Oil industry slams Zinke for closing Florida waters to offshore drilling

Oil industry slams Zinke for closing Florida waters to offshore drilling

The oil industry criticized the Trump administration Wednesday for excluding waters near Florida from offshore drilling.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) said the decision to remove the eastern third of the Gulf of Mexico from drilling consideration is “premature” and ignores safety advances the industry has made.

“This announcement is premature,” API President Jack Gerard said in a statement following the late Tuesday decision from Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Pruitt proposes rule targeting 'secret science' | Dems probe Pruitt's security chief | FAA bill provisions could strip endangered species protections Zinke added birther conspiracy theorist to his super PAC's board: report More than 100 groups call on Congress to oppose weakening national park protections MORE.

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“The Gulf of Mexico is the backbone of our nation’s offshore energy production and restricting access to the Eastern Gulf puts hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk across the country and along the Gulf Coast, particularly in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi,” he said.

“Not only that, but securing reliable sources of energy helps fuel other industries like tourism, especially in states like Florida that relies on more than 200 million barrels of gasoline and diesel each year to fuel its economy.”

Zinke’s action has also been criticized by governors and other leaders of various other coastal states.

The administration said last week it is considering allowing drilling all along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Nearly all of those states’ leaders have come out in opposition to it.

Zinke also excluded the Atlantic coast of Florida. But the Gulf of Mexico hosts the bulk of the United States’ offshore drilling, so the eastern Gulf is the industry’s top prospect.

Zinke made the decision came after he met with Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R).

Scott is expected to run for the Senate seat currently held by outspoken drilling opponent Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonSenators debate new business deduction, debt in tax law hearing Winners and losers from Jim Bridenstine’s confirmation as NASA administrator Vulnerable Senate Dems have big cash advantages MORE (D). Florida is also the home of Mar-a-Lago, President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans hold on to Arizona House seat Dems win majority in New York Senate, but won't control it Mulvaney to bankers: Campaign donations will help limit consumer bureau's power MORE’s coastal resort that he dubs the “Winter White House.”

The National Offshore Industries Association, which represents companies in numerous areas related to offshore drilling, also criticized Zinke’s move, calling it “disappointing and premature.”

“Removing areas offshore Florida this early in the planning process prematurely curtails dialogue and thorough study of the possibilities for future development of offshore resources that could provide additional energy and jobs for working Floridians,” Randall Luthi, the group’s president, said in a statement.

“In addition, for a state whose tourism economy is dependent on a secure and affordable transportation fuel supply, failure to secure domestic production and supply of fuels actually is a greater economic risk than offshore development.”