TALLAHASSEE, Fla., March 8 (UPI) -- Former employees from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection say they were ordered to avoid using terms such as "climate change" in official reports, emails and other communications following the appointment of a new DEP director by Gov. Rick Scott.
Four former DEP employees told the Miami Herald that the policy was unwritten but verbally distributed across the state in 2011, when the Republican governor appointed Herschel Vinyard Jr. as the DEP's director.
"We were told not to use the terms 'climate change,' 'global warming' or 'sustainability,'" Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the DEP's Office of General Counsel in Tallahassee from 2008 to 2013, told the Herald. "That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel."
A spokeswoman for Scott told the Herald that there was no such policy, and DEP press secretary Tiffany Cowie wrote the paper an email that said the same. She did not respond to follow-on emails, the Herald reports.
But former DEP consultants and volunteers -- as well as records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting -- corroborate the claims of the former DEP employees, according to the Herald.
"We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact," former DEP employee Kristina Trotta told the Herald, saying that her supervisor told her not to use the terms "climate change" and "global warming" during a staff meeting last year.
During his successful 2010 campaign, Scott said he has "not been convinced that there's any man-made climate change." When pressed on the issue in the period leading up to his reelection last year, he answered, "I'm not a scientist."
"It's an indication that the political leadership in the state of Florida is not willing to address these issues and face the music when it comes to the challenges that climate change present," Byrd said.