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Environmental Groups Question Motives for Florida Drilling Exemption

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., calls the feds' decision to exempt Florida from offshore drilling "a stunt." He's seeking a permanent ban. (Berardo62/Flickr)
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., calls the feds' decision to exempt Florida from offshore drilling "a stunt." He's seeking a permanent ban. (Berardo62/Flickr)
January 11, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Critics of the Trump administration's decision to exclude Florida from its offshore drilling plan say it has little to do with protecting the state's environment, and more to do with Gov. Rick Scott's political ambitions.

The Republican governor is close friends with President Trump, so it was rare to see Scott criticize the administration's drilling expansion plans.

Susan Glickman, Florida director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said things looked a little too orchestrated when U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke traveled to Tallahassee to deliver the news to Scott that Florida would be removed from consideration.

"Given that President Trump has been strongly encouraging Gov. Scott to run against Sen. Bill Nelson, it looks like a political play to make Rick Scott look like some sort of a hero,” Glickman said.

Scott is term-limited this year, and is widely expected to run against Sen. Nelson, a longtime opponent of drilling.

On Wednesday, Nelson filed a bill to permanently ban drilling off Florida's coast, saying he's skeptical of federal assurances the state would be exempt from the new drilling plan. The decision to exclude Florida also has prompted other coastal states to ask the Trump administration for equal treatment.

In Glickman's opinion, Gov. Scott has neglected to show genuine care for the environment.

"For someone to suggest that they're protecting Florida coast when they've done nothing to move away from dangerous fossil fuels - which is creating climate impacts like sea level rise, which threaten our coasts,” Glckman said. "So, there is a lot that needs to be done, and taking drilling off the table is just one small piece of the puzzle."

Democratic governors along both coasts unanimously oppose coastal drilling, as have a number of Republican governors, including Maryland's Gov. Larry Hogan, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and Gov. Charles Baker of Massachusetts.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL