Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board
The U.S. Interior Department tweeted Wednesday that a Politico report about plans to jump-start oil exploration off Florida’s coasts was “fake news.”
As much as we would like to believe Interior, we don’t. Not for a second. The president and his administration have demonstrated an unlimited capacity for lying. And the Interior Department is headed by a one-time oil industry lobbyist, David Bernhardt, who’s been happy to carry the energy industry’s water while serving in the federal government.
Besides, and maybe most important, the president has made no secret of his desire to see more oil rigs off the coasts. He wants ’em, bad.
So, all things considered, we’re more inclined to believe the Politico report, thank you. It detailed administration plans to allow drilling off both the east and west coasts of Florida. It noted that the plans wouldn’t be announced until after the November election because, you know, Trump needs to win Florida, and Floridians hate the idea of oil rigs off their coasts.
We also should pause and note the careful wording of the government’s fake news bluster. It says the Interior Department “does not plan to issue a new report in November.”
OK. What about December, or January, or any of the other 48 months of a second Donald Trump term if the nation decides it wants four more years of chaos?
The feds are hedging because the president has made clear his desire for “energy dominance,” and he’s had his eye on the Gulf Coast since Inauguration Day.
He’s issued a series of orders and proposals since taking office that would open up areas of the Gulf and the Atlantic to exploration and drilling.
So far, at least, Florida politicians have maintained a bipartisan consensus in opposition to oil drilling off the state’s coasts. Republican Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio have made clear they don’t want it. Even Ron DeSantis, the president’s No. 1 fan, has opposed the president’s drilling dreams.
DeSantis supported a U.S. House measure last year to permanently ban drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast, a measure that won support from 26 of 27 Florida House members (Ted Yoho was the lