Photo by Joey Roulette
Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis speaks with reporters at his Election Day rally after declaring victory over his democratic opponent Andrew Gillum.
Though his congressional record suggests otherwise, Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis says Florida's environment is a focus of the administration.
DeSantis, a two-term former congressman, even goes so far as to call himself a "Teddy Roosevelt conservationist" – the president who established some of the country's first national parks – when probed on his administration's plans for combating the many environmental obstacles the Sunshine State faces, which include crucial dilemmas such as toxic algae, coastal rising tides due to climate change, and a growing number of invasive species.
According to some of his most fierce environmental critics, though, like the national League of Conservation Voters, which gave him a career 2 percent lifetime score (out of 100 percent) for his green votes in Congress, DeSantis has a tall hill to climb before he's considered an environmentalist.
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In fact, the only major environmental group to endorse DeSantis over Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum was the Everglades Trust
. The organization sided with the Republican over his eagerness to stand up to the sugar industry, a key point of blame for Lake Okeechobee's water issues
Why is DeSantis' environmental backing so slim?
Recent environmental history in Florida tells us to remain wary of the incoming governor, especially if he follows in the same footprints as his immediate predecessor, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who was elected to the U.S. Senate last month.
When Scott took office in 2010, he nixed three decades' worth of state growth management laws, including regulations that protected waterways from fertilizer runoff and human waste leaking from septic tanks, while further cutting funding for Florida's water management system. In 2012, he also signed legislation that repealed a Florida law mandating that septic tanks receive regular inspections to ensure that untreated waste wasn't seeping into water systems.
All of which has left open a revolving door for crises such as toxic algae.
Which brings us back to DeSantis, who, prior to the Nov. 6 general election, offered up a 12-point policy environmental policy plan for when he took office, which includes restoring the Everglades, stopping toxic algae discharges, researching solutions to red tide, banning fracking for oil, and protecting the state's beaches, water supply, springs, parks and air.
In September, during an airboat ride with reporters from the Sun-Sentinel
, where DeSantis laid out his 12-point plan, some pressed him on how his administration would address the issue of climate change.
Charting the same course as Scott, DeSantis failed to admit that he believes in climate change and whether human activity is the root of it.
"The sea rise may be because human activity and changing climate. It may be. It may not. I don't know," DeSantis vaguely said at the time, before peddling a typical partisan talking point. "I think we contribute to changes in the environment, but I'm not in the pews of the global warming left."
We've reached out to DeSantis' office for further comment on his plans to enact state environmental policy but have not hear back.
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