Trump’s drilling plan poses unacceptable risk to Florida | Editorial
The oil industry figures to have a a friend in Donald Trump but, it appears, not on every single issue.
President Trump has managed to unite Democrats and Republicans in Florida — against him.
The bipartisan criticism stems from the Interior Department’s announcement Thursday that the president wants to open almost all federal waters to offshore drilling. Such a move would pose serious environmental risks to many parts of the country — especially Florida.
Current rules keep drilling at least 125 miles away from most of the Gulf Coast until 2022. Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke want to end the ban and allow drilling as close as 10 miles from shore, threatening Florida’s economy.
President Trump isn’t stopping there.
He’d also allow lease sales off Florida’s Atlantic coast and in the Florida Straits, near the Keys. This follows last month’s tax bill, which opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. According to a National Resources Defense Council review, the president’s plan would make every state “a potential industrial zone.”
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, in 2006 negotiated the deal for the 125-mile barrier along the Gulf of Mexico. He did so with his Republican colleague, Mel Martinez, reinforcing the idea that protecting Florida’s beaches is not a partisan issue. A year ago, Nelson introduced legislation that would extend the 125-mile moratorium until 2027.
So emotional is the drilling issue, though, that even some of the president’s loudest Florida supporters have joined the chorus of opposition. Gov. Rick Scott, who calls the president “my friend,” said in a statement that he wants to meet with Zinke about “the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration” for expanded drilling.
Other Republicans also chimed in.
Rep. Carlo Curbelo, whose Miami-Dade County district went for Hillary Clinton, released a statement saying he’d make sure Florida’s voice of opposition gets heard.
Sen. Marco Rubio similarly released a statement urging the Interior Department to “recognize the Florida Congressional delegation’s bipartisan efforts to maintain and extend the moratorium … and remove this area for future planning purposes.”
And Rep. Matt Gaetz, whose Panhandle district went for Trump by the highest margin in the state, said the proposal “would be catastrophic to our military, and to our local tourism economy.” He noted that today’s moratorium allows the military to do extensive testing over the Gulf, testing that can’t be conducted elsewhere.
The president’s plan also would endanger coastlines in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. With Florida, they suffered from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon explosion that caused the largest oil spill in the nation’s history — 200 million gallons. Since the president carried all five states, his favor for the oil industry shows again that his policies go against the voters who backed him.
And it gets worse.
After the Deepwater Horizon spill, former President Barack Obama created a commission to recommend safety improvements. One co-chairman was Bob Graham, a Democrat and a former governor and senator from Florida. The other was William Riley. He was administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency for former President George H.W. Bush, back when the Republican Party cared about the environment.
President Trump wants to weaken two key rules that came from that panel’s work.
One change would weaken regulations designed to prevent the sort of blowout that caused the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Another would drop the requirement that independent auditors inspect safety and pollution equipment that has been certified by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
The president chose Scott Angelle to lead this bureau. Like his other appointees, Angelle seeks to end regulations that protect the public. He’s a former lieutenant governor of Louisiana, where drilling companies have great influence.
Analysts note that it could take 18 months to implement Trump’s irresponsible plan. They point out that drilling in the Atlantic might not happen for a decade, if at all.
Leases in the eastern Gulf, however, would start in 2023 — one year after the moratorium expires.
We will give Sen. Nelson the last, best word on Trump’s drilling threat: “This plan is an assault on Florida’s economy, our national security, the will of the public and the environment. This proposal defies all common sense and I will do everything I can to defeat it.”
Editorials are the opinion of the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board and written by one of its members or a designee. The Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Rosemary O’Hara, Elana Simms, Andy Reid and Editor-in-Chief Howard Saltz.