Trump extends Florida offshore drilling pause, expands it to Georgia, South Carolina
President Trump on Tuesday moved to block oil and gas drilling off the coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina until mid-2032, a decade longer than drilling is currently delayed off Florida’s Gulf Coast.
“I will sign a presidential order extending the moratorium on offshore drilling on Florida’s Gulf Coast and expanding it to Florida’s Atlantic Coast as well as the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina,” Trump said while speaking at Jupiter, Fla.’s Inlet Lighthouse and Museum before signing the order.
“Thanks to my administration’s pro-American energy policies we can take this step and the next step while remaining the No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world,” he added.
Trump made the announcement from a key swing state in the presidential election. A poll from NBC News earlier on Tuesday found Trump tied with Biden in Florida. Georgia is also considered a competitive state in the election, though it has been reliably Republican in recent presidential contests.
A congressionally passed offshore drilling moratorium protects Florida’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.
Offshore drilling is nearly universally opposed by leaders in both political parties in Florida 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.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden blasted Trump’s environmental record in a statement ahead of the speech.
“Trump has called the climate crisis a ‘hoax.’ He has eliminated rules designed to keep our air and water clean. And, dangerously, he has opened up additional public lands, both on land and offshore, to the possibility of new oil and gas drilling,” Biden said.
“As President, I will work with experts to fight COVID-19, make historic investments to create millions of clean energy jobs, and get our economy back on track so it works for all Americans, not just Trump’s Mar-a-Lago crowd,” the candidate added.
In a subsequent tweet, Biden highlighted his own position on the issue, writing, “You don’t have to guess where I stand: I oppose new offshore drilling.”
The announcement also received some pushback from the offshore energy industry.
“Our preference should always be to produce homegrown American energy, instead of deferring future production to countries like Russia and Iran, which do not share American values. Limiting access to our offshore energy resources only shortchanges America and dulls our national outlook,” said National Ocean Industries Association President Erik Milito in a statement.
The Trump administration has repeatedly said 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 a 2018 statement after a meeting with then-Gov. Rick Scott (R), who is now a senator.
“As a result of discussion with Gov. Scott’s and his leadership, I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms,” he said.
However, Politico reported in June that Interior was preparing to allow oil and gas drilling off Florida’s coast but would wait to say so until after the election.
In response to that report, department spokesman Ben Goldey told The Hill in an email that the issue had not changed since Secretary David Bernhardt 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.”
During his speech on Tuesday, Trump also discussed Everglades restoration, an endeavor he pitched devoting $250 million to in his budget request for next year.
“We’ll always defend the Everglades and we will always safeguard the magnificent Florida coastline,” he said.
He also touted his support for the Great American Outdoors Act, which put aside millions of dollars for national parks maintenance and land conservation.
That legislation was expected to boost lawmakers such as Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) who face competitive races of their own in November.