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GOPs Declare Victory in Coaxing Administration to Not Drill Off Coast of Florida

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announce there will be no new offshore drilling in the state of Florida at the Tallahassee International Airport on Jan. 9, 2018. (Scott Keeler/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

WASHINGTON — Florida Republicans who protested the Trump administration’s plan to open nearly all coastal waters to drilling cheered a vow from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that their state would be “off the table” in the new plans going forward.

Zinke announced last week that the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024, which would flip the current status of being 94 percent off-limits to more than 90 percent available for drilling, would be “the right balance to protect our coasts and people while still powering America and achieving American energy dominance.”

“Responsibly developing our energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands and parks,” Zinke said.

“For Floridians we are not drilling off the coast of Florida, which clearly the governor has expressed that’s important,” Zinke said this week after meeting with Florida Gov. Rick Scott. “Our tactic was open everything up, then meet with the governors, meet with the stakeholders, so that when we shaped it, it was right.”

The Interior Department said more than 800,000 comments from stakeholders have been received thus far, and the public will have additional opportunity to comment before the plan is finalized.

Zinke credited Scott with pressuring the administration to change course on Florida offshore drilling.

Other Republican coastal governors have expressed opposition to the plan as well, including South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.

Zinke said Florida was “obviously unique” when it comes to drilling.

Scott tweeted a week ago that he’d asked for an immediate meeting with Zinke “to ensure that Florida’s natural resources are protected, which is why I proposed $1.7 billion for the environment in this year’s budget.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said in a statement Wednesday that the drilling “would have been disastrous to Florida’s economy, the environment, and, most importantly, to the readiness of America’s armed forces.”

“Governor Scott’s strong leadership on this issue and President Trump’s swift response were commendable, and I am proud that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle could unite to protect the Sunshine State,” said the Trump ally. “In my one-on-one talks with President Trump, I brought up the dire risk that coastal oil drilling would pose to national security, and he was greatly receptive to my concerns. The guarantee that drilling off the Florida coast will not happen during President Trump’s tenure is a tremendous victory for Florida and for its people.”

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) called the decision to remove Florida from the administration’s offshore drilling plan “a good start — but my ultimate goal is still a permanent ban on offshore drilling and seismic testing in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.”