Having his just desserts

The Environmental Accommodation Department head has now become a vice president for International Paper Co.

Published: Sunday, February 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 31, 2004 at 9:47 p.m.

Having toiled away faithfully for many years as head of Florida's Department of Environmental Accommodation (formerly the Department of Environmental Protection), David Struhs is getting his just desserts. Soon he will start pulling down the big bucks as a vice president for International Paper Co.

This follows Struhs' strenuous lobbying to help land International Paper a cheap federal loan so it could build a wastewater treatment plant and bring its Pensacola paper mill into state compliance.

Of course, some environmental wackos argue that even with the new treatment plant, the mill will still dirty up Perdido Bay. But Florida's water quality standards being so, well, flexible, any improvement at all has to be considered a plus.

In any case, Struhs is moving on. And lest anybody get the wrong idea, both his old boss, Gov. Jeb Bush, and his new boss, International Paper, strenuously deny that there was any conflict or quid-pro-quo involved in the job offer. As IP spokeswoman Jennifer Boardman told reporters this week, presumably with a straight face, "we wanted him because of his ethics and his leadership."

Can't argue with that. Industry has to be thrilled with the kind of "leadership" that has seen the state's impaired waters rule watered down, a controversial cement plant rise near the Ichetucknee River, and regulatory controls eased on Big Sugar and the phosphate industry. Frankly, we're not sure how much more "leadership" Florida's much abused natural environment can stand.

Struhs' departure will not be lamented. He will be mainly remembered for downplaying enforcement in favor of making nice with the polluters. But in that regard, Struhs' "ethics and leadership" merely reflected the philosophy of the Jeb Bush Administration.

Which means, of course, that Struhs will almost certainly be replaced by yet another environmental figurehead.

Not to worry, though. As Struhs has demonstrated, being head of the Department of Environmental Accommodation is hardly a dead-end job. There's lots of room for advancement.

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