Florida’s U.S. Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio sent a letter Wednesday to new Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt urging the department to exclude Florida’s Gulf Coast from oil and gas drilling plans, just as his predecessor had pledged to do.
Their letter reiterates the position they pressed on President Donald Trump‘s administration to keep Florida’s Gulf Coast out of the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Proposed Plan being developed. But the previous federal assurances Florida had were expressed through now former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who famously made the assurances to Scott in a brief Tallahassee visit, only to have other federal officials declare weeks later that Florida was still on the table.
Bernhardt is a former oil lobbyist. He succeeded Zinke at the start of the year.
Wednesday’s letter from Florida’s Republican Senators included a reminder of Zinke’s promise to include Florida’s gulf waters in a moratorium.
“Citing the broad support within the state for protecting Florida’s coastline from the potential risks from offshore drilling, your predecessor was publicly supportive of our request,” Scott and Rubio wrote. “In addition, the people of Florida recently demonstrated this broad support when they overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state’s constitution banning drilling for oil and natural gas in state waters.”
They cited the environmental and economic value of offshore waters to Florida, as well as the “Military Mission Line” that Scott’s predecessor, Democratic former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, had fought for, forbidding drilling in waters offshore from Florida’s military installations.
“We remain concerned about the impacts of oil and gas activities on Florida’s marine and coastal environment, as well as the military activities critical to our national security,” Rubio and Scott wrote. “Oil spills, such as the Deepwater Horizon disaster, have demonstrated the catastrophic impacts increased oil and gas drilling around Florida could wreak on our state’s environmental resources, fisheries, tourism, and economy.
“Once again, we urge the Department to stand by your commitment to exclude the offshore waters around Florida from further consideration in its National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Proposed Plan. We welcome the opportunity to continue working with you to preserve Florida’s natural treasures and the economic benefits they help to support for generations to come,” they concluded.