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 SchultzDemocrats walk tightrope in fight over Trump wall funds Parkland father: Twitter did not suspend users who harassed me using name of daughter's killer Hillicon Valley: Senate Intel releases election security report | GOP blocks votes on election security bills | Gabbard sues Google over alleged censorship | Barr meets state AGs on tech antitrust concerns 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 ZinkeThe Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks BLM issues final plan for reduced Utah monument New policy at Interior's in-house watchdog clamps down on interactions with press 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) GaetzState probes of Google, Facebook to test century-old antitrust laws Five takeaways on Trump's ouster of John Bolton GOP lawmakers, states back gunmaker in Sandy Hook appeal MORE (R-Fla.), who often aligns himself with President TrumpDonald John TrumpHarris bashes Kavanaugh's 'sham' nomination process, calls for his impeachment after sexual misconduct allegation Celebrating 'Hispanic Heritage Month' in the Age of Trump Let's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy MORE, and Reps. Vern BuchananVernon Gale BuchananMORE (R-Fla.) and Debbie Mucarsel-PowellDebbie Mucarsel-PowellGun epidemic is personal for lawmakers touched by violence Democrats race against clock with push for impeachment Wave of GOP retirements threatens 2020 comeback 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 Stanley KingOvernight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine Democrats grill Army, Air Force nominees on military funding for border wall Bipartisan panel to issue recommendations for defending US against cyberattacks early next year 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.