Several key Florida politicians spoke out against the Trump administration’s plan to expand offshore oil drilling in nearly all of U.S. waters, including the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced the proposal Thursday, which considers opening up the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-24, expanding 90 percent of the area for drilling.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, a longtime opponent of drilling off Florida, was quick to mention the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 and subsequently spilled an estimated 210 million gallons of oil.
“The Trump administration’s plan to expand oil drilling off Florida’s coastlines is reckless, misguided and potentially catastrophic to Florida,” Buchanan said in a statement. “As the state with the longest coastlines in the continental United States, Florida is especially vulnerable to oil spills.”
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Republican Gov. Rick Scott touted his budget proposal to spend $1.7 billion on the environment and said he was against drilling off Florida.
“I have already asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration,” he said in a statement.
The Florida Democratic Party was critical of Scott’s statement, saying that he and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., avoided commenting on the administration’s intent to expand drilling.
On Thursday, Rubio also urged Zinke to consider the wishes of Florida’s 29-member bipartisan Congressional delegation wishes to keep the drilling moratorium in place.
“I have long supported the moratorium in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, which is not slated to expire until 2022, and introduced legislation to extend the moratorium until 2027,” he said.
Before President Donald Trump signed an executive order to reconsider a five-year ban on oil drilling last April, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. and others filed legislation to block the order. Last month, Nelson asked fellow senators to block this plan.
Nelson said Thursday, “This plan is an assault on Florida’s economy, our national security, the will of the public and the environment. This proposal defies all common sense and I will do everything I can to defeat it.”
Audubon Florida’s interim executive director Julie Wraithmell said the organization was comforted by the response of Florida’s leaders.
“Gambling with tourism, Florida’s No. 1 industry, and risking the lives of our birds and wildlife are only a few of the dangerous risks of offshore drilling,” she said in a statement. “This short-sighted decision endangers our coastal communities and iconic species like the Brown Pelican.”
The draft of the plan, which intends to lift an Obama-era ban on drilling that protected 100 million acres in the Arctic and eastern U.S., could open up 47 leases but would likely take a year and a half to take effect, according to The New York Times.
“Responsibly developing our energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands and parks,” Zinke said in a statement.