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Florida cut from future offshore drilling

Written by  Tuesday, 09 January 2018 21:57

Just days after announcing the US would make 90% of the country's Outer Continental Self (OCS) open to future oil and gas lease sales, US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said he would take Florida off the table after the state's governor, Rick Scott, voiced concerns.

Map of Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Image from BOEM.

"President Trump has directed me to rebuild our offshore oil and gas program in a manner that supports our national energy policy and also takes into consideration the local and state voice," Zinke said in a statement. "I support the governor's position that Florida is unique and its coast is heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver. As a result of today’s discussion and Governor Scott’s leadership, I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms."

Gov. Scott rejoiced in the decision. "By removing Florida from consideration, we can now focus on how we can further protect our environment, including our proposal for record funding for the Everglades, our springs, our beaches and our state parks. I will never stop fighting for Florida’s environment and our pristine coastline."

The decision to remove Florida from consideration begs the question if the concerns of other coastal governors, such as California, will be able to persuade the Trump administation to reconsider plans to drill there as well.

California's Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted on Twitter following the announcement that by using the same criteria as Florida, California should also be exempted.

According to the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is under the direction of the Department of the Interior, the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, which is off of Florida's western coastline, is under congressional moratorium until 2022 as part of the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006.

The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) has issued a statement opposing Florida's exemption, calling it "disappointing" and "premature."

"The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) clearly outlines a deliberative, inclusive and lengthy review process before any preliminary leasing proposals are finalized," says NOIA President Randall Luthi. “Removing areas offshore Florida this early in the planning process prematurely curtails dialogue and thorough study of the possibilities for future development of offshore resources that could provide additional energy and jobs for working Floridians. In addition, for a state whose tourism economy is dependent on a secure and affordable transportation fuel supply, failure to secure domestic production and supply of fuels actually is a greater economic risk than offshore development. 

“The Secretary’s announcement has not eliminated the need for a comprehensive dialogue about America’s long-term offshore energy promise. Through the OCSLA process, as initiated by the Secretary, all stakeholders are given the opportunity to comment. Having heard from the Governor of Florida, we look forward to commenting and sharing our views on what resources, owned by the American people, should be open and considered for exploration and production.”

The American Petroleum Institute (API) issued a statement also calling the move premature.

"Americans support increased domestic energy production, and the administration and policymakers should follow the established process before making any decisions or conclusions that would undermine our nation's energy security," says API President and CEO Jack Gerard. "The Gulf of Mexico is the backbone of our nation’s offshore energy production and restricting access to the Eastern Gulf puts hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk across the country and along the Gulf Coast, particularly in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi. Not only that, but securing reliable sources of energy helps fuel other industries like tourism, especially in states like Florida that relies on more than 200 MMbbl of gasoline and diesel each year to fuel its economy. 

"The fact is offshore operations are safer today than ever before. Advanced technology, safety standards, best practices, and regulations are designed to protect workers, the environment and marine life. Since 2010, more than 100 standards were created or strengthened, including for improved safety and environmental management, well design, blowout prevention, and spill response to ensure we have the best protections and highest safety measures in place. And not only have offshore operations coexisted successfully with industries like commercial and recreational fishing and tourism for decades, but our industry and the US Department of Defense work together to ensure all offshore operations take place without any impact to existing or future military activities."
 

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Zinke to open 90% of US offshore to exploration

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