifier article entitled “PEER blasts DEP for failures made during petroleum cleanup program revamp,” we offer this timeline of events that lead to the petroleum program reorganization--must-read material for anyone involved with the program for the past decade…
December 31, 2011 - The Florida Legislature diverts a total of $22 million from the Inland Protection Trust Fund from total revenues collected for 2011 for uses other than petroleum contamination cleanup. The Inland Protection Trust Fund was established for the funding of petroleum contamination cleanup.
February 17, 2012 - OIG case number II-03-12-2012-025. Jim Walker makes statements about fraudulent practices by remediation contractors and consultants. No note as to who wrote up the interview with Walker. This is the same Walker who was the witness in the subsequent FDLE investigation into Earth Systems’ well sampling practices. The FDLE met with Walker on April 8, 2013, 13 months after he initially contacted DEP.
April 9, 2012 - OIG case number II-03-12-2012-025 is closed with no findings.
May, 2012 - Marc Eichenholtz writes editorial in KHAASBAAT newsletter concerning remuneration and states that DEP has “several investigations underway.” He further states that DEP may give amnesty to site owners who were unaware of the illegality of remuneration if they provide details as to who the consultants are that made the offers of remuneration.
October 30, 2012 - OIG case number II-01-12-2012-127. Phone call statements from an unknown entity (names redacted from document) concerning general allegations about environmental contractors and groundwater sampling. The redacted name is Jim Walker.
December 8, 2012 - Herschel Vinyard requests that the DEP Inspector General review the Preapproval Program.
December 31, 2012 - The Florida Legislature diverts a total of $24.6 million from the Inland Protection Trust Fund from total revenue of $189 million collected for 2012 for uses other than petroleum contamination cleanup. The Inland Protection Trust Fund was established for the funding of petroleum contamination cleanup.
Late January to March 21, 2013 - DEP OIG Case number II-01-12-2013-031. Allegations are made concerning improper remuneration by AET to DEP by former AET employee Larry Kastner. OIG begins an investigation and possible whistleblower protection for Kastner.
January 28, 2013 - DEP Office of Inspector General completes audit of contractor land ownership of petroleum contaminated sites. They conclude, in part, the following: “Based on our review of facilities ownership, we found no program non-compliance, in respect to contractor ownership of facilities in the current Petroleum Cleanup Preapproval Program. However, by not prohibiting this practice, state funds are exposed to risk of contractor manipulation with the potential of elevated costs. It also allows for circumvention of the competitive process of site contractor selection.”
February 19, 2013 - At the FPMA pre-legislative meeting in Tallahassee, Division of Waste Management Director Jorge Caspary announces that there are “shenanigans” in the Preapproval Program and the DEP is going to retool it. Further, he states that there is potential criminal activity. No evidence or examples are given to backup his claim of “shenanigans” or criminal activity. He further states that the Preapproval Program will be converted to a competitive bidding process. Both Jeff Littlejohn and Randy Greene are in attendance.
February 20, 2013 - OIG internal memo stating that Larry Kastner provided Jorge Caspary and Robert Brown with a receipt from AET which demonstrates a $45K remuneration payment to a T.D. McRae.
February 21, 2013 - DEP leadership holds a short teleconference with FPMA environmental committee and FPMA leadership. Hershel Vineyard, the secretary of the DEP announces that:
• “There are serious problems with the Preapproval Program and as late as yesterday (Wednesday) more disturbing information has been uncovered."
• Option 1 - The Preapproval Program will be retooled/reformed this legislative session. He put forth the idea of competitive bidding and how the program can be improved.
• Option 2 - If the Preapproval Program is not retooled this session, “I am prepared not to support the program.”
• Jorge Caspary, who was also on the call, states that “there are ongoing investigations concerning remuneration and other issues.”
February 25, 2013 - FPMA Environmental Chair and Assistant Environmental Chair meet with Randy Greene, chief operating officer of DEP, for two hours to discuss the Preapproval Program and statements made at the February 19, 2013 FPMA conference by Jorge Caspary.
