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A senior official from the Interior Department (DOI) said Florida was still under official consideration for offshore drilling, despite an announcement by Secretary Ryan Zinke last week stating that the state would be granted an exemption from the draft drilling plan due to concerns about its potential to effect coastal tourism.
Walter Cruickshank, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, made the statement at a congressional hearing on Friday, during which he was questioned by California Rep. Jared Huffman and Orlando Rep. Darren Soto.
“[Zinke’s] statement stands for itself, and we have no formal decision yet on what is in or out of the five-year program,” Cruickshank said in response to a question from Huffman. Florida Governor Rick Scott had met with Zinke the week before, after which the secretary clearly declared the southern state’s shores would not be open for drilling.
“Cruikshank simply said BOEM will finish the legally required analysis of the planning areas, as is always done for all planning areas,” DOI spokesperson Heather Swift told The Orlando Sentinel in an email.
States will have to fight aggressively to keep their shores safe from drilling, the backtracking shows, Florida lawmakers say.
“Clearly we’re in the plan and we need to work in a bipartisan fashion to get Florida exempt,” Soto said in an interview Friday. “We can’t let our guard down.”
Under the new National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for the period 2019 to 2024, some 90 percent of the outer U.S. shelf is set to be opened up to drillers as part of President Donald Trump’s strategy for energy independence and dominance. The figure compares with an Obama ban on drilling that covered 94 percent of the shelf.
By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com
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Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…