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Bill Nelson again pushes Ryan Zinke on off-shore drilling

Saying he never got a response in the almost two months since he last asked, Florida’s U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson again wrote to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Friday requesting clarification on what the administration wants to do off Florida’s coast.

Nelson’s latest missive comes as the Department plans to close its public comment period Friday evening on its draft five-year offshore oil drilling plan. Nelson again requested Florida be dropped from the plan, something that Gov. Rick Scott said Zinke had assured in January would be done, but which apparently has not happened.

“After hearing directly from Florida residents and business owners, I’m writing again to make sure you are fully aware of the widespread and vehement opposition to drilling off of Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts,” Nelson wrote. “I absolutely oppose opening up the Atlantic to drilling, as well as any part of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico currently under moratorium. And I will keep working to extend that statutory moratorium beyond 2022.”

Following Scott’s statement, made after a Tallahassee meeting with Zinke, Nelson wrote to Zinke requesting details on any changes. Friday Nelson’s office said he had not received a response. Meanwhile, on January 19 Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Acting Director Walter Cruickshank told the House Natural Resources Committee that Florida was still on the table for offshore oil drilling.

“I wrote to you nearly two months ago to ask for clarification about those comments and have yet to receive a response. In the meantime, Interior conducted public meetings—including the meeting in Tallahassee last month—using maps that clearly showed Florida was still being analyzed for potential lease sales,” Nelson wrote on Friday.

“There is no justification for including Florida in the five-year plan,” Nelson concluded. “Once again, I strongly urge you to truly take Florida ‘off the table’ by removing the Atlantic Coast, the Straits of Florida, and the entire eastern Gulf of Mexico moratorium area from consideration for future lease sales.”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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