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 SchultzCongressional Women's Softball team releases roster Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Trump nominates Shanahan as Pentagon chief | House panel advances bill to block military funds for border wall | Trump defends Bolton despite differences House panel advances bill to block military construction funds for border wall 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 ZinkeSenate panel approves Interior nominee over objections from Democrats Interior's border surge puts more officers in unfamiliar role Not 'if' but 'when' is the next Deepwater Horizon spill? 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) GaetzGOP Mueller critic says Flynn contacted him during special counsel probe: report 2020 Dem Seth Moulton calls for expanding cannabis access for veterans Hillicon Valley: Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact | Phone carriers largely end sharing of location data | Huawei pushes back on ban | Florida lawmakers demand to learn counties hacked by Russians | Feds bust 0M cybercrime group MORE (R-Fla.), who often aligns himself with President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address MORE, and Reps. Vern BuchananVernon Gale BuchananMORE (R-Fla.) and Debbie Mucarsel-PowellDebbie Mucarsel-PowellDisinvited GOP lawmaker turns up at Dem hearing Overnight Energy: Trump moves to crack down on Iranian oil exports | Florida lawmakers offer bill to ban drilling off state's coast | Bloomberg donates .5M to Paris deal Florida lawmakers offer bill to ban drilling off state's coast 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 KingSenate panel approves Interior nominee over objections from Democrats Trump, Europe increasingly at odds on Iran The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems raise stakes with talk of 'constitutional crisis' 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.