Florida waters were removed Tuesday from White House plans to open previously protected parts of the Atlantic Ocean and eastern Gulf of Mexico to offshore oil and gas drilling. The move was hailed by Governor Rick Scott, while drawing questions about whether the quick decision and manner of announcement by the Trump administration were done to further Scott’s political career.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, making a brief appearance Tuesday night at Tallahassee International Airport, credited Governor Rick Scott, who was by his side, for the decision to remove Florida from the drilling proposal announced Thursday.
Scott thanked Zinke for hearing his concerns.
“I’m appreciative that the secretary came to Tallahassee to sit down and talk about it. He’s committed that as a result of our interest in making sure that there is no drilling here, that Florida will be taken off the table.”
Zinke says the administration strategy was to open everything, then meet with local stakeholders and governors, and to balance those views against plans for energy independence.
“I don’t want your kids ever to fight on foreign shores for a resource that we have here. But, there are places where resources are sensitive, and there are places where we are not going to go forward with resources. One of them is off the coast of Florida.”
Scott last week issued a statement that opposed opening Florida waters beyond the nation’s outer continental shelf --- roughly 10 statutory miles off Florida's west coast and three nautical miles off the east coast --- prior to the White House policy being released.
The initial drilling proposal was widely condemned by Florida politicians from both parties.
On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson --- a Democrat expected to be challenged for his seat later this year by Scott --- was quick to call Zinke’s action a “political stunt.”
“I have spent my entire life fighting to keep oil rigs away from our coasts. 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. 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.”