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 SchultzBipartisan group of lawmakers calls on DeVos to issue guidance on child abuse reporting amid pandemic Florida election supervisors urge DeSantis to 'act immediately' to make voting safe amid pandemic The Hill's Coronavirus Report: DeLauro questions why White House is blocking Fauci from testifying before House panel, wants Pelosi to stay on into next Congress 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 ZinkeOvernight Energy: Biden campaign says he would revoke Keystone XL permit | EPA emails reveal talks between Trump officials, chemical group before 2017 settlement | Tensions emerge on Natural Resources panel over virtual meetings Ex-Interior chief rips attacks, says being a billionaire 'can't be a prerequisite' for public office The case for transferring federal lands back to Native Americans 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) GaetzImpeachment figure among those chosen for Facebook's new oversight board House GOP urge Trump against supporting additional funding for state and local governments GOP lawmakers press Trump to suspend visas over coronavirus job losses MORE (R-Fla.), who often aligns himself with President TrumpDonald John TrumpMulvaney: 'We've overreacted a little bit' to coronavirus Former CBS News president: Most major cable news outlets 'unrelentingly liberal' in 'fear and loathing' of Trump An old man like me should be made more vulnerable to death by COVID-19 MORE, and Reps. Vern BuchananVernon Gale BuchananMORE (R-Fla.) and Debbie Mucarsel-PowellDebbie Mucarsel-PowellThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: CDC Director Redfield responds to Navarro criticism; Mnuchin and Powell brief Senate panel Human Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary Coral Princess cruise ship with cases of coronavirus docks in Miami 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 KingMemorial Day weekend deals latest economic blow to travel industry Bipartisan senators introduce bill to make changes to the Paycheck Protection Program Senators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day 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.