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Trump Admin's Offshore Drilling Plan Raises Bipartisan Ire In Florida

The Trump Administration will consider allowing up to 47 new oil leases in the outer continental shelf--areas, such as the eastern Gulf of Mexico, have previously been off limits.
wikimedia commons
The Trump Administration will consider allowing up to 47 new oil leases in the outer continental shelf--areas, such as the eastern Gulf of Mexico, have previously been off limits.
The Trump Administration will consider allowing up to 47 new oil leases in the outer continental shelf--areas, such as the eastern Gulf of Mexico, have previously been off limits.
Credit wikimedia commons
The Florida Channel
The Trump Administration will consider allowing up to 47 new oil leases in the outer continental shelf--areas, such as the eastern Gulf of Mexico, have previously been off limits.

The Trump administration says it plans to open most U.S. waters to offshore oil drilling, and that’s raising bipartisan hackles in Florida.

“I welcome this news from the Interior Department which is a new dynamic and a new opportunity for our America," said Florida Petroleum Council Executive Director David Mica in response to the Trump Administration's announcement.

He's hopeful the move to open most U.S. waters to offshore drilling can be a boost to Florida's economy,  "and spur investment for the nation.  And it can happen while we co-exist safely with our important industries like tourism, agriculture, and fishing industries, and certainly the military operations that are paramount to our national security.” 

The plan unveiled Thursday would allow up to 47 new oil leases in U.S. waters—including a dozen in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. According to the Department of the Interior it would be the first time leases are available in this part of the gulf since 1988.

Many of the industries Mica says wouldn’t be affected, like tourism and agriculture, are also ones critics of the plan say would be hurt.

Florida’s reaction to the Trump administration’s proposal has been largely negative, with Governor Rick Scott, a supporter of the president, breaking with him on this issue and requesting a meeting with U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Scott wants Florida removed from consideration. Also opposed are U.S. Senators Marco Rubio, a Republican, and Bill Nelson, a Democrat.  

“I don’t think that we should expose even one acre to federal waters for drilling until we’ve got strong safety standards in place to protect another spill," Nelson said recently during a speech on the Senate floor.

A majority of the nearly 30 members of Florida’s congressional delegation are either opposed or say they have concerns.

Deepwater Horizon drilling platform on fire in 2010.
Credit US Coast Guard
The Florida Channel
Deepwater Horizon drilling platform on fire in 2010.

Nelson is also vowing to fight the Trump Administration’s decision to relax safety rules for offshore drilling, rules that took six years to put in place in the wake of the 2010 BP-Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, the worst in U.S. History:

“Now the Trump interior department wants to pull a bait-and-switch reversing the safety measures and giving the public a mere 30 days to review a highly-technical rule.”

The fight over offshore drilling is taking place on the state level too. Last month he appeared before a committee of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, trying to head off a plan that would ask voters to ban offshore oil drilling in Florida waters as part of a preemptive move against the Trump Administration.

But Florida has something most others don’t. A far larger amount of ocean considered state waters. But that’s not the point, critics of offshore drilling say. The point, says commissioner Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch is the threat to industries like space, tourism and agriculture posed by a potential oil spill. And there’s not clearer reminder than the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon—an industrial accident that killed 11 people and dumped oil into the Gulf of Mexico for more than 80 days, fouling coastlines, killing animals and collapsing coastal economies from Louisiana to Florida.

“Let them have it in New Orleans. Let them have it in Mobile. We don’t need it here. Part of our image is being the great, beautiful state of Florida. Why would we want to be like them?” She said in December during a presentation and vote on the proposed amendment.

The Trump Administration’s plan will take years to implement, and the interior department even says that in its announcement—that this is phase one of a multi-year effort. Supporters like Mica say they’re hopeful it at least opens the door to seeing what resources are in and around Florida. But critics worry those potential resources aren’t worth the risk.

