A controversial proposal announced by the Trump administration would open up nearly all federal waters to offshore oil drilling, including the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Under the plan outlined on Thursday by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the federal government would hold 47 lease sales from 2019 through 2024, offering new leases for drilling in areas off the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts and in the Arctic Ocean. Leases for drilling rights haven’t been available in the eastern Gulf since 1988.
The proposal quickly drew fire from Florida politicians on both sides of the aisle.
“I have asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, said in a statement. “My top priority is to ensure that Florida’s natural resources are protected.”
Northwest Florida congressman Matt Gaetz, a Republican, said he was “extremely disappointed and concerned” with the White House’s plan.
“Not only does offshore drilling threaten the Gulf Coast with another potential catastrophe like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010, it also jeopardizes our national security,” Gaetz said, referring to the proximity of potential lease areas to Gulf Coast military bases and the 120,000 square-mile Gulf Test Range.
“This plan is an assault on Florida’s economy, our national security, the will of the public, and the environment,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat. “This proposal defies all common sense and I will do everything I can to defeat it.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, also opposes the plan.
“I urge Secretary Zinke to recognize the Florida Congressional delegation’s bipartisan efforts to maintain and extend the moratorium in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, and remove this area for future planning purposes,” said Rubio.
The plan has also been sharply condemned by environmental groups.
“These ocean waters are not President Trump’s personal playground. They belong to all Americans and the public wants them preserved and protected, not sold off to multinational oil companies,” said a statement signed by leaders of the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, League of Conservation Voters and other environmental groups.
At a news conference, Zinke said that “nothing is final” and that states and local communities would have a say before a final plan is adopted.