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 SchultzBiden: Families of victims of Surfside building collapse 'realistic' about rescue Biden intends to pick up costs to county, state in Florida building recovery efforts At least 99 people unaccounted for after deadly Miami-area building collapse 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 ZinkeWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Biden launches blitz for jobs plan with 'thank you, Georgia' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court sets in motion EPA ban on pesticide linked to developmental issues | Trump Interior Secretary Zinke files to run for Congress, again | Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill 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) GaetzTrump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios Britney Spears's new attorney files motion to remove her dad as conservator GOP brawls over Trump on eve of first Jan. 6 hearing MORE (R-Fla.), who often aligns himself with President TrumpDonald TrumpCuban embassy in Paris attacked by gasoline bombs Trump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios Trump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race MORE, and Reps. Vern BuchananVernon Gale BuchananMORE (R-Fla.) and Debbie Mucarsel-PowellDebbie Mucarsel-PowellStephanie Murphy won't run for Senate seat in Florida next year Hispanic Democrats slam four Republicans over Jan. 6 vote in new ads Colombia's protests are threat, test for US 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 KingSenate falling behind on infrastructure Hillicon Valley: Senators introduce bill to require some cyber incident reporting | UK citizen arrested in connection to 2020 Twitter hack | Officials warn of cyber vulnerabilities in water systems Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor 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.