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Climate activists to present records request, petitions to Gov. Scott

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Climate change activists say they will submit a public records request and petition to Gov. Rick Scott on Friday following reports that state workers were told not to discuss climate change.

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting earlier this month reported that there was an unwritten policy at Florida Department of Environmental Protection banning workers from discussing climate change and global warming. Scott and a Florida Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman denied there was such a policy.

On Friday, Florida State University students will deliver to Scott’s office a public records request along with more than 38,000 signatures on a petition requesting that the DEP inspector general investigate the policy issue, according to event organizers.

Groups involved in the event include Progress Florida, Forecast the Facts, Environmental Action, and 350.org, according to an event notice.

“We do not have a policy banning the use of climate change,” DEP spokeswoman Lauren Engel said Thursday in response to the planned event.

Christopher T. Byrd, a former DEP lawyer, said he is available for interviews connected with the event. Byrd said in 2013 he was forced out of the department in 2013 for seeking to enforce state environmental laws and offering legal opinions contrary to DEP policy initiatives.

Byrd was quoted by The Associated Press last week as saying he was told not to use the words such as climate change and sea level rise.

“It’s not my event,” Byrd told Floridapolitics.com about the event on Friday. “The only thing I’d like to see come out of it is that the governor get the message and take a hard look at climate change in Florida.”

Byrd, who worked on the state’s coral reef conservation program at DEP, said he is surprised that the story about the unwritten policy has become such a big story.

“Rick Scott’s position on climate change has not been a secret,” he said. “This is not a new story. The fact the policy has come down to affect state employees I believe is a symptom of the governor’s policies.”

Bruce Ritchie (@bruceritchie) covers environment, energy and growth management in Tallahassee. 

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