Energy & Environment

Former military leaders push to extend ban on offshore drilling in Florida gulf


A coalition of former military officials is urging lawmakers to extend a ban on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, arguing a lapse in the moratorium will hurt military preparedness.

The letter comes as Florida lawmakers are seeking to extend the moratorium, which expires in June 2022, as Congress grapples with the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a bill that sets military policy for the year. 

“The expansive area off Florida’s Gulf coast has a long history of providing unconstrained access for military training and testing activities that are essential to our national security,” the letter, signed by more than 80 people, states.

The letter argued the Gulf “provides more uninterrupted surface and airspace than all other ranges in the lower 48 combined,” calling the area an “asset that simply cannot be replicated anywhere else.”

“Simply put, failure to extend the eastern Gulf moratorium poses a threat to America’s military preparedness and threatens our national defense goals,” the letter adds.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has proposed an amendment to the NDAA that would extend the offshore drilling ban through 2032.

Another would require the secretary of Defense to sign off on all future lease sales in Florida’s Gulf to assure the drilling wouldn’t interfere with military operations — a move Rubio’s team says will functionally block any drilling given the history of military opposition to the practice in the area.

The fear for both Florida lawmakers and the military is another big oil spill like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, a hit to Florida’s ecosystem and its economy. 

Military leaders said another months-long cleanup would also hurt training activities.

“If our troops cannot practice in conditions found throughout the Gulf Range, they will be less prepared to defend our nation in a time of need,” the letter states.

“We cannot give up an inch of ground when it comes to the current moratorium,” it says.

Tags Fossil fuels Gulf of Mexico lower 48 Marco Rubio Offshore drilling oil oil spills Secretary of Defense Training U.S. military

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