Allen Barnes has been recommended by Governor Sonny Perdue to head the Environmental Protection Division.
Barnes, a former chief of staff for the Region 4 Environmental Protection Agency office during the Bush administration, is currently a partner at the King and Spalding law firm. Before joining the EPA, Barnes taught natural resource policy and law as an Associate Professor at Mississippi State from 1996 to 2002.
Barnes must be approved by the Department of Natural Resources board, and it's expected the board will do so. Governor Perdue, in a statement, praised his pick, saying “Allen brings a wealth of environmental and management experience to this position. His impressive government and academic background ensures he will successfully lead EPD as they continue to be responsible stewards of our most precious natural resources.”
Many environmentalists, however, are unhappy with the pick. King and Spalding represents several clients that are, or have been, in court battles with groups like the Sierra Club. Neil Herring is a lobbyist for that group, and shortly after the appointment, he released this statement to GPB:
"The Governor appointed a King and Spalding lawyer, who has represented Cobb Energy, to the DNT Board a couple of weeks ago.
Now he is replacing a water scientist at the Environmental Protection Division with another King and Spalding lawyer, just when Georgia has to finally figure out how to faily share its water resources with its downstream neighbors.
King and Spalding is also taking over as the State's lead counsel in the Water Wars negotiation.
Perhaps this is an example of the "public-private partnerships" the Governor is always talking about: He is turning over water and environmental regulation to a private firm, one that has previously represented many of the polluters regulated by the agency they will now run. That ought to be cozy for their clients, but hard on natural resources, and the public interest in them. "
Bert Brantley, spokesman for Governor Perdue, says Barnes experience at EPA will help Georgia greatly.
“The EPD has some major tasks on their plate. First and foremost is the state water plan. Barnes, as chief of staff for EPA, he dealt with other states [Alabama and Florida]… The expertise he brings in dealing with those states… he comes to this job with a set of experiences and skill sets with what the EPD director is charged with, ” Brantley says.
Asked if there's concern Barnes will give favor to King and Spalding, or it's clients, Brantley responded firmly: “There’s no concern. If there was concern, the Governor wouldn’t have recommended him.”