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Bryant hires ex-MDEQ leader Fisher as consultant

Gov. Phil Bryant

Gov. Phil Bryant

JACKSON — Gov. Phil Bryant has hired the former director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality as a consultant.

The contract with Trudy Fisher, dated Sept. 5, says she will advise the governor on energy policy, environmental and restoration policy and provide support in court cases. The agreement is good for six months and can be renewed for six months after that.

Appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour and retained by Bryant, Fisher said in May she was leaving the department to explore other career options. A lawyer who led the environmental agency for seven years, Fisher has been deeply involved in Mississippi’s recovery efforts following the 2010 BP PLC Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Knox Graham, a spokesman for Bryant, said that’s why the governor chose to have her keep handling those issues, including payments under the federal Natural Resources Damage Assessment process, Mississippi’s legal interests against BP and the Restore Act, which is supposed to send 80 percent of pollution penalties to Gulf Coast states.

“The governor’s office hired Ms. Fisher because of her unparalleled knowledge about the Restore Act and other policy issues stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill incident,” Graham wrote in an email today. “She recently negotiated the NRDA Phase III projects that resulted in the state receiving $68 million for restoration on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The governor’s office will use whatever portion of Ms. Fisher’s contract is necessary to maximize Mississippi’s recovery from the oil spill.”

Fisher will charge $195 an hour for herself and others who help her, up to $99,000 over a year. Her work will be overseen by Bryant’s chief lawyer, Bobby Waites.

The contract says Fisher can’t represent legal clients in areas related to the services she’s providing.

The governor’s office provided a copy of the contract to The Associated Press yesterday in response to a public records request. Graham said Bryant’s office didn’t find any other documents relating to Fisher’s hiring.

Bryant named lawyer Gary Rikard, who started work Sept. 1, to replace Fisher as director of the Department of Environmental Quality. He must be confirmed by the state Senate during the legislative session that begins in January.

 

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