The American Petroleum Institute, and oil and gas industry association, has lambasted the U.S. Interior Secretary’s withdrawal of Florida from future offshore oil and gas lease plans.
The U.S. Department of Interior last week proposed the opening of almost the entire U.S. continental shelf for offshore oil and gas exploration.
A 60-day comment period was expected to follow, however, just days after the proposed lease sale announcement, Florida was removed from consideration for future oil drilling amid pressure from a Republican governor.
The Draft Proposed Program (DPP) included 47 potential lease sales in 25 of the 26 planning areas – 19 sales off the coast of Alaska, 7 in the Pacific Region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, and 9 in the Atlantic Region.
As for the part of the program that would have Florida, the Draft Proposed Program included sales in parts of Eastern Gulf of Mexico that are not subject to Congressional moratorium or otherwise unavailable, and in the portions of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico after the expiration of the Congressional moratorium in 2022. This would be the first time the majority of the Eastern GOM Planning Area would be available for leasing since 1988. The Atlantic region lease sale included one sale for the Straits of Florida.
However, soon after the release of the lease sale plan, Florida Governor Rick Scott met with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to discuss his concerns with the federal oil drilling plan “and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration.”
Following the meeting between Scott and Zinke on Tuesday, the Department of the Interior announced that Florida’s coastline has been removed from consideration for future oil drilling.
API: Premature withdrawal
Responding to the news that Florida would be excluded, Jack Gerard, API President and CEO said:”‘This announcement is 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. The ability to provide affordable energy for consumers and meet the growing domestic and global demand depends on the ability to safely and responsibly explore and develop our offshore energy resources, including in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.
He said the Gulf of Mexico was the backbone of the U.S. offshore energy production and restricting access to the Eastern Gulf would put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk across the country and along the Gulf Coast,”particularly in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi.”
Gerrard also said that securing reliable sources of energy helps fuel other industries like tourism, “especially in states like Florida that relies on more than 200 million barrels of gasoline and diesel each year to fuel its economy.”
He added: ‘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 protection 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 U.S. Department of Defense work together to ensure all offshore operations take place without any impact to existing or future military activities,’ Gerrard said.