Sen. Bill Nelson: Oil drilling decision 'is all politics'

By Katie Jones, Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, January 15, 2018, 9:58 PM EST

Sen. Bill Nelson says he still has many questions and doubts about the Trump administration's recent announcement to take oil drilling near Florida's coast off the table, calling it a political stunt.

Nelson was in St. Petersburg on Monday to take part in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade. After the celebration, he questioned the timing of and motivation behind the announcement.

"I can tell you one thing that you can be sure of: The oil boys will never stop. They'll keep coming, and that's why Floridians have got to stand up and say no," Nelson said.

The longtime Democratic senator said he sent Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke a letter asking for specifics.

"Are you going to allow seismic testing? Are you going to allow drilling 50 miles off the coast?" Nelson said he asked Zinke.

The surprise announcement came after Gov. Rick Scott met with Zinke to express concerns about drilling off Florida’s coastline. Scott said he now wants to focus on protecting the environment, the Everglades, beaches, springs and state parks.

Nelson called it a political stunt.

"For 7 1/2 years, he's wanted to drill, and all of a sudden, he changes his position? Of course it's all politics," Nelson said.

Nelson said he thinks Scott is gearing up for a possible Senate run against him. He said he’ll continue to fight for Florida and against drilling, as he’s done for decades.

"Our whole economy is based on the fact that we have beautiful and clean beaches without oil covering them up," Nelson said.

Scott has yet to announce whether he will challenge Nelson for the Senate seat he holds.

Nelson has filed new legislation that would permanently ban drilling off Florida’s coast.