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Interior Secretary Zinke: Florida Offshore Oil Drilling Is 'Off The Table'

10 January 2018

The administration of US President Donald Trump has exempted the state of Florida from controversial plans for offshore drilling for oil and gas.

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said the meeting with Zinke was "a political stunt orchestrated by the Trump administration to help Rick Scott", who Nelson said has long wanted to drill off Florida's coast.

The five-year plan would open 90 percent of the nation's offshore reserves to development by private companies, Zinke said, with 47 leases proposed off the nation's coastlines from 2019 to 2024.

While Zinke was still making his announcement, the Republican governor said in a statement that he "asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan".

Zinke said Tuesday that "Florida is obviously unique" and that the decision to remove the state came after meetings and discussion with Scott.

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"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", he said.

Gov Scott cheered the decision, saying he would "never stop fighting for Florida's environment and our pristine coastline".

Gov Scott is reportedly planning to run for an open US Senate seat.

Florida state waters extend three nautical miles from shore on the Atlantic, and nine nautical miles on the Gulf side, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The Secretary of the Department of the Interior wants to lease acres of the Gulf of Mexico, now off-limits, for oil drilling, promising the plan would create new jobs and help the country become more energy independent.

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Florida's Rick Scott was among the coastal governors who spoke up.

The state is also important economically, with a multibillion-dollar tourism business built on sunshine and miles and miles of white sandy beaches.

Some of the most vocal opponents were Florida lawmakers.

At the moment, 94% of the OCS is protected.

The effort to open previously off-limits acreage in the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans comes less than eight years after BP Plc's Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico - the largest in American history.

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Map of Eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Interior Secretary Zinke: Florida Offshore Oil Drilling Is 'Off The Table'