March 8, 2013 - The DEP Inspector General Candie M. Fuller sends a 24-page memorandum to Herschel Vinyard outlining her concerns with respect to the Preapproval Program. To gain an understanding of the Preapproval Program, OIG conducted interviews with site owners, responsible parties, contractors, field inspectors and division staff. No information was presented in the report as to who OIG interviewed. No indication is given as to interviews that Fuller may have had with individuals who had an institutional knowledge of the Preapproval Program.
March 14, 2013 - DEP OIG case number II-01-12-2013-030. Tina Peters and Julie Lowery provide statements to DEP about DEP employees and environmental contractors. These statements involve allegations of remuneration by FGS and AET. They also make allegations against using LDAs, claiming that the technology causes groundwater contamination.
March 18, 2013 - FPMA Environmental Chair and Assistant Environmental Chair meet with DEP Deputy Secretary for Regulatory Programs Jeff Littlejohn for an hour to discuss the Preapproval Program and statements made at the February 19, 2013 FPMA conference by Jorge Caspary.
March 20, 2013 - SB-1416, which changes the Preapproval Program, is submitted by Senator Joseph Abrusso and co-sponsored by DEP. This bill soon dies in committee.
March 21, 2013 - Bureau Chief Robert Brown resigns.
March 25, 2013 - DEP announces that Valerie Huegel, a reserve Navy Admiral, will be the new Bureau Chief.
March 27, 2013 - Meeting in Orlando between the FPMA Marketers and Randy Greene and Jorge Caspary to discuss their concerns about the DEP and the Preapproval Program. There is very poor attendance by the FPMA marketers. Marketers are assured they will have a voice in the retooling process and that they will have a voice in selection of contractors on their sites. DEP also discusses written and verbal complaints received concerning the Preapproval Program.
March 28, 2013 - “The Current” reports comments made by Herschel Vinyard about the petroleum program “after the ouster a week ago of Robert C. Brown as chief of the DEP’s Bureau of Petroleum Storage Systems.”
March 29, 2013 - DEP posts a series of statements on their DEP news website that the petroleum program will be reformed.
April 8, 2013 - FDLE CASE NUMBER EI-11-0039/ DEP OIG case number II-01-12-20
April 17, 2013 - A new version of SB-1416 surfaces during the legislative session sponsored by Senator Greg Evers.
April 18, 2013 - FPMA authorizes their legislative director to kill or modify SB-1416.
April 20, 2013 - Senator Evers announces that SB-1416 is dead because there is no legislative House companion bill. Senator Evers states his intention to change the program nevertheless.
April, 2013 - FPMA legislative director reports to the FPMA executive board that DEP has “poisoned the well” with respect to contractors and further states that “marketers have been painted with the same brush.” Numerous statements and allegations have been made by DEP representatives to legislators concerning contractors, individuals and marketers.
May 1, 2013 - The Legislature provides proviso language directing DEP to submit a proposal to change the Preapproval Program and present it for approval to the Legislative Budget Committee that will meet in October, 2013.
May 1, 2013 - DEP OIG case number II-01-12-2013-030. OIG files an internal memo concerning Tina Peter’s allegations stating that the case is closed due to the fact that Peters failed to provide documentation or evidence to prove her allegations of remuneration by AET and FGS.
May 20, 2013 - DEP OIG case number II-04-12-2013-051. Marc Eichenholtz, president and principal geologist with MAS Environmental, sends a letter to DEP OIG concerning Triumph Food Mart (fact id 8514904) filing a complaint against The FGS Group and naming Robert Tolbert. The letter requests clarification of specific statutes concerning contractors buying contaminated properties and having the seller designate The FGS Group as the cleanup contractor.
