Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke agreed on Tuesday to remove the Florida coastline from the drilling exploration five-year plan.
The reversal came after Zinke met with Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott at a Tallahassee airport and Scott told reporters after the meeting that drilling off the state’s coast was “taken off the table,” the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The Times reported:
The Times added that Zinke cited damage along the state’s coast from Hurricane Irma in September and the ongoing pollution problems around Lake Okeechobee as factors in the administration’s reversal.
But at least one long-time critic of offshore drilling in the state, Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson, called the move a “political stunt.”
“I have spent my entire life fighting to keep oil rigs away from our coasts,” Nelson said in a statement reported by the Times . “But now, suddenly, Secretary Zinke announces plans to drill off Florida’s coast and four days later agrees to ‘take Florida off the table?’”
“I don’t believe it,” Nelson said. “This is a political stunt orchestrated by the Trump administration to help Rick Scott, who has wanted to drill off Florida’s coast his entire career.”
“We shouldn’t be playing politics with the future of Florida,” Nelson said.
Until last week, 94 percent of the OCS off Alaska, California, the Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast of the United States have been off-limits for decades.
Last week’s announcement from Interior said:
“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 the announcement.
“Today’s announcement lays out the options that are on the table and starts a lengthy and robust public comment period,” Zinke said. “Just like with mining, not all areas are appropriate for offshore drilling, and we will take that into consideration in the coming weeks.”
“The important thing is we strike the right balance to protect our coasts and people while still powering America and achieving American Energy Dominance,” Zinke said.