Environmental Department Heads Roll

Since the Republicans took control of the state Legislature and the governor's office, there has been some tension between longtime state bureaucrats, many of them Democrats from the McWherter era, and the new regime. Two longtime directors of the Tennessee Department of the Environment and Conservation were fired last week with no explanation other than it was time for a change.

Paul Davis, head of water pollution control, and Mike Apple, head of solid waste management, were let go. Environmentalists are concerned that it means a shift by Gov. Bill Haslam toward more relaxed enforcement of environmental regulations.

The word around Capitol Hill is that the two attended a meeting with a powerful state senator and basically had a real "attitude problem." Blowing off the questions of a committee chair of the state senate instead of a backbench Republican seems to have consequences. Their attitude is reported to have pissed off the Republican caucus and the Republican leadership.

It may be a coincidence that they were relieved of their duties shortly thereafter. The action against Davis and Apple is seen as a message to other longtime state bureaucrats that times have changed and they need to show due deference to Republican-majority legislators seeking information.