FL Reps Look to Block Offshore Development

THURSDAY, MAY 31, 2018

Florida’s House delegation is working to win a multiyear extension of the current moratorium against offshore drilling along the state's coasts; if the extension is won, they say, the moratorium would protect both state parks and tourism.

Two amendments—one that would extend the moratorium until 2029, and another banning offshore drilling along certain portions of the state completely—have already been filed, but navigating the turbulent waters ahead still promises to be difficult.

Offshore Drilling

Discussion of offshore drilling expansion began in earnest in October 2017, when the U.S. Department of the Interior announced what was projected to be the largest oil and gas lease sale in the country’s history, which included 76.9 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico, drawing both praise and concern.

The lease sale took place March 21 and was slated to include federal waters off of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Touted as the largest lease sale ever, it garnered bids for only about one percent of the 77 million acres on offer in the Gulf of Mexico. The Proposed Lease Sale 250 was the second under the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-22.

In January, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called for the allowance of new offshore oil and gas drilling in all U.S. coastal waters. This opened billions of acres in oceans from the Arctic to the Atlantic to potential drilling. Zinke publicly supported Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s stance on protecting Florida’s coasts, as they drive much of the state's vital tourism industry. The state is not officially exempt from drilling, however.

California officials also announced in February that the state would be blocking the transportation of petroleum from new offshore oil rigs, which was intended to counteract more offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. coastal waters.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon issued a report to Congress noting that offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico would cause problems for necessary military activities carried out in the region. That portion of the Gulf was deemed an “irreplaceable national asset.”

Moratorium Extension

Both a recent defense measure as well as a public lands energy bill may provide enough clout for an amendment to extend the moratorium, according to Roll Call. The existing prohibition against offshore drilling lasts until 2022, preventing any related activities in the eastern Gulf.

After a meeting earlier this month, Florida Republican Rep. Francis Rooney noted the defense authorization bill provided the most feasible legislative option moving forward, in the form of a compromise that allowed the Department of Defense to veto certain oil activities in the eastern Gulf.

Florida Democrats Charlie Crist and Darren Soto filed for the moratorium extension; Rooney and Florida Democrat Kathy Castor are looking to ban the activities in the eastern Gulf and Straits of Florida completely.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who also serves as the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, noted that she wanted to review the findings of the Defense Department report before she offered commentary regarding the moratorium. Murkowski also noted that other states still have concerns over the offshore drilling plan.


Tagged categories: Department of Defense (DOD); Government; NA; North America; Offshore; Oil and Gas; Program/Project Management

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