Democrats are painting the Department of Interior’s (DOI) Tuesday decision to exempt Florida from its new offshore oil-and-gas leasing plan as a naked political ploy designed to help Republicans.
President Donald Trump’s move allowing Florida to opt out of the new policy was done to help Republican Gov. Rick Scott before he runs for Senate, according to Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Bill Nelson of Florida. They are also annoyed that the DOI did not carve out exemptions for their states.
“This is a political stunt orchestrated by the Trump administration to help Rick Scott who has wanted to drill off Florida’s coast his entire career. We shouldn’t be playing politics with the future of FL,” Nelson wrote on Twitter shortly after the decision was made. Coastal states have become warier about offshore drilling since the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010.
Scott, who was running for governor at the time of the disaster, announced his opposition to a state constitutional ban on offshore oil drilling one month after BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. He preferred leveling better safeguards on drilling rigs rather than an outright ban.
“As governor, I’ll look to strike a balance between responsible exploration that takes every precaution and is far enough from our shores while holding oil companies accountable for their mistakes,” Scott said at the time, noting a nuance in his position that doesn’t exist in DOI’s policy.
Nelson and Kaine believe Zinke’s decision to exempt Florida and not California or Virginia is evidence of Zinke’s decision to lay triage for the Sunshine State Republican.
“Virginia’s governor (and governor-elect) have made this same request, but we have not received the same commitment. Wonder why…” Kaine, who lamented the fact that Virginia was not given the same privilege, wrote on Twitter.
Zinke announced last week that his department was drafting a plan to open the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to offshore oil and gas leasing. Florida was exempted from the plan – which includes vast areas off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, Alaska’s coast, and in the Gulf of Mexico – ostensibly to spare the state’s booming tourism industry.
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