Less than a week after unveiling a plan to dramatically expand U.S. offshore oil drilling, the Trump administration is now saying the plan won’t include drilling off the Florida coast.
The plan, announced on Jan. 4, had included new sales of drilling leases off Florida’s Atlantic coast as well as in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the reversal after a meeting with Florida Governor Rick Scott in Tallahassee this week.
“We are not drilling off the coast of Florida,” Zinke said, crediting Scott for the administration’s change of heart.
“I support the governor’s position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver,” Zinke added in a statement posted to Twitter. “As a result of discussion with Governor Scott and his leadership, I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms.”
Scott called it a “good day for Florida.”
“I’m appreciative that the secretary came to Tallahassee to sit down and talk about it and has committed that as a result of our interest in making sure there’s no drilling here that Florida will be taken off the table,” Scott said.
But Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson called the move a stunt designed to help Scott, a term-limited Republican governor who is widely expected to challenge Nelson for his Senate seat later this year.
“I have spent my entire life fighting to keep oil rigs away from our coasts,” 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.”
Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club echoed Nelson’s statement.
“Make no mistake about it, Ryan Zinke’s decision — if true — to remove Florida from the draft offshore drilling plan was a purely political move to aid the ambitions of Rick Scott,” said Sierra Club Florida Director Frank Jackalone.
In a statement, Northwest Florida congressman Matt Gaetz applauded the decision.
“I am deeply pleased that Secretary Zinke will no longer pursue oil drilling off the Florida coast, which would have been disastrous to Florida’s economy, the environment, and, most importantly, to the readiness of America’s armed forces,” Gaetz said. “Governor Scott’s strong leadership on this issue and President Trump’s swift response were commendable, and I am proud that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle could unite to protect the Sunshine State. In my one-on-one talks with President Trump, I brought up the dire risk that coastal oil drilling would pose to national security, and he was greatly receptive to my concerns. The guarantee that drilling off the Florida coast will not happen during President Trump’s tenure is a tremendous victory for Florida and for its people.”