Democrats, Republicans Want Interior to Ban Florida Offshore Drilling

June 16, 2020by Alex Daugherty, Miami Herald (TNS)
Offshore oil drilling platforms along the California coastline in Huntington Beach on Jan. 5, 2018. President Trump is laying the groundwork to limit states' say in offshore drilling plans. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

WASHINGTON — The majority of Florida’s House of Representatives delegation, including Donald Trump confidante Matt Gaetz and 12 of Florida’s 13 House Democrats, are demanding additional answers from the Interior Department regarding any Trump administration plan for offshore drilling near Florida.

The letter, led by Central Florida Democratic Rep. Darren Soto, asks when the Interior Department will release its offshore drilling plan, if Florida will be included in the plan and for the Interior Department to support legislation permanently banning offshore drilling in Florida that passed the House of Representatives last year.

“Despite … the economic and environmental damage left by the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, it appears that the Department of the Interior (DOI) is preparing to open the door to oil and gas drilling off Florida’s coasts shortly after the November 2020 election,” the letter states, referring to a Politico report saying that the Trump administration is considering an oil drilling plan that includes Florida — but not until after the 2020 election.

“As representatives from Florida, we are asking for clarification on DOI’s plans for drilling off the coasts of our state,” the June 15 letter says.

Last week, the Interior Department said on Twitter it does “does not plan to issue a new (offshore drilling) report in November.” That leaves open the possibility that the Interior Department could issue a plan after the November election.

Oil drilling in the Eastern Gulf is a political nonstarter in Florida after nearly 69% of Florida voters in 2018 supported a state constitutional amendment to ban it. The state’s entire congressional delegation is opposed to it.

The White House hasn’t commented on any proposed offshore oil drilling plans, but the Trump campaign has not ruled out the prospect of offshore drilling, citing a desire to increase domestic energy production.

Miami Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson was the only Florida Democrat not to sign the letter. Six of the state’s 14 House Republicans signed the letter.

Florida Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott say the Trump administration wants to ban oil drilling off Florida’s coasts for at least 10 years. Rubio introduced a 10-year moratorium on offshore drilling in Florida in January 2019, which he argued has a better chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate than a permanent ban. Rubio tried to include the moratorium in a sweeping clean energy bill in March, but the bill stalled and currently faces an uncertain future.

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©2020 Miami Herald

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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