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Florida lawmakers offer bill to ban drilling off state's coast

Florida lawmakers offer bill to ban drilling off state's coast
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A bipartisan group of Florida legislators introduced a bill Monday that would ban offshore drilling along Florida’s coast.

Spearheaded by Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzFlorida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum Five things to watch at the Democratic National Convention Michelle Obama wishes Barack a happy birthday: 'My favorite guy' MORE (D-Fla.), the legislation comes ahead of a new five-year plan from the Trump administration that is expected to expand offshore drilling along the Atlantic Coast.

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Oil and gas industry sources have said those plans include Florida, despite a much publicized exception for the Sunshine State from former Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith Zinke5 major ways that Interior slashed protections for wildlife  Trump extends Florida offshore drilling pause, expands it to Georgia, South Carolina Conspicuous by their absence from the Republican Convention MORE.

“The Sunshine State’s coasts provide abundant marine life habitat and a destination for beach-lovers worldwide. They are an irreplaceable treasure and ecological necessity – risking our coasts for dangerous oil and gas drilling is unacceptable,” Wasserman Schultz said in a release.   

Offshore drilling is deeply unpopular among Florida politicians of both parties, and Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzHouse Judiciary Republicans mockingly tweet 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary Clinton after Barrett confirmation Congressional antitrust report rips tech firms for stifling competition Loeffler tweets edited video showing Trump taking down coronavirus in wrestling match MORE (R-Fla.), who often aligns himself with President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden campaign slams Facebook after thousands of ads blocked by platform's pre-election blackout Mnuchin says he learned of Pelosi's letter to him about stimulus talks 'in the press' Harris to travel to Texas Friday after polls show tie between Trump, Biden MORE, and Reps. Vern BuchananVernon Gale BuchananMORE (R-Fla.) and Debbie Mucarsel-PowellDebbie Mucarsel-PowellDemocrats, GOP fighting over largest House battlefield in a decade House Democrats target Hispanic voters in battlegrounds with new barrage of ads Disinformation, QAnon efforts targeting Latino voters ramp up ahead of presidential election MORE (D-Fla.) have agreed to co-sponsor the bill.

Newly confirmed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was asked about his position on offshore drilling by a number of senators from coastal states, though unlike his predecessor, he offered no exemptions from offshore drilling.

Sen. Angus KingAngus KingAlaska Senate race sees cash surge in final stretch Bitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court Ocasio-Cortez: Republicans don't believe Democrats 'have the stones to play hardball' MORE (I-Maine) said Bernhardt made it clear his and other senators’ opposition to offshore drilling would be a consideration going forward.

“They’re not guarantees, but he gave me some assurances,” King said shortly after Bernhardt’s confirmation vote.

Environmental groups have long argued that offshore drilling poses a major risk to coastal ecosystems and that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), one of the agencies responsible for overseeing offshore drilling, is ill-equipped to monitor and regulate the practice.

Wasserman Shultz's bill would require a review of NOAA’s capacity to respond to oil spills while expanding oil companies’ responsibility for cleanup in the event of a spill.

Diane Hoskins, a campaign director at Oceana, an ocean conservation group that has lobbied against offshore drilling, said the Interior Department had 120 inspectors to conduct more than 20,000 annual inspections of offshore drilling infrastructure.

The agency has also proposed rollbacks to a number of safety protections put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill that released about 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

That includes testing of blowout preventers, a valve designed to avoid the uncontrolled release of oil seen in Deepwater.

“The argument that less testing would result in more safety is completely backwards,” Hoskins said.

Updated on Wednesday at 3:02 p.m.