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Senator Questions Firings Of Environmental Protection Dept. Lawyers

A state lawmaker is investigating the Florida Department of Environmental Protection after it fired two lawyers last week and two more resigned. The senator says, the loss of lawyers is a symptom of the agency’s lax environmental-regulation enforcement.

Sen. Darren Soto, a Democrat from Orange County, is planning meetings with lawyers fired from the state environmental protection department. Soto said, he’s worried their firings bode poorly for the agency’s ability to protect the environment.

“One of the statements made early on  about the firings is that they don’t need the positions because they’re in less litigation. And my belief is that they’re in less litigation because they’re not pushing cases that they should potentially," he said.

Soto wrote a letter on Wednesday to DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard, asking for public records including personnel files and correspondence about the fired attorneys.

In an e-mail to WFSU, the department said it’s working on fulfilling Soto’s request. The statement also said, "Decisions were made on who can best handle the legal issues within the department. None of the changes made will prevent the department from continuing its mission of protecting the environment."