Where They Stand: A Look At Florida's Congressional Delegation, State Leaders Gov. Rick Scott:

"Based on media reports, it is likely that the Department of the Interior will consider Florida as a potential state for offshore oil drilling – which is something I oppose in 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. My top priority is to ensure that Florida’s natural resources are protected, which is why I proposed $1.7 billion for the environment in this year’s budget."  --Governors Press Office 1/4/18



Bill Nelson, Democrat

  “Drilling near Florida’s coast poses a direct threat to Florida’s environment and multi-billion-dollar, tourism-driven economy. Ever since I was a young congressman, I've been fighting to keep oil rigs away from Florida's coast and I'm not going to stop now." -- Senator's Website

Marco Rubio, Republican 

“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. As the Department of Interior works to finalize their draft plan, I urge Secretary Zinke to recognize the Florida Congressional delegation’s bipartisan efforts to maintain and extend the moratorium in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, and remove this area for future planning purposes.” -- Senator's Website


Matt Gaetz: 

John Rutherford:

Ron DeSantis:

Congressman DeSantis agrees with Governor Scott’s statement. -- Congressman's Communications Office

Daniel Webster:

"Given Florida’s gulf coast is a world-renowned tourist attraction and the base of important military training and weapons testing, I have long opposed drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast. This plan underscores the critical need to renew the Eastern Gulf of Mexico Planning Area moratorium that expires in 2022. I have expressed my opposition to opening these waters to drilling to Secretary Zinke.  I look forward to continuing to work with him and my colleagues in Florida Delegation to extend the moratorium and protect Florida’s unique ecosystem.” -- Congressman's Website

Gus Bilirakis:

While I am a strong supporter of an “all of the above” strategy when it comes to securing our nation’s energy independence, I have long opposed unrestricted drilling off the coast of Florida due to the sensitive nature of our unique coastal environment. Additionally, as Co-Chair of the Travel and Tourism Caucus, I understand the importance of our state’s multi-billion dollar tourism and fishing industries.  We mustensurethat that our state and its economy is safeguarded from any potential negative impacts of drilling.  Today’s announcement by the Administration to allow unfettered drilling in all U.S. waterways is very concerning.  I look forward to joining Governor Scott in appealing to the Department of Interior to carve out special protections for the eastern portion of the Gulf of Mexico which has traditionally been excluded from drilling through a moratorium.” -- Congressman's Communications Office

Charlie Crist:

Vern Buchanan:

“The Trump administration’s plan to expand oil drilling off Florida’s coastlines is reckless, misguided and potentially catastrophic to Florida,” Buchanan said. “As the state with the longest coastlines in the continental United States, Florida is especially vulnerable to oil spills. Have we forgotten so soon the devastating damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010? Our economy, environment and way of life is at stake if restrictions on oil drilling are lifted.” -- Congressman's Website

Brian Mast:

“Oil drilling off the coast of Florida puts our economy, environment and marine life at risk.  That’s why I’ve long opposed drilling off our coast and have been working closely with my Florida colleagues on both sides of the aisle to extend the prohibition on drilling off the coast of Florida.  Today’s announcement that the Department of the Interior intends to open up drilling off the Florida coast is extremely alarming and unacceptable.  Moving forward, Secretary Zinke has indicated that Florida and other states will have a voice in the process.  Our voice has been clear from the start: we will not tolerate drilling near our coast.  As the Department of the Interior works to finalize their plan, I will do everything I can to convince them to change their mind and prevent drilling off our coast.”  -- Congressman's Website  

Francis Rooney:

I have strong concerns about the draft proposal on January 4, 2018, opening 25 of the 26 Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) planning areas, including the Eastern Gulf of Mexico which remains under a moratorium until 2022. While I certainly share the administration’s goal of American energy independence, I believe that in light of horizontal drilling combined with hydraulic fracking, and other new recovery technologies, this can be achieved while protecting the existing military mission line in the Eastern Gulf. -- Congressman's Open Letter to Secretary Zinke 


Carlos Curbelo:

“The people of Florida and its leaders have made it clear over and over again: We do not want drilling near our shores, we do not want to put our beautiful beaches and environmental treasures at risk. We simply have too much to lose. The Administration has guaranteed that states will ‘have a voice.’ Together with my colleagues, I will make sure Florida's voice is heard loud and clear." -- Congressman's Website

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:


Al Lawson:

“The Trump Administration continues to showcase how disconnected it is from the American people with this latest proposal to open nearly all U.S. federal waters to offshore drilling. Floridians overwhelmingly oppose this plan, and moving forward would work directly against the will of the people.