June 5, 2013 - DEP OIG case number II-04-12-2013-051. OIG writes letter to Marc Eichenholtz of MAS Environmental informing him that there is no law against contractors buying contaminated property and designating themselves as the cleanup contractor. The letter informs Eichenholtz that the case is closed. It is ironic that Eichenholtz, who has worked in the state petroleum cleanup program during both the reimbursement program and the Preapproval Program, did not already know this fact.
July 20, 2013 - FPMA Chairman John Tiffany announces that FPMA will take legal action against the DEP concerning the Preapproval Program.
August 6, 2013 - FPMA announces a pending merger with the Florida Retail Federation. The merger effectively extinguishes the pending legal action that the FPMA announced on July 20th.
August 20 2013 - FDLE Case number EI-11-0039. FDLE closes the investigation of Earth Systems. FDLE states that they were unable to determine any criminal nexus to justify further investigation.
September 5, 2013 - FDLE case number EI-11-0039. FDLE sends a letter to DEP OIG informing them of the results of the investigation of Earth Systems and closes the case.
October 12, 2013 - DEP presents their plan to reform the Preapproval Program to the Legislative Budget Committee as required by proviso language passed during the legislative session of 2013. The LBC unanimously approves the plan with virtually no discussion. DEP begins the process of implementing the LBC approved plan.
December 31, 2013 - The Florida Legislature diverts a total of $37.6 million from the Inland Protection Trust Fund from total revenue of $188 million collected for 2013 for uses other than petroleum contamination cleanup. The Inland Protection Trust Fund was established for the funding of petroleum contamination cleanup.
January 8, 2014 - DEP advertises in My Florida Market Place for legal services on pending negotiations, mediations and potential lawsuits related to the recovery of overpayments of “reimbursement claims.” No detailed explanation is given as to which reimbursement claims were at issue, however the Hogan Law Firm had a contract with the governor’s office, which was implemented during the Crist administration, concerning double payments to large oil companies. It was alleged by the Hogan Law Firm that these oil companies filed claims with the state under either the Early Detection Incentive program or the Abandoned Tank Restoration Program for which they received 100 percent state funding for the cleanup of petroleum contamination caused by them at their wholesale, retail and bulk plant facilities--while at the same time they had filed discharge claims with their insurance carries for those very same discharges.
January 16, 2014 - FPMA teleconference. FPMA Environmental Chair Mike Ashey asks Randy Miller of the FRF if he has heard any rumors about an FDLE investigation report with a conclusion that no one broke the law. Miller responds that he had a discussion with Jeff Littlejohn just last week on the FDLE report findings and that Littlejohn is very angry with the FDLE conclusion. Ned Bowman who is also on the call chimes in and states that several marketers have also seen the report and they disagree with the conclusions and they are going to meet with the Attorney General. No statements concerning whether this FDLE investigation is concerning the entire program, one allegation, or a series of allegations. Everyone who is listening on the teleconference assumes it’s about the program and specifically about allegations made against individuals and companies.
January 22, 2014 - FPMA Environmental Chair Mike Ashey receives a phone call from Randy Miller and Ned Bowman demanding that he withdraw his public records request to get copies of the Invitation to Bid submissions from environmental contractors. They said that Jeff Littlejohn was very angry with his public records request.
February 10, 2014 - DEP Case number II-01-12-2013-31. OIG issues an internal closure memo concerning the Larry Kastner whistleblower case concerning possible improper remuneration from March 21, 2013.
February 17, 2014 - DEP OIG Case number II-01-12-2013-031. DEP OIG sends a letter to Larry Kastner and informs him that the DEP has officially closed Case number II-01-12-2013-031. No findings were reported.
February 19, 2014 - At the FPMA pre-legislative conference, an attendee announces publicly during the environmental meeting about the FDLE report and its conclusions that were discussed on the January 16th FPMA teleconference. Randy Miller and Ned Bowman who acknowledged the existence of the FDLE report on the January 16, 2014 FPMA/FRF teleconference are in attendance when this announcement is made.
February, 2014 - HB-7093 proposes changing the Preapproval Program to a competitively bid program. This bill is a follow-up of the LBC-approved plan from the October 12, 2013 LBC/DEP meeting.
