On Monday, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., led members of the Florida congressional delegation in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to request clarification on plans to open Florida’s coasts to new oil and gas leasing.
In 2018, former U.S. Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke announced that Florida would be exempt from any offshore drilling plans. The letter comes after a Politico article that suggested the department plans to open Florida’s coasts to more oil and gas drilling shortly after the November election.
“As you know, in 2019, the House of Representatives passed the Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act to permanently ban drilling off the coast of Florida with broad bipartisan support,” wrote the members. “Despite that vote and the economic and environmental damage left by the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, it appears that the Department of the Interior (DOI) is preparing to open the door to oil and gas drilling off Florida’s coasts shortly after the November 2020 election. As representatives from Florida, we are asking for clarification on DOI’s plans for drilling off the coasts of our state.”
The members requested written answers to the following questions:
- What is the status of the 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Proposed Program? Does DOI have a target date for its release?
- Is the Department still working on a new 5-year leasing program that would go into effect prior to the expiration of the current leasing program in 2022? If not, can you indicate whether the Department would consider not releasing a new leasing program that contains any offshore lease sales scheduled prior to the expiration of the 2017-2022 program?
- Would the Department consider, when the Proposed Program is eventually issued, not including lease sales for any new areas in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic?
- Would the Department consider supporting our bipartisan legislation, the Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act of 2019, to permanently ban drilling off the coast of Florida?
The letter was signed by U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, D-Flla., Francis Rooney, R-Fla., Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Gus Bilirakis, D-Fla., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Charlie Crist, D-Fla., Val Demings, D-Fla., Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Lois Frankel, D-Fla., Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., Al Lawson, D-Fla., Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Bill Posey, R-Fla., John Rutherford, R-Fla., Donna Shalala, D-Fla., and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.