Florida Dem looks to extend offshore drilling ban

Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by The American Petroleum Institute — Climate change turning US into coffee country Elon Musk mocks Biden for ignoring his company's historic space flight How will Biden's Afghanistan debacle impact NASA's Artemis return to the moon? MORE (D-Fla.) is fighting back against a Republican bill that would expand offshore oil drilling near the coast of Florida. 

Nelson introduced a bill Thursday that would extend the current moratorium on oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico through 2027. The bill comes after a group of Republicans, led by Sen. Bill CassidyBill CassidyGOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff House passes bill to prevent shutdown and suspend debt limit Louisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid MORE (La.), filed a bill last week to open up the area to oil drilling as soon as next year. 


In a floor speech, Nelson warned against allowing drilling near Florida, raising the specter of an oil spill on par with those in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and this week in California.

“Drilling off the coast is not what the people of Florida want,” he said. “We want fishing vessels hauling in prize catches, not coast guard vessels skimming oil.”

Congress instituted a ban on drilling within at least 125 miles of the Florida coast in 2006. The moratorium is set to expire in 2022. Cassidy’s bill would allow drilling no less than 50 miles from the Florida coastline and create a revenue-sharing program between Florida and the federal government.

Industry estimates suggest that by 2035, offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf could produce up to 1 million barrels of oil a day and contribute billions of dollars per year to the economy.

“Developing oil and natural gas resources in the Gulf of Mexico could create more than 200,000 jobs, add more than $18 billion per year to the U.S. economy and strengthen our national security,” Cassidy said in a statement announcing the bill May 12. “What is there to oppose? Time for everyone to get on board.”

But Nelson said the economic benefits aren’t worth the risk of a spill, which he said could hurt Florida’s fishing and tourism industries.  

“We’re going to do everything that we can to make sure we don’t lose another tourism season,” he said. “We’re going to do everything that we can to make sure that we don’t lose an entire year for our fishermen.”