WASHINGTON — Florida leaders say they are optimistic about keeping the state’s coasts clear of offshore drilling after the White House postponed its plan to open up more than 90 percent of the nation’s shores to oil and gas exploration.
- White House's offshore drilling plans delayed by legal issues
- Leaders in Florida optimistic about keeping state's coasts clear
- RELATED: Secretary of Interior Choice Could Have Florida, Offshore Drilling Implications
The delay comes after a recent ruling by a district court in Alaska. While the Interior Department emphasizes they are still evaluating how to move forward with their offshore drilling plans, the appeals process is likely to delay this proposal for months, if not years.
“I don’t think this was a decision anyone was expecting. Every indication that we got is that this was going to go forward,” said Bob Keefe, the Executive Director of Environmental Entrepreneurs, a nonpartisan group that advocates for policies that are good for the economy and the environment.
The plan to expand offshore drilling in virtually all federal waters is on hold after a federal judge ruled last month that President Donald Trump exceeded his authority with an executive order to open the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic to broader oil and gas exploration.
“This isn’t a partisan issue, it should not be a partisan issue. It’s an issue of keeping our beaches clean. It’s an issue of keeping our oceans clean,” Keefe explained.
As the legal process plays out, the Interior Department said they’re looking at all of their options to boost oil and gas development across the country. The plan has drawn fierce bipartisan opposition from members of the Florida delegation, as a moratorium that prohibits offshore drilling from most of the state’s coastline is set to expire in 2022.
With these plans now postponed, Keefe is highlighting that there are other ways to develop energy resources beyond drilling.
“Offshore wind is really taking off, those are creating jobs, that’s driving economic growth, it’s attracting investments and it’s doing it without the risk of an oil spill,” Keefe said.
The oil industry is expressing optimism the case may be resolved quickly, which environmentalists acknowledge could be possible if the administration wins an appeal in higher court.
“I think it’s important now for Floridians and others to keep the pressure on the Trump administration to make this a permanent decision,” he said.
The delay of the administration’s plan is the latest legal setback in the President’s effort to roll back environmental protections. The administration has now lost about 40 cases in federal courts.