Trump Administration Says No Oil Drilling Off Florida Coast; Unclear If Decision Will Impact Plans to Drill Off California

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The Trump administration said Tuesday that it would not seek to bring oil and gas drilling to the waters off Florida, conceding to vocal opposition from the Republican governor of the tourism-driven state.

California brown pelicans fly near offshore oil rigs after sunset on July 21, 2009, near Santa Barbara. (Credit: David McNew/Getty Images)
California brown pelicans fly near offshore oil rigs after sunset on July 21, 2009, near Santa Barbara. (Credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke last week unveiled a proposal that would roll back offshore drilling restrictions and open dozens of sites for potential leases. But he also said he would seek input from state and local leaders.

Florida’s Rick Scott was among the coastal governors who spoke up. While Zinke was still making his announcement, the Republican governor said in a statement that he “asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan.”

Zinke traveled to Florida to meet with Scott, Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said. That conversation led to his decision to remove “Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms,” Zinke announced Tuesday evening.

“I support the governor’s position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver,” Zinke said.

In Florida and other Gulf Coast states, memories of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster linger. Some of the billions in settlement funds paid by oil giant BP went to mitigating the impact to tourism.

Other governors, including California, have also voiced not-in-my-backyard opposition to expanding offshore drilling. Lawmakers and environmentalists could seek to block the plan through congressional action or lawsuits.

It wasn’t clear Tuesday if the administration would make similar decisions for other coastal areas, including California, Oregon and Washington.

“For more than 30 years, our shared coastline has been protected from further federal drilling and we’ll do whatever it takes to stop this reckless, short-sighted action,” governors from the three states bordering the Pacific said in a joint statement after the administration announced plans to expand offshore drilling, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Zinke had pitched the plan as an important step toward energy independence and noted it could lead to $15 billion in federal revenues.

“President Trump has directed me to rebuild our offshore oil and gas program in a manner that supports our national energy policy and also takes into consideration the local and state voice,” he said.

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