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Word: Environmentalists cry foul over EPD boss

On state officials and conflicts of interest

On Oct. 28, Gov. Sonny Perdue named King & Spalding partner Allen Barnes the new state Environmental Protection Division director. Environmental advocates cried foul over Perdue’s decision, as Barnes’ former employer represents two proposed coal plants, as well as the state of Georgia in the ongoing “water wars” debacle with Alabama and Florida.

“Generally, if you get a partner coming over from a big firm when there is activity going on between the firm's clients and that agency, there is a lot of potential for conflict.”

— Environmental lawyer Gil Rogers in an Oct. 27 Fulton Daily Report article.

“Proposed coal plants Longleaf and Washington are both being handled by a team at King & Spalding, and now a member of that team is going to be making the decisions as to whether those plants will be built. How is the public going to have any faith that the decisions made about the two biggest new pollution sources ever to come into Georgia have been made impartially?”

— Environmental lawyer Justine Thompson in the same Fulton Daily Report story.

"A single law firm that represents a large number of polluters is suddenly moving personnel into state government positions that directly affect its clients. It's hard to put it in a happy light if you care about natural resources and the public interest in them."

— Sierra Club lobbyist Neill Herring in an Oct. 27 interview with the Savannah Morning News.

“I need to sit down with the counsel and make a very thoughtful and deliberative decision as to what’s proper and what is required in that are. We’ll certainly make that decision.”

— Barnes on if he'd recuse himself from decisions involving King & Spalding, in an Oct. 28 interview with Capitol Impact's Tom Crawford.