DeSantis touts executive order, environmentalists cautiously optimistic

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Environmental groups say Florida’s environmental policies are headed in a positive direction after Governor Ron DeSantis issued a sweeping Executive Order since taking office on Tuesday.

The order aims to clean up the state’s waterways. The move is a giant shift from the previous administration that never spoke of climate change.

When former Governor Rick Scott was asked if he believed in climate change back in 2014 he dodged the question.

“I'm not a scientist, but I know what I can do and that's do everything I can to protect the environment," said Scott.

This is how DeSantis responded to the same question:

“To me, I'm not even as concerned about, is it this sole cause or that sole cause? You know, if you have water in the streets you have to find a way to combat that," said DeSantis.

Governor DeSantis campaigned on cleaning the state's waterways and in his first week in office he issued an executive order taking a stance against fracking and offshore drilling, giving the Department of Environmental protection and scientists a larger role in mitigating algal blooms and promising $2.5 billion for Everglades restoration.

“[It's] probably the boldest set of policies that we've seen in quite some time in Florida," said DeSantis.

Another major change DeSantis included in his order puts a priority on the construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to help filter agricultural runoff. It’s an ask Governor Rick Scott repeatedly ignored, despite continued calls from environmentalists.

The Group Earth Justice says it’s a huge change in attitude.

“It's certainly a shift in tone and whereas we never really had reason to be cautiously optimistic with Governor Scott, we are now," said Bradley Marshall, an attorney for Earth Justice.

Even some Democratic lawmakers like Senator Gary Farmer say the new Governor is taking the state’s environmental policies in the right direction.

“This Governor has undone things that our prior Governor did do that I think were detrimental to our environment," said Farmer.

However, Aliki Moncrief with the Florida Conservation Voters says DeSantis needs to prove himself with follow through and meaningful action.

“Citizens are going to be in the position of having to hold Governor DeSantis accountable to his promises," said Moncrief.

Now that task falls to lawmakers to make DeSantis’ asks a reality.