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Trump administration backs off Florida drilling proposal

12 January 2018

Following an announcement late Tuesday that the Trump Administration will exempt Florida from its plan to open Atlantic and Pacific coastal waters to offshore drilling, Governor Cooper Wednesday urged Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke to grant an exemption for North Carolina.

The governor's office said in a statement that he has "some concerns with opening up Georgia's pristine coastlines which he will convey to the congressional delegation".

Rick Scott was one of the first public officials to decry an announcement last week that the Interior Department intends to lift a 30-year-old ban on drilling in coastal waters extending from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Arctic Ocean in the West.

Proposed OCS lease sales by region historical. Source BOEM
Proposed OCS lease sales by region historical. Source BOEM

"As a result of our interest in making sure that there's no drilling here, Florida will be taken off the table, "Scott said January 9th, after meeting with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in Tallahassee". "For Floridians, we are not drilling off the coast of Florida, and clearly the governor has expressed that it's important".

Environmentalist group Oceana said it hopes the White House hears complaints from other states - that might not have a GOP chief executive like Scott. We don't even quibble with Scott's pitch to take Florida out of it.

That's the same Rick Scott who banned his state's employees from using the term "climate change", which is ironic because climate change will be the long-term result of the US drilling and using more oil, causing sea level rises that will inundate more of Florida. But now, suddenly, Secretary Zinke announces plans to drill off Florida's coast and four days later agrees to "take Florida off the table"? The complaints came as South Carolina's Republican governor said Wednesday he is seeking an exemption from the proposed drilling expansion, a move that will test the relationship between Trump and one of his earliest supporters.

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It opens up more than 90% of the national outer continental shelf (OCS) for development - making more than 98% of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in federal offshore areas available to private companies.

Gov. Scott rejoiced in the decision.

"Mr. President, I must say I've seen political games being played with trying to drill off of the coast of Florida", said U.S. Sen. Zinke, containing a number of questions.

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Kristen Monsell, Oceans Program Litigation Director for the Center for Biological Diversity, agreed that Zinke likely violated federal law in choosing to remove Florida from the proposed plan. Scott, a Trump ally, is expected to challenge U.S. Sen.

"I'm not aware of any political favor that that (Florida exemption) would have been part of, so, no", Sanders said.

In February 2016, Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage eventually endorsed Trump, who had campaigned several times in the state, including a stop in Lisbon shortly before the general election.

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Trump administration backs off Florida drilling proposal