Trump Extends Drilling Ban In Eastern Gulf Plus Atlantic Coast of Florida, Georgia and SC

Yesterday the President traveled to Florida and in a surprising reversal (or “ambush” if you are an oil and gas lobbyist) of a draft plan he put in place two years ago that would open virtually the entire U.S. ocean to oil and gas drilling, he signed an order banning offshore drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.  Even more surprising, he extended the ban to the Atlantic coast of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, but not to the many other east coast states requesting the same. It’s reportedly a 10-year ban in these locations, but it can be reversed in the Atlantic at any time, and in the Gulf of Mexico in 2022 when a law banning it there expires.

Why This Matters:  As most news outlets noted, the President’s actions were overtly political — he is losing nationally to Vice President Joe Biden, and Florida is a must-win state. Biden later tweeted in response, “Just months ago, Donald Trump was planning to allow oil and gas drilling off the coast of Florida.  Now, with 56 days until the election, he conveniently says that he changed his mind. Unbelievable.”  We wonder what are the odds Trump won’t reverse himself again if he wins re-election (keep reading).

Surprise Surprise

Politico’s  Ben Lefebvre and Zack Colman reported that the President’s action “surprised energy industry executives by reversing the administration’s earlier pledges to open those waters to exploration.”  Indeed, they talked to one industry official who had been in contact with the Interior Department about its drilling plan proposal who described the move as  “a complete ambush…Nobody knows where this came from. It totally seems like a campaign sort of thing.”  Another industry official told Politico, “Industry views on this right now — they don’t matter..All the decisions they’re making right now, they’re probably like, ‘We helped you. We don’t care.’” As Politico explained it, the “Interior Department, which develops the five-year plans that dictate which federal waters will be leased out for oil and gas drilling, had been acceding to the industry pressure to open up the waters off Florida’s coast.”  But this time, the poor oil and gas industry folks and Republican Congressional staffers received no heads up about the announcement.

Reactions

USA Today reported that Diane Hoskins, campaign director for Oceana Action, said “Trump’s message ‘sounds more like political speech than a move toward permanent protection.'”  They also reported that the Republican Governor of South Carolina “warned that ‘we must remain vigilant in the conservation and preservation of our coastline.’ McMaster, a Trump ally, was opposed to Trump’s initial drilling exploration 2018 expansion plans. ‘South Carolina is blessed with the most beautiful and pristine beaches, sea islands, and marshes in the nation,’ McMaster tweeted. ‘Seismic testing and offshore drilling threatens their health and jeopardizes the future of our state’s $24 billion tourism industry.'”  And The Washington Post reported that a spokeswoman for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), said the commonwealth has been asking for a comprehensive federal offshore drilling ban since 2018 to no avail, saying “Protecting our coastline isn’t a partisan issue —and it shouldn’t be treated as such.”

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