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‘Climate change’ kerfuffle results in secret settlement with DEP

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The state’s Department of Environmental Protection and its employee who said he was punished for using the term “climate change” earlier this year quietly worked out a “separation settlement agreement” in May.

The agreement was provided to FloridaPolitics.com on Monday after a public-record request to the department.

Mainly, both sides agreed not to sue each other or file grievances over any issue related to Bart Bibler‘s leaving state employment. Bibler could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

The settlement also bars Bibler, a DEP land management plan coordinator, from “return(ing) to work at the Agency offices” but does allow him to work from home – if he follows through on a promise to officially resign as of Dec. 31.

Bibler, who started with the state in 1988, was still listed as a full-time employee in state records as of Monday, with a salary of $50,000 per year.

The agreement also says DEP will give him what’s known as a neutral reference for future employers, offering only dates of employment, job title and salary information.

DEP further agreed to keep the settlement paperwork in a separate file, apart from Bibler’s personnel file, the document says.

In March, a story by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting said Gov. Rick Scott had banned state employees from using “the terms ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’ in any official communications, emails, or reports,” which Scott later denied.

Bibler said he was suspended after a March 4 conference call in which he “congratulated everyone for the ‘exciting’ work being done to address … climate change and mentioned his opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline project,” according to another FCIR report.

The proposed pipeline was rejected by President Barack Obama last Friday, saying it “would not serve the interests of the United States.” The project, long opposed by environmentalists, would have carried oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

The department, however, said Bibler was instead reprimanded for improperly expressing personal views.

“It is not true that he was put on leave for bringing up climate, just like it is not true that we have a policy banning the use of the term ‘climate change,’” DEP spokeswoman Lauren Engel told FCIR.

Engel declined comment on the settlement agreement: “The department does not comment on personnel matters.”

Last August, Scott met with a group of leading Florida scientists about climate change, but by meeting’s end wouldn’t say – and still has not said – whether he had been convinced that rising sea levels and warming temperatures merit government action.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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