U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in January said Florida would be exempted from the recently drafted plan to open almost the entire U.S. coast for offshore drilling.
However, this has yet to be formalized, as both environmentalists and pro-drilling voices are not sure Florida is indeed off the table for offshore drilling.
In a statement on Thursday, Florida Petroleum Council Executive Director David Mica said the inclusion of Florida in Secretary Zinke’s offshore plan was critical to enabling Floridians “to reap the long-term benefits of affordable and reliable U.S.-produced energy and specifically secure Florida’s long-term economic future with new tax revenue, new jobs and new industries to support energy development.”
“The Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf has not been surveyed in more than thirty years, and with rapid advancements in safety and assessment technologies in the past decade, we can safely and accurately determine what energy potential exists off our coasts.”
“Gathering data on our long-term energy resources is a critical step in strengthening our national security and making America energy self-sufficient in the long-term,” Mica said.
As previously reported, the Trump administration has recently proposed the opening of almost the entire offshore continental shelf for oil and gas exploration and production, including the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, and Florida Straits. This would be the first time the majority of the Eastern GOM Planning Area would be available for leasing since 1988.
However, following the announcement, Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, requested to meet 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.”
Short after the meeting, Zinke tweeted that he was „removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms.”
Following the removal of Florida, the API criticized the withdrawal from future offshore oil and gas lease plans, calling it premature.
While API criticized the withdrawal announcement, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida and a long-time offshore drilling opponent, criticized the questioned the extent of what leaving Florida „off the table“ really meant, asking whether Floridians have been given “false assurances that we all are in the clear.”
In his speech in January, Nelson said: “Well, what exactly does off the table mean? The whole Eastern Gulf, half of it? 125 miles off the coast? Does it mean both coasts of Florida? Does it mean just one? What about the Straits of Florida?”
Off the table?
The Department of the Interior did not respond to Offshore Energy Today’s January email seeking more info on what Zinke’s tweeted message promising the withdrawal of Florida meant in practice.
According to information available on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, inclusion of an area at the Draft Proposed Program phase is not a final indication it will be included in the National OCS Program or offered in a lease sale, as many decisions will be made that may potentially reduce or remove areas or sales.
Worth noting, it has been widely reported that Walter Cruickshank, acting director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), said in January Florida was not off the table for offshore drilling activities, contradicting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s “Florida off the table” statement.
Commenting on the issue in January, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said: “I am concerned that Secretary Zinke’s decision may be subject to legal challenge because he rushed to make the announcement prior to taking evidence and comment and following the proscribed administrative process,” S. “The final Interior Department agency action may be open to a challenge that is /sic/ was arbitrary. I hope not.”
Castor said the only way to fully protect Florida’s economy and environment from the risk of oil drilling off of the states beaches was to extend the moratorium permanently in law,”
She said:“The moratorium on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico is scheduled to end in 2022 and Congress must enact a law to ban offshore drilling off of the Florida coast once and for all. Extending this moratorium will ensure that there is no question that Florida is off the table from drilling and not at the mercy of politicians like Gov. Rick Scott and President Donald Trump who have flip flopped on the issue.”
Offshore Energy Today Staff