Posted: 3:33 pm Thursday, January 4th, 2018
By Jamie Dupree
Facing criticism from Gov. Rick Scott and members of both parties in the Florida Congressional delegation over a new offshore oil and gas exploration initiative, the White House on Thursday sought to publicly minimize its differences with state officials, as Florida lawmakers demanded changes in the Trump Administration’s plan to open up new areas in the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico to new offshore oil and gas exploration.
“Our goal certainly isn’t to cross Governor Scott,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as she was asked at a briefing about the drilling plan, which envisions possible drilling along the entire coastline, from Fernandina Beach to the Florida Keys and up to Pensacola.
“We have a great relationship with him, we’re going to continue working with him on a number of issues,” Sanders said of the Governor.
But in the Trump Administration’s first foray into the issue of offshore drilling, the Thursday announcement only brought scorn from Scott and members of both parties in the Congress.
“My top priority is to ensure that Florida’s natural resources are protected,” the Governor said in a statement, making clear his opposition to the drilling plan.
Governor Scott’s Statement on Trump Administration’s Plan on Offshore Oil Drilling: pic.twitter.com/iQqNU9afsQ
— Rick Scott (@FLGovScott) January 4, 2018
The reception in Congress for the Trump Administration’s plan was like the weather outside in Washington, D.C. on this January day – very cold.
“This plan is an assault on Florida’s economy, our national security, the will of the public and the environment,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who has long opposed efforts by Presidents of both parties to expand offshore oil and gas exploration.
“This proposal defies all common sense and I will do everything I can to defeat it,” Nelson added.
State lawmakers also vowed to fight to keep – and extend – a ban on offshore oil and gas exploration in the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico. That moratorium ends in 2022.
.@SecretaryZinke today discussing expansion of offshore oil + gas drilling. Not acceptable to include Gulf of Mexico off Florida’s coast!
And Zinke must reject plans to gut safety rules implemented after Deepwater Horizon disaster. Short memory = recipe for disaster. #sayfie
— Rep. Vern Buchanan (@VernBuchanan) January 4, 2018
“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 Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).
“I have expressed my opposition to opening these waters to drilling to Secretary Zinke,” said Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL), who said he would work with state lawmakers to keep certain areas off limits to drilling, in order to “protect Florida’s unique ecosystem.”
The details of the Interior Department plan are included in a 380 page document released by officials on Thursday, which included maps showing most of the possible drilling areas off the state’s East Coast would be north of Melbourne.
“The Deepwater Horizon accident proved definitively that offshore drilling has the potential to ravage our state’s ecosystems and economy,” said Rep. Val Demings (D-FL).
These are the maps included in the plan which outline where drilling could take place off of Florida:
In the Gulf of Mexico, while Florida fights to ward off new drilling, others welcomed the Trump plan.
“With this program, my constituents in southeast Louisiana whose jobs depend on the energy industry can rest easy knowing that oil and gas development is a priority for this administration,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA).
Historically, while lawmakers from Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi have embraced offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, most of Florida’s delegation on Capitol Hill has mainly been against it, no matter their party affiliation.