In 2010, we saw firsthand the damage the Deepwater Horizon oil spill brought upon our state’s economy and environment. Serving on the Gulf Oil Spill Economic Recovery Task Force and representing coastal communities, I witnessed the struggles citizens faced following this tragedy. The oil spill resulted in the loss of several lives and impacted our state’s fishing and tourism industries. – risking lives and Florida’s natural resources. I look forward to working with Sen. Bill Nelson in protecting our state from off-shore drilling.”

Stephanie Murphy:

“I strongly oppose the Administration’s plan to open nearly all federal waters to oil and gas drilling, including the eastern Gulf of Mexico and areas off Florida’s Atlantic coast. I will work across party lines in Congress to prevent this plan from taking effect, because it would harm quality of life in Florida, our state’s unique natural resources, jobs in our tourism-reliant economy, and the military training ranges that are essential to our nation’s security.” -- Congresswoman's Website

Darren Soto:

“The Trump Administration’s plans to roll back production safety regulations for offshore drilling operations is a setback for Floridians. Oil spills off Florida’s coast put our way of life in jeopardy. After dealing with the environmental and financial disaster caused by Deepwater Horizon, we know how important these safety regulations are. I applaud Congress for recently passing my bill, which was cointroduced by Republican Representative Carlos Curbelo, holding foreign companies responsible for an oil spill affecting U.S. waters and our coastline. We should continue to pass laws protecting our coasts rather than weakening standards aimed at safeguarding our environment,” -- Congressman's Website

Val Demings:

“I strongly oppose lifting the ban on offshore oil drilling around Florida, a move that could devastate our multi-billion-dollar tourism industry and natural environment. I also strongly oppose efforts to roll back safety and environmental rules put into place after Deepwater Horizon exploded, killing nearly a dozen people and causing untold devastation to our coasts and oceans. -- Congresswoman's Website

Kathy Castor:

Offshore drilling is a serious economic and environmental threat to Florida and the Trump Administration is wrong to put our natural environment, economy, jobs and national security at risk. We are not far removed from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster that impacted tourism, fishing and the long-term health of our economy and environment.  We must fight back to protect our way of life and, instead, improve Florida’s wellbeing by strengthening and expanding offshore drilling protections. -- Congresswoman's Website

Alcee Hastings:

Lois Frankel:

Tom Deutch: 

Debbie Wasserman Schultz:


Richard Corcoran:

“I stand with Governor Scott  and will advocate against Florida’s inclusion in any plans to expand offshore drilling along our coast.” -- Speaker's Communications Office

Ron DeSantis: 

[DeSantis] agrees with Governor Scott’s statement. --Congressman's Communications Office

Andrew Gillum:

Gwen Graham:

In Congress, I fought with @SenBillNelson to ban drilling off our beaches.

As governor, I will take on Trump to keep our shores safe.— Gwen Graham (@GwenGraham) January 4, 2018

Chris King:

Mayor Philip Levine:

Adam Putnam:

"I support the President's efforts to increase energy production in the United States and power our economy forward. However, I have grave concerns about drilling off of Florida's coastlines. Our state's economy is directly tied to the beauty and health of our coast, and we must protect our coastline from offshore drilling. I stand with Governor Scott in support of his efforts to remove Florida from this proposal, and I'll do everything we can to protect what makes Florida special."—  Tampa Bay Times

Copyright 2020 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.
Sara Hetherington