Nelson: Is Florida fully 'off the table' for offshore drilling?

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While in Florida on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced that after talking with Republican Gov. Rick Scott, he was removing Florida from the offshore oil drilling proposal.

He said President Trump had directed him to "take into consideration the local and state voice" in deciding policy. Some cited Zinke's claim that "Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver".

Gov. Rick Scott met with a member of President Donald Trump's administration and struck a deal to remove Florida from a list of states proposed for more offshore oil drilling.

Scott is not alone in opposing the Interior Department proposal, which would open up 47 oil and gas exploration leases for sale, including six off the California coast, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico and 19 off the coast of Alaska.

"Creating a five-year (drilling) program is a very open and public process, and Secretary Zinke looks forward to meeting with governors and other coastal representatives who want to discuss the draft program", said spokeswoman Heather Swift.

We're also suspicious the Trump administration's accommodation of Scott's views might have more to do with politics than environmental concerns.

"New York doesn't want drilling off our coast either", New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted.

But suddenly, on Tuesday at Tallahassee's airport, Zinke announced that drilling off the Florida coast was "off the table" even as the rest of the plan remains intact.

"For eight years, the governor has been steadfastly opposed to drilling off the New Jersey coast", Christie's press secretary Brian Murphy said.

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Nelson, a former NASA astronaut, was objecting to an abrupt change in plans by the Trump administration, whose oil drilling plan encompassed almost all of the Atlantic coast.

Katie Martin, spokeswoman with the National Republican Senate Committee, fired back at Nelson, saying "instead of celebrating the announcement as a win for Florida, Sen".

To try to say this calmly: MOST (all?) of governors affected by this order have objected to it.

"The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act requires the administration to consider several specific factors in developing an offshore oil and gas leasing plan in light of national energy needs and the risks of offshore drilling".

California's Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted on Twitter following the announcement that by using the same criteria as Florida, California should also be exempted.

Former White House ethics chief Walter Shaub was less coy with his speculation, slamming Zinke's decision to exempt Florida from the oil and gas program.

Commissioner Donna Fiala agreed, worrying about what the impacts of drilling operations off Florida's coastline could have in the minds of potential visitors to the area.

The statement prompted a flurry of responses from governors of other coastal states, who queried why Florida should be the only state spared from the possibility of a disastrous oil spill and other harm caused to the marine environment and communities that depend upon fishing or tourism. "California and other coastal states also rely on our lovely coasts for tourism and our economy. I'm going to continue to fight for our environment", Scott said Wednesday at MTC.

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