Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Official's Comments Stir Up Oil-Drilling Debate

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Official's Comments Stir Up Oil-Drilling Debate

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Turner News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE | Despite U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's declaration last week that Florida wouldn't be considered as part of a White House offshore oildrilling proposal, waters near the state's Gulf and Atlantic coasts may continue to be under review.

But that all depends on how to interpret comments from Walter Cruickshank, the acting director of the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. He told members of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee on Friday that there has been "no formal decision yet on what's in, or out, of the fiveyear program."

"We are following the process conducting a full analysis of all areas included in the draft proposed program," Cruickshank added.

Democrats quickly pounced on his statement that "no formal action" has been taken on Zinke's announcement. Yet Cruickshank also said Zinke's statement "stands for itself," the secretary's decision would be "reflected in the proposed program" and that Congress has treated Florida waters differently, noting a decadeslong moratorium against oil drilling in an area of the eastern Gulf of Mexico used by the military for air and sea training.

Cruickshank had been asked why Florida was carved out of the plan, as governors and leaders of other coastal states have sought similar exemptions to the one Zinke announced after flying into Tallahassee International Airport on Jan. 9.

Zinke, appearing alongside Gov. Rick Scott at the airport, said Florida coastal waters would be removed from plans to open previously protected parts of the Atlantic Ocean and eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling. In making the decision, Zinke praised Scott, an ally of President Donald Trump, for working with the administration.

Scott hailed Zinke's announcement, while some others questioned the quick decision and manner of announcement as an attempt by the Trump administration to further Scott's political career. …

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