A bipartisan coalition of Florida members of Congress are again pushing legislation that would make permanent the current moratorium on oil drilling off Florida’s shores that is slated to expire in 2022.
The moratorium protects waters up to 235 miles off the west coast of Florida from oil drilling and will expire in June 2022 unless Congress makes it permanent.
The new version of bill (which has been filed before) is sponsored by Democrats Kathy Castor from Tampa and Charlie Crist from St. Petersburg, as well as Republicans Vern Buchanan from Sarasota and Francis Rooney from Naples.
“Allowing drilling off of Florida’s pristine coasts would be a colossal mistake,” Buchanan said. “Red tide has already plagued the Sunshine State – it would be imprudent to invite the potential for another catastrophic oil spill that would devastate Florida’s economy and environment.”
“Here in Florida, we are keenly aware of the devastating impacts of oil and gas drilling off our shores,” added Castor. “Our state’s vital natural resources – and our state’s economy – cannot risk the devastation brought by blowouts, nor can it afford the high costs of carbon production. We have an obligation to act now to protect our beautiful Florida coastline, our economy and our future.”
The bill is certainly in syncwith Florida voters, who voted by a large majority in November to ban drilling in Florida’s state waters, which begin at the state’s shores and extend three miles into the Atlantic Ocean and nine miles into the Gulf of Mexico.
“Florida voters spoke clearly in November; no drilling off our coasts,” said Crist. “Our job is to their voice in Washington, sending that same message loud and clear with this bill to block harmful drilling and exploration off of Florida. We cannot afford another disaster devastating our waters, health and economy.”
The bill was one of seven filed by members of Congress on Tuesday to block the Trump administration’s plan to vastly expand offshore drilling from coast to coast.
A year ago, the administration announced a five-year drilling plan that would open up federal waters off California for the first time in more than three decades, as well as open new areas of oil and gas exploration in areas off the East Coast from Florida to Maine.
Shortly after that announcement, former U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke met with former Florida Governor Rick Scott and said that Florida would be exempt from the new policy. However, a new drilling plan by the Trump administration is expected to be announced soon, and there are questions about whether that pledge will survive.