DEP head formally opposes offshore drilling in Florida – Florida Politics

DEP head formally opposes offshore drilling in Florida

Noah Valenstein, Florida’s Secretary of Environmental Protection (DEP), on Thursday sent a letter to the feds in opposition of any exploratory drilling for gas or oil off the state’s coasts.

The move comes after Gov. Rick Scottsecured a commitment from (U.S.) Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to take Florida off the table for future consideration for offshore oil drilling,” a DEP press release said.

No other state got such treatment, leading “environmental groups who oppose the administration’s oil-drilling plan (to) denounce the decision as a political move meant to bolster Gov. Scott’s intention to run for Senate next year,” according to National Public Radio.

Moreover, since then “a senior Interior Department official said Florida’s coastal waters had not been excluded after all,” the New York Times reported.

But Scott just this week told the Tampa Bay Times “the right thing happened. There’s not going to be offshore drilling.” Scott, a Navy veteran, called Zinke “a man of his word. He’s a Navy Seal and I believe they’re going to do exactly what they committed.”

Just in case, Valenstein wrote to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management‘s Kelly Hammerle that the state “oppose(s) the inclusion of any lease sales in Florida’s coastal and offshore areas.

“Florida’s coastal and offshore areas have high environmental, economic and military value not only for Florida, but also for the nation,” he said. “These areas provide great economic impact for our citizens and provide each resident with recreational opportunities that are unique to Florida.

“(W)e’ve remained concerned by the potential impacts of oil and gas activities on marine and coastal environments and the biological resources and critical habitats associated with them, as well as the military activities critical to our nation’s security,” Valenstein added.

The full letter is below:

Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.
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