U.S. fossil lobbyists say they received no advance notice before Donald Trump went to Florida this week to announce he was extending the state’s offshore drilling moratorium from 2022 to 2032 and expanding it to include Georgia and South Carolina.
“It’s a complete ambush,” an industry official told Politico. “Nobody knows where this came from. It totally seems like a campaign sort of thing.”
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The announcement at an apparently unmasked campaign event in Jupiter, Florida “represents an election year victory for drilling opponents in the crucial presidential swing state, where fear of oil slicks fouling the beaches has run high for decades among people in both political parties,” Politico writes. “It comes despite vows by a series of Republican presidents—Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and now Trump — to open up more of the U.S. coast to drilling to foster American energy independence.”
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Florida is a must-win state in the U.S. federal election this fall, while Georgia has been unusually competitive, with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leading the serially-bankrupt failed real estate magnate by one percentage point as of Friday morning. Georgia will also have at least one, possibly two competitive Senate races this fall, while South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a staunch Trump ally, is locked in a tight re-election battle.
The Trump administration vowed in 2017 to open up most U.S. coastal waters to oil and gas drilling, Politico recalls. But states’ opposition to the plan kicked off immediately, prompting then-interior secretary Ryan Zinke to cut a side deal with then-Florida governor Rick Scott, a widely-touted Republican Senate candidate in 2018 mid-term elections, to exempt his state from the plan.
“Ain’t gonna happen. Not on my watch!” declared South Carolina state representative Nancy Mace, a newly-elected legislator described in 2018 as a former Trump campaign worker and fiscal conservative who championed his tax overhaul.
“Eight to 10 million tourists a year come down to Charleston,” Mace told a mid-February rally on the steps of the South Carolina capitol. “They don’t want to come to see oil drilling off the coast.”
Fast forward to 2020, and “people familiar with the administration’s plans had told Politico as recently as June that the administration was still aiming to open up those waters to drilling, but that it would wait until after the November election to announce the move,” reporters Ben Lefebvre and Zack Colman write. “The Interior Department, which develops the five-year plans that dictate which federal waters will be leased out for oil and gas drilling, had been acceding to the industry pressure to open up the waters off Florida’s coast, though Trump told local Florida media last month that he had removed the state from any new drilling plan.”
“Industry views on this right now—they don’t matter,” complained one fossil official. “All the decisions they’re making right now, they’re probably like, ‘We helped you. We don’t care.’”
Biden tweeted his own opposition to offshore drilling and scorched Trump for his environmental record.
“Trump has called the climate crisis a ‘hoax.’ He has eliminated rules designed to keep our air and water clean. And, dangerously, he has opened up additional public lands, both on land and offshore, to the possibility of new oil and gas drilling,” he said, adding that he aims to “make historic investments to create millions of clean energy jobs and get our economy back on track so it works for all Americans, not just Trump’s Mar-a-Lago crowd.”
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