The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has dismissed petitions from two environmental groups claiming two top Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officials had conflicts of interest prohibited under federal law prior to being appointed.    Under the federal Clean Water Act, a person cannot work with an agency that issues water pollution permits within two years of receiving a substantial portion of their income directly or indirectly from a permit holder or applicant.   DEP Secretary Hershel Vinyard was formerly the director of business operation for BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards, who according to a press release, "provided counsel to BAE Systems in their recent, successful efforts to remove its treated wastewater outfall from the St. Johns River."  

The EPA said there was insufficient information to determine whether DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. was disqualified and that the two-year period for a review has expired. That petition was filed in February 2011 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Clean Water Network. 

PEER and the Clean Water Network also filed a petition asking that the EPA investigate a potential conflict of interest for Jeff Littlejohn, DEP’s Deputy Secretary for Regulatory Programs.  EPA Regional Administrator, Gwen Keyes Fleming denied that request in a letter saying there was not sufficient information to warrant proceedings.  Florida DEP spokesman Patrick Gillespie said, "EPA looked into the complaints and, as we expected, dismissed them."