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Talking to a Wall: Offshore Drilling Plan Draws Protests

Uncertainty surrounds the Trump administration's five-year plan to allow offshore oil and gas leases in Florida and other coastal states. (Steven Straiton/Flickr)
Uncertainty surrounds the Trump administration's five-year plan to allow offshore oil and gas leases in Florida and other coastal states. (Steven Straiton/Flickr)
February 9, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It isn't clear whether Florida is still included in the Trump administration's plan to expand offshore drilling, but the first and only hearing about it was in Tallahassee on Thursday.

Groups opposed to the plan had to get creative in an attempt to share their views. With no opportunity for oral public testimony, the organizations staged what they called a "People's Hearing."

They rented space in the same hotel as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management meeting. Holly Parker, Florida regional manager for the Surfrider Foundation, explained they hired a court reporter to record comments, and allowed people to speak to a brick wall – to symbolize the Trump administration.

"This is a huge issue of concern for Floridians,” said Parker. “There's been discussion about whether or not Florida is or is not included in the plan. It's been very confusing. And we think members of the public, citizens of Florida, deserve the opportunity to express their concerns and make sure that that's included in the record."

On Thursday, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein also sent a letter to the administration opposing any exploratory drilling off the Florida coast.

Parker said the decision to have just one meeting in Tallahassee, far from coastal communities, locks many concerned citizens out of the process.

"It's really difficult for working folks to travel to Tallahassee midweek to participate in this. And the result is that it's exclusionary; it keeps people out of the process,” she said. “So, we would love if there are additional public meetings throughout the state, particularly focused on the coastal communities that have the potential to be most impacted by this proposal."

Despite the uncertainty, Gov. Rick Scott has said he believes the Trump administration will keep its word and exclude Florida from its plan for offshore drilling. The public can weigh in on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management website at boem.gov.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL