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Florida lawmakers press Interior on offshore drilling

Florida lawmakers press Interior on offshore drilling
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A bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers is questioning the Interior Department after it was reported last week that the agency could start pursuing oil and gas drilling off the coast of Florida following the election this November. 

Four sources told Politico about the plan, noting that the Trump administration is waiting because of how unpopular offshore drilling is in the state. 

An Interior Department spokesperson, in response, characterized the article as “#FakeNews based entirely on anonymous sources who don’t know what they’re talking about.” 

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“Current offshore plans do not expire until 2022, and @Interior does not plan to issue a new report in November,” the spokesperson tweeted. 

In their Monday letter, the 18 Florida lawmakers asked the administration when it planned to release its next offshore drilling proposal and whether it would consider excluding lease sales from new areas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and south Atlantic. 

“Florida relies on coastlines unencumbered by oil and gas drilling to sustain its economy, preserve its marine life and natural resources, and protect our national security,” said the letter, led by Rep. Darren SotoDarren Michael SotoRadiation elevated at fracking sites, researchers find Hopes for DC, Puerto Rico statehood rise Florida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum MORE (D-Fla.).  

“This past April marked ten years since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, when we saw firsthand the destruction offshore drilling can have on our state,” the lawmakers added. “Our state and local economies cannot sustain another disaster like that.”

In the crucial swing state, offshore drilling is widely disliked, especially given the impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill on the state’s tourism industry. A 2018 state amendment to block offshore drilling was also approved by nearly 70 percent of Florida voters. 

Currently, a moratorium protects the Florida’s gulf waters from offshore drilling until mid-2022. The House delegation has tried to extend it, pushing through legislation that would permanently block drilling near the state, though it has yet to be considered by the Senate. 

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In their letter, the lawmakers also asked the department if it would consider backing that legislation.  

A department spokesperson declined to comment on the letter, referring The Hill to past statements on the Politico article. 

That article cited two sources who work in the energy industry and two who had recently spoken with Interior 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 told the news outlet.