WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
State News

Trump Wants Offshore Drilling Closer To Florida


The American Petroleum Institute is praising President Donald Trump’s latest move to open up the eastern Gulf of Mexico to offshore drilling. But more than  half of Florida’s Congressional delegation stands opposed.

Late Friday, the White House announced Trump was ordering his Interior secretary to redraw the nation’s five-year energy plan to include vast new areas of eastern gulf, as well as the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

By Monday, API director Erik Milito was singing Trump’s praises in media conference call.

“Developing our abundant offshore energy resources is a critical part of a robust, forward-looking energy policy that will secure our nation’s future energy and strengthen the U.S. energy Renaissance.”

Drilling platforms won’t sprout on the horizon overnight, Milito said. But millions of offshore acres could be available by 2022, when a ban on drilling within 125 miles of the Florida coast is set to expire.

Milito said the U.S. domestic energy production boom saved the average motorist 550 dollars at the pump in 2015 and the average homeowners thirteen hundred dollars in lower power bills. And Milito even suggested offshore drilling is good for the environment.

“Our success leading the world in reduction of carbon emissions, which have reached 30-year lows in the power sector due primarily to clean-burning natural gas, demonstrates that energy security and environmental progress are not contradictory goals.”

But 17 members of the Florida Congressional delegation, including five Republicans, fired off a letter urging Trump to reconsider. Led by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, a Melbourne Democrat, the group warned Trump was threatening Florida’s tourism industry.

Environment Florida state director Jennifer Rubiello echoes their concerns.

“Our coasts and oceans here in Florida are home to stunning wildlife, gorgeous beaches, and we have a really robust tourism economy, and these are all things that stand to lose from more offshore drilling.”

Even earlier last week, Trump reversed stricter safety standards for offshore drilling equipment that his predecessor issued in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The explosion killed 11 platform workers and eventually spilled more than 5 million gallons of oil into the gulf.

Seven years later, Florida lawmakers are still fighting over how to divvy up the state’s share of the nearly 5 billion dollars BP agreed to give effected states. Here’s Panama City Republican Senator George Gainer selling his Triumph Gulf Coast legislation to the Commerce and Tourism Committee.

“I was a county commissioner too, when the oil spill happened, and I wondered back then if it would ever be settled, and if it would be settled to the benefit of the people that were damaged in northwest Florida. Certainly, everybody from Alachua to Escambia County was damaged.”

Environmental groups have been on high alert since Trump issued the drilling order, says Audubon of Florida executive director Eric Draper.

“Our concern would be that this is a beginning of an effort to undo the law that, frankly, Senator Nelson put into place that keeps 125-mile limit from drilling off of our gulf coast.”

Trump insists that offshore drilling can be done safely. But Draper notes that the new executive orders won’t lead to drilling platforms off Mara Lago, Trump’s beloved, Palm Beach summer White House.