Why Was Florida Exempted From Trump’s Offshore Drilling Plan?

With news that Donald Trump wants to radically expand offshore drilling, many coastal states are crying foul, but only one got special treatment: Florida. The state has been exempted from the plan because it is “unique” and “local voice matters.”

This California resident is confused about what makes a state with very vocal local voices and one of the most productive and diverse marine ecosystems in the world not “unique,” and I’m not alone.

But why is Florida getting a pass?

Well, a lot of people think they have a pretty good idea: because it houses a high-value Trump property, Mar-a-Lago, where the president spends a great deal of time golfing and hobnobbing with plutocrats. And presumably he doesn’t want to look at giant oil derricks offshore. Not only that, but the golf club is also in a state with a whole lot of Trump voters who also have a whole lot of money, with a very influential governor, and 29 electoral votes.

So did Florida just buy its way out of environmental destruction by way of political favoritism?

Here’s what we know: The Trump administration, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, is very cozy with the oil and gas industry. So much so that it recently rolled back Obama-era provisions designed to address environmental safety concerns in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. The administration announced that it wants to open up offshore waters to oil and gas exploration — and similar provisions for some pristine natural resources on land were buried in the GOP tax bill.

We also know that oil and gas are dying. The future of energy production lies in renewables, and even the industry recognizes it. In fact, in waters off the California coast where offshore drilling is allowed, wells were so unproductive that they were decommissioned and turned into reefs to expand marine habitats. Meanwhile, in Alaska, oil and gas companies are tepid on the prospect of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Florida claimed it deserved an exemption because the state is heavily reliant on tourism associated with pristine coastlines. But this issue is not “unique” to Florida.

In fact, every coastal state relies heavily on its beautiful ocean scenery for tourism dollars, from California’s Big Sur to the wild waters off the Maine coast to the resort towns of South Carolina. If the tourism industry is sufficient justification to protect offshore waters, that should cover the entirety of the coastal United States.

Many states also rely heavily on the ocean for their economy, with multiple large fisheries in the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf — all of which could be threatened by oil drilling. While California may have a particularly distinctive marine ecosystem, it’s not the only state with unique seafloor formations and animals living offshore, all of which are extremely vulnerable to pollution and oil-related ship traffic. And that’s a major reason why numerous environmental groups oppose the proposal.

Many coastal states also vehemently oppose offshore drilling. In fact, only Louisiana and Texas indicated support for the plan when they were asked to comment during development of the proposal. Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, has since indicated that he supports the plan – over the will of his own congressional delegation.

Democratic governors — and, in some cases, governors-elect – Jerry Brown of California, Kate Brown of Oregon, Jay Inslee of Washington, John Carney of Delaware, Ralph Northam of Virginia, Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, Roy Cooper of North Carolina, Phil Murphy of New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo of New York all say they don’t want offshore drilling.

But lest you think this is a blue state/red state issue, Maryland’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, is also in opposition. So are South Carolina’s Henry McMaster, Georgia’s Nathan Deal and New Hampshire’s Chris Sununu.

The wills of these governors also reflect those of their congressional delegations, as well as their residents. People in coastal states overwhelmingly oppose oil and gas exploration off their shores. If anything, Florida’s unwillingness to participate in oil and gas exploration offshore makes it pretty ordinary — and far from unique.

So again, coastal Americans of all political persuasions want to know, why was Florida given a free pass on a wildly unpopular plan that has even Trump-loving governors and members of Congress outraged? We think we know exactly why, and we have a suggestion: If oil and gas exploration is indeed the wave of the future, why not start at Mar-a-Lago?

Photo credit: Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement

25 comments

Marie W
Marie W5 months ago

thank you for sharing

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Brian F
Brian F11 months ago

Luna b Electric cars are much cleaner, even taking account the need for Lithium for the batteries, that is evaporated from brine. Electric cars clean the air, and are much cleaner than dirty ICE cars, even if the electricity comes from dirty coal.

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Winn A
Winn Adams11 months ago

Noted

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Luna b
Past Member 11 months ago

A)its illigeal to offshore drill in florida they banned it there and B) offshore drilling is good it creates jobs and more money to poorer families and C) fossil fuels are good battery powered cars are worse there has to be a 10 mile dead zone to mine for the litium ion for the batteries and they have to drill way farther into the earth for the battery juice than oil and the 10 mile dead zone people cant enter and with oil people have the option to wear cloth masks like what nurses use versus people who work in ion mining fields they have to wear full suits like hazard suits with the full head gear so in reality battery powered cars are worse but solars ok

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R11 months ago

Thank you for posting.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara11 months ago

thanks

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara11 months ago

We can guess why.

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Lenore K
Lenore K11 months ago

ok

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Mark Spiegel
Mark Spiegel11 months ago

There is another equally important reason why Trump gave Florida an exemption. Republican governor Rick Scott is running for the senate in 2018. Something about honor among thieves.

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Anne Moran
Anne Moran11 months ago

'Cozy',, will get it every time...

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