Trump administration could pursue drilling near Florida coast post-election: report
The Trump administration may pursue oil and gas drilling off the coast of Florida after the presidential election this November, according to reporting from Politico.
Four sources told Politico about the plans, mentioning that the administration is waiting because of how unpopular offshore drilling is in the state.
Two of the sources cited by the news outlet are people who work in the energy industry and two were sources who had recently spoken with department officials.
“Whatever is decided is expected to come out within two to three weeks of the election,” one of the people who spoke with Interior officials told Politico.
Drilling off the Florida coast would represent a remarkable turnaround for an administration that has made repeated assurances to the Florida delegation that it would not pursue offshore drilling near the state.
“Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver,” former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in 2018 after a meeting with then-Gov. Rick Scott (R), who is now serving in the Senate.
“As a result of discussion with Gov. Scott’s [sic] and his leadership, I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms,” he said.
Interior Department spokesman Ben Goldey told The Hill in an email that the issue had not changed since Secretary David Bernahrdt said last year that the department’s offshore drilling proposal was on pause while courts determined whether the administration could drill off the coast of Alaska.
Goldey added that the department is also not planning to issue a drilling report “right after the election.”
The department on Twitter later characterized the story as “based entirely on anonymous sources who don’t know what they’re talking about. Current offshore plans do not expire until 2022, and @Interior does not plan to issue a new report in November.”
Offshore drilling is nearly universally opposed by leaders in both political parties in the crucial swing state, after tourism was heavily impacted following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill. A 2018 state amendment to block offshore drilling was also approved by nearly 70 percent of Florida voters.
There is an offshore drilling moratorium protecting the state’s gulf waters from offshore drilling until mid-2022. The state’s House delegation has tried to extend that, pushing through legislation that would permanently block drilling near the state, though it has yet to be considered by the Senate.
“Senator Rubio and the entire Florida delegation is committed to extending the moratorium on offshore drilling off the coast of Florida. We’re actively working to get it signed into law and the bottom line is there is no appetite to drill or open up Florida’s coasts for offshore drilling,” a spokesperson for the senator told The Hill.
Scott in a statement said he had fought to secure a commitment from the Trump administration to keep oil drilling off Florida’s coasts when he was the state’s governor.
“As U.S. Senator, I won’t stop fighting to make sure offshore drilling is off the table for Florida,” he said. “I’m proposing several amendments to extend the moratorium on oil drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast and protect our environment. This fight isn’t over, and I will keep working with Senator Rubio and the entire Florida delegation to make sure Florida’s natural resources are preserved so the state can remain a top destination for families, visitors and businesses.”
Promises to avoid offshore drilling where it is unwanted has been key for Interior officials seeking Senate confirmation.
Rubio placed a hold on Interior Deputy Secretary Katharine MacGregor amid concerns over her support for expanded offshore oil drilling.
Bernhardt’s assurances that state voices would be considered in developing offshore drilling plans appear to have been a factor in his April confirmation.
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said Bernhardt made it clear his and other senators’ opposition to offshore drilling would be considered.
“They’re not guarantees, but he gave me some assurances,” King said shortly after Bernhardt’s confirmation vote.