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Department of the Interior announces removal of Florida waters from five-year plan

Following the 4 January announcement of the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024, which opens up 90% of the US Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas exploration and production, the Department of the Interior has announced an exemption for the state of Florida.

The exemption, which was announced on 9 January, removes Florida waters from the five-year plan. The exemption was granted after Florida Governor Rick Scott expressed concerns about how offshore oil and gas development could impact Florida’s tourism industry.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke released the following statement via Twitter on 9 January:

“I have witnessed Governor Scott’s leadership through hurricane season and am working closely with him on Everglades restoration. He is a straightforward leader that can be trusted. President Trump has directed me to rebuild our offshore oil and gas program in a manner that supports our national energy policy but also takes into consideration the local and state voice. I support the governor’s position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver. As a result of discussion with Governor Scott and his leadership, I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms.”

In response to Secretary Zinke’s announcement, IADC President Jason McFarland issued the following statement on 10 January:

“Just 6 days ago, this administration released its draft proposed plan, which included 25 out of the 26 potential leasing areas on the US Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), including the three leasing areas that include waters offshore of Florida. In his statement at that time, Secretary Zinke noted that, ‘Responsibly developing our energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands and parks.’

“IADC hailed last week’s action because we believe that it’s important to assess all of the nation’s OCS resources, which belong to the American people, to determine their potential for energy development. Secretary Zinke’s remark to remove Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms is undisciplined and arbitrary and stands in stark opposition to the deliberative and inclusive process envisioned by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, not to mention it represents an apparent about-face by the administration, particularly at this very early stage in the process. Regardless of one’s viewpoint on whether or not any particular offshore area should ultimately be offered in a lease sale, the secretary’s latest action should be viewed as contrary to the process. IADC and our industry colleagues look forward to submitting our own comments and views on the best way to responsibly develop the nation’s considerable resources.”

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