Uproar continues over Trump's offshore drilling plans

Nobody in the White House bothered to ask constituents what they think, a New Jersey senator says.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Feb. 7, 2018 at 7:56 AM
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Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Democratic senators from U.S. coastal states said they're still waiting for clarification on a five-year drilling plan given the ambiguity over Florida.

Florida is at the center of a debate over President Donald Trump's offshore drilling proposal, which would open up nearly all U.S. territorial waters to drillers starting as early as next year. Shortly after the plan was released in January, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told Florida Gov. Rick Scott that Florida was removed from consideration.

Walter Cruickshank, the acting director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, later testified that Florida, however, was still under drilling consideration.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., a long-time opponent of more offshore drilling, said that, with space and military programs centered on Florida's waters, better federal oversight was expected.

"These five-year plans are supposed to be developed over the course of one or two years with extensive input from the public, agency staff from the industries involved, and from the environmental community," he said in emailed comments. "Five-year plans aren't supposed to be a goody bag of political favors and they can't be undone by the secretary's press conference or a tweet."

Florida's governor, a Republican, is said to be considering a challenge to Nelson's seat in the Senate.

The proposed program, opened for public comment, called for 19 lease sales offshore Alaska, seven in the Pacific Region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico and nine in the Atlantic.

Further north, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said the Interior Department's proposal catered to the oil and gas industry instead of tourism, which he said supported about 10 percent of the state workforce. Tourism is a multi-billion business segment for New Jersey.

"Clearly, the Trump administration didn't consult my constituents while drafting this plan," he said in a statement.

Led by Nelson and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a bipartisan group of Florida senators called for immediate federal action on the offshore drilling plan last month.

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