Energy & Environment

Trump administration renews interest in Florida offshore drilling: report

The Trump administration may walk back on its commitment to abstain from offshore drilling along the coast of Florida, Politico reported Wednesday.

Officials at the Department of the Interior have been in talks with oil companies about leasing rights to drill in the resource-rich Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast.

Oil and gas sources told Politico that production near Florida is included in the administration’s yet-to-be-released five-year offshore drilling proposal.

{mosads}Offshore drilling is widely opposed in Florida by the public and members of both parties. During the midterm election, voters gave approval to a referendum to bar offshore drilling in the state, and politicians have actively fought any production development off the coast.

As the administration floated the idea of expanding offshore drilling in early 2018, then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) announced that he had negotiated with former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to exclude Florida — a big win for Scott in his Senate campaign against former Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).

Sources told Politico Trump was furious about the announcement, seeing it as contradicting his energy dominance message.

The Department of Interior did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did the White House.

Industry representatives told Politico the offshore drilling may be released once acting Secretary David Bernhardt is confirmed, which is expected later this week.

In his confirmation hearing last month Bernhardt said the offshore drilling proposal is at “step one,” but several oil industry sources contradicted that to Politico, saying the plan is almost complete.

The Interior Department referred the Hill to Bernhardt’s response to Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) during his confirmation hearing last month, when Bernhardt said the administration listens to state’s concerns. 

Offshore drilling could prove a political liability to Trump in his 2020 reelection campaign, given opposition from voters and the tourism industry.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), whose campaign frequently centered on his closeness with Trump, signed an executive order shortly after taking office that instructed the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to oppose any offshore drilling.

Tags Angus King Bill Nelson Ron DeSantis Ryan Zinke

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