March 13, 2014 - DEP General Council Matthew Leopold sends a request to the Florida Attorney General’s office requesting that DEP retain the law firm of Shutts & Bowen LLP. The purpose of this request is to have this law firm represent DEP in litigation matters pertaining to claims of overpayment to major companies from the Inland Protection Trust Fund for the cleanup of underground storage tanks. The recommended rate for the Shutts & Bowen law firm is $175/hour.
March 21, 2014 - DEP OIG case number II-03-12-2014-041. DEP employee Rob Cowdery believes that AET performed substandard work on Snack and Gas #6 and writes email to that effect to Gordon Dean, president of AET.
April 1, 2015 - DEP OIG case number II-03-12-2014-041. Jorge Caspary issues complaint concerning AET Snack & Gas site (fac id 8507164) located in Jacksonville.
May, 2014 - 2014 legislative session ends. HB-7093 is approved and sent to the governor for signature.
May 7, 2014 - DEP OIG case number II-01-12-2012-127. OIG closes this case with no findings. The redacted name from the original October 30, 2012 initial contact is Jim Walker.
May 7, 2014 - DEP OIG case number II-03-12-2014-041. OIG closes this investigation. An audit of the site indicated that DEP approved every action of AET prior to implementation and therefore AET cannot be held liable after the fact for the poor performance of the remedial system.
June 6, 2014 - Deputy Secretary Jeff Littlejohn resigns.
June 13, 2014 - Governor Scott signs HB-7093.
August 20, 2014 - DEP OIG case number II-01-12-2014-092. Internal memo of allegations by a member of the DEP executive management concerning how the PRP program is being implemented with respect to LSSIs and LSAs.
November 24, 2014 - A settlement agreement is executed between DEP and Phillips 66 in the amount of $3,200,000 dollars for reimbursement to the Inland Protection Trust Fund. Phillips 66 engaged in the submission of claims to their insurers relating to environmental liabilities and received payment for such claims while at the same time registered their contaminated sites in the state of Florida’s publicly funded contamination cleanup programs.
November 26, 2014 - A settlement agreement is executed between DEP and Chevron USA Inc. and Union Oil Company of California in the amount of $7,000,000 dollars for reimbursement to the Inland Protection Trust Fund. Chevron USA Inc. and Union Oil Company of California engaged in the submission of claims to their insurers relating to environmental liabilities and received payment for such claims while at the same time registered their contaminated sites in the state of Florida’s publicly funded contamination cleanup programs.
December 2, 2014 - DEP Secretary Vinyard resigns.
December 31, 2014 - Valerie Huegel resigns as the Petroleum Program bureau chief and Diane Pickett becomes the new bureau chief.
December 31, 2014 - The Florida Legislature diverts a total of $55.8 million from the Inland Protection Trust Fund from total revenue of $192 million collected for 2014 for uses other than petroleum contamination cleanup. This diversion represents 29 percent of the total revenues. The Inland Protection Trust Fund was established for the funding of petroleum contamination cleanup.
March 31, 2015 - Randy Greene resigns from DEP.
October 26, 2015 - A settlement agreement is executed between DEP and Sunoco Inc. in the amount of $475,000 for reimbursement to the Inland Protection Trust Fund. Sunoco Inc. engaged in the submission of claims to their insurers relating to environmental liabilities and received payment for such claims while at the same time registered their contaminated sites in the state of Florida’s publicly funded contamination cleanup programs.
December 9, 2015 - DEP OIG case number II-04-12-2015-114. Beau Beaube sends an email to DEP OIG and alleges that Product Recovery Management is price fixing the cost of remediation equipment. No evidence is provided to substantiate the allegations and the case is closed.
December 31, 2015 - The Florida Legislature diverts a total of $39.7 million from the Inland Protection Trust Fund from total revenue of $198 million collected for 2012 for uses other than petroleum contamination cleanup. This diversion represents 20 percent of the total revenues. The Inland Protection Trust Fund was established for the funding of petroleum contamination cleanup.
March 16, 2016 - DEP OIG case number - II-01-12-2014-092. DEP Office of Inspector General closes this case with a finding that the PRP program did not violate any laws but did violate the ATC contract provisions by direct assigning LSA sites to them. No further action is noted.
April 13, 2016 - PEER submits a public records request to FDLE concerning any investigations of the DEP petroleum program.
April 27, 2016 - FDLE calls PEER, who submitted the April 13th public records request and states that they could not find anything and requested additional information that might narrow their search. Additional information is subsequently provided to FDLE.
May 13, 2016 - FDLE calls PEER . FDLE found one case that was titled as an executive report concerning a specific contractor, Earth Systems. These documents are provided to PEER. The documents indicate that allegations were made by a former Earth Systems employee. FDLE opened an investigation (Case EI-11-0039). After conducting the investigation, FDLE concludes that they were unable to determine any criminal nexus to justify further investigation and subsequently notified DEP on September 5, 2013, of such via letter.
May 23, 2016 - Public records request to FDLE from PEER requesting any records that may involve a submitted list of individuals or companies
June 10, 2016 - The FDLE Office of General Council provides the following response to the May 23, 2016, public records request from PEER that included a list of names and companies. “Public Records Request Pertaining To Investigation into Petroleum Cleanup Program At DEP (Specific Companies and Individuals).Searches were conducted through FDLE’s files for records based on the information you provided. After conducting searches, we were unable to find records related to your request.” Based upon this statement from FDLE, there are no records of any investigations or reviews concerning the DEP Petroleum Program except for case number EI-11-0039, which was provided on May 13, 2016 in response to the public records request of April 12, 2016.
December 31, 2016 - The Florida Legislature diverts a total of $62.9 million from the Inland Protection Trust Fund from total revenue of $206 million collected for 2016 for uses other than petroleum contamination cleanup. This diversion represents 31 percent of the total revenues. The Inland Protection Trust Fund was established for the funding of petroleum contamination cleanup.
December 31, 2017 - Projection based upon the March 31, 2017, Inland Protection Trust Fund Report generated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The Florida Legislature diverts a total of $63.5 million from the Inland Protection Trust Fund from total revenue of $200 million collected for 2017 for uses other than petroleum contamination cleanup. This diversion represents 32 percent of the total revenues. The Inland Protection Trust Fund was established for the funding of petroleum contamination cleanup.
PETROLEUM PROGRAM INVESTIGATION SUMMARIES
DEP - OIG CASE NUMBER II-03-12-2012-025 - CASE CLOSED WITH NO FINDINGS.
DEP - OIG CASE NUMBER II-01-12-2012-127 - CASE CLOSED WITH NO FINDINGS.
DEP - OIG CASE NUMBER II-01-12-2013-031 - CASE CLOSED WITH NO FINDINGS.
DEP - OIG CASE NUMBER II-01-12-2013-030 - CASE CLOSED WITH NO FINDINGS.
FDLE CASE NUMBER - E1-11-0039 - CASE CLOSED BY FDLE WITH NO FINDINGS OF CRIMINAL ACTIVITY.
DEP - OIG CASE NUMBER II-04-12-2013-051 - CASE CLOSED WITH NO FINDINGS.
DEP - OIG CASE NUMBER II-03-12-2014-041 - CASE CLOSED WITH NO FINDINGS.
DEP - OIG CASE NUMBER II-04-12-2015-114 - CASE CLOSED WITH NO FINDINGS.
DEP - OIG CASE NUMBER - II-01-12-2014-092 - CONCLUSION THAT THE PRP PROGRAM VIOLATED THE ATC CONTRACT PROVISIONS CONCERNING THE DIRECT ASSIGNMENT OF LSA SITES. NO FURTHER STATEMENTS OR ACTIONS ARE TAKEN AND THE CASE IS CLOSED.
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