One of our more regular letter writers, Nana Royer, expresses concern in a letter today, about an apparent stay of execution for Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico waters.
President Donald Trump reversed a decision made last week to open up open ocean oil and gas drilling off the nation’s coasts. Early this week, after a quick meeting with Gov. Rick Scott, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, abruptly announced that Florida would be excluded from the open areas: More on that in a moment.
Many political pundits and some congressional politicians are calling Scott on his environmental shift, claiming he’s only attempting to appear “green” for an anticipated run against Sen. Bill Nelson in November. It is worth noting that Nelson has been a steadfast opponent of offshore drilling here and across the country. He is graded at 100 percent on his environmental voting record by conservation groups.
There’s little doubt that Scott is grooming his environmental voting record for something. This year he began to champion environmental issues in the budget, proposing to spend $1.7 billion on conservation-minded projects, including an additional $50 million for state parks, $55 million for springs, $100 million for beaches, $355 million for Everglades restoration and $50 million for Florida Forever — something for everyone green.
It is worth noting that he and the Republican-led House and Senate had completely defunded Florida Forever in last year’s budget. Gov. Jeb Bush had it funded for $300 million during his term.
It’s not surprising or alarming that Scott’s playing politics heading into a Congressional run. It’s fairly run-of-the-mill compared to some of the recent shenanigans of our legislative leaders.
But Scott has rarely met a fossil fuel he did not like. In 2012, just a month after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion, Scott came out publicly against a planned Florida constitutional ban on offshore drilling.
According to the Huffington Post, he opposed then-President Obama’s six-month moratorium on all deepwater drilling. That was also in 2012 — weeks after the oil spill was finally capped following months of environmental tragedy.
In 2011 Scott came out publicly supporting presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann’s plan to open the Everglades to drilling. He, at the time, owned a $135,000 stake in an oil company drilling in Collier County — a short shot to the Everglades.
Other pundits wonder why none of the state’s other political leaders who came out in opposition to the Trump announcement were given credit for the drilling pass — including Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Ron Desantis and, of course, Sen. Bill Nelson.
What concerns us is it the wording of the Zinke ban. Depending upon the source, the wording says no offshore drilling off the east and west coast of the state — or no drilling in federal waters.
It says nothing about state waters, and should. On our east coast, that’s out just three miles. On Gulf side, it’s nine miles.
The Department of Interior has reported it intends to open about 50 leases between 2019 and 2024, including 12 in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Deepwater Horizon calamity was clear evidence that oil spills don’t respect state lines or buffer zones in inflicting their particularly ugly environmental damage.
The issue is not one with which to play political games.