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Wisconsin's Giving Florida a Run for Its Money When it Comes to Denying Climate Change

A Wisconsin commission is prohibiting employees form working on climate change issues during work hours — and Governor Scott Walker seems to be fine with that.
April 10, 2015, 10:25pm
Photo by Charlie Neibergall/AP

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When it comes to climate change denial, Wisconsin may be the new Florida.

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting revealed last month that employees of the state's Department of Environmental Protection were advised by their superiors to avoid using the terms "climate change," "global warming," "sea level rise," and "sustainability." One department staffer, Barton Bibler, was put on mandatory sick leave for violating the order, which came after the election of Governor Rick Scott, a Republican.


Now, Wisconsin has followed suit.

On April 7th, Wisconsin's Board of Commissioners of Public Land (BCPL) voted 2-1 to ban employees from working on climate change issues during work hours.

The prohibition comes after State Treasurer and board member Matt Adamczyk's sought to fire the board's executive secretary Tia Nelson, daughter of Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day and a former senator and governor. Ms. Nelson served on a climate change task force for many years and Adamczyk argued that she was committing "time theft" when she attended a Washington, DC meeting of the task force in 2009.

On Tuesday, Mike Huebsch, a recent appointee to the state Public Service Commission, appeared before the Wisconsin Senate's Committee on Natural Resources and Energy for his confirmation hearing. When asked about his views on climate change, hesaid: "I believe that humans can have an impact to climate change, but I don't think it's anywhere near the level of impact of just the natural progression of our planet."

He also questioned the state's goal of generating 10 percent of it's electricity from renewables. "I'm not certain that policy is necessarily required in a law," he said, according to Wisconsin Radio Network.

Related: Watch a week's worth of Senator Ted Cruz denying climate change

The state's governor Scott Walker, a Republican, is known for his resistance to environmental causes, including climate change policy. He opposes the Obama administration's efforts at cutting carbon dioxide emissions and has signed a "No Climate Tax Pledge" that was initiated by a group led by the Koch brothers.

When asked about the BCPL prohibition Walker spokesperson Laurel Patrick told the New York Times, "Generally, Governor Walker does not think it is unreasonable to enact policies requiring board staff to focus on board-related activities."

These episodes mark a rupture with Wisconsin's long history of leadership on the environment, Elizabeth Ward of the Sierra Club told VICE News.

"As the public calls for more clean energy jobs and transportation options, Governor Walker is putting his self-interests ahead of the good of our communities," she said.