ENVIRONMENT Enforcement Turnaround

Article excerpt

After years of course correction during which it began working to correct environmental problems by negotiation rather than confrontation, the state's environmental regulation agency shows signs of regressing.

The Department of Environmental Protection has punished a group of related companies -- and not because they failed to meet any objective state standards.

Anderson Columbia was formed in the 1980s by Joe Anderson II and is based in Lake City and Old Town. Two sons are now the primary shareholders in all of the related companies, Anderson Columbia (road builders); Anderson Mining; Anderson Materials; Anderson Columbia Environmental; AC Sons; and Suwanee American (cement production).

Last week, one of the companies was denied two new permits. Denial of the permits apparently means the companies cannot operate the plants. Another company was denied one permit renewal. Previously, one permit had been denied for a Suwanee American cement plant 3.5 miles from the Ichetucknee River.

A spokesman for Anderson Columbia said the five companies in the past 14 years have done $900 million worth of road construction, paving 75,000 lane miles of road. They have 700 employees in Florida, Alabama and Georgia.

During that time, the Florida companies have obtained more than 80 state permits and have been cited for 15 alleged violations of environmental laws, paying fines totaling $41,000.

The state's decision to deny the recent permits was based on the 15 alleged violations among the five companies over a period of 14 years.

One of the 15 cases cited already has been settled in court -- in Anderson Columbia's favor. …