Same Leader, new optimism at DEP

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The Governor and Cabinet have voted to reappoint the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.

The agency head wants to focus on clean water and clean air and is also putting a priority on addressing climate change.

Governor Ron DeSantis hit the ground running with his promise to improve the environment soon after taking office.

“We are recommending, over four years, $2.5 billion for water resources and Everglades projects,” said DeSantis.

In an Executive Order, he tasked the Department of Environmental Protection with researching ways to prevent toxic algae blooms and clean Florida’s waterways.

The Governor and Cabinet approved the reappointment of Noah Valenstein to lead the agency Tuesday morning.

The move had support from environmental groups like Audubon Florida.

“He really was a breath of fresh air when he took that position and I'm really optimistic about what he'll be able to accomplish with an administration like this one that's so focused on improving our wetlands and water quality,” said Executive Director of Audubon Florida Julie Wraithmell.

Originally chosen by Governor Rick Scott in 2017, Valenstein says there have been some notable changes under DeSantis.

“I'll just say this, it's been a busy month,” said Valenstein.

He’s also putting an emphasis on climate change, a phrase seldom used by state agencies under Rick Scott.

“Climate change is certainly a large issue that Florida faces and it's something we've got some really talented staff working on,” said Valenstein.

Florida’s only Democratic Cabinet member, Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried says she is encouraged by Valenstein’s focus on climate change and plans to create a stronger partnership between the two agencies.

Aliki Moncrief with the Florida Conservation Voters says the new tone is encouraging but hopes DEP also focuses on preventing climate change.

“That's the side of the conversation that isn't happening within the current administration and that we're not hearing yet from Noah Valenstein,” said Moncrief.

However, Moncrief says there’s still time for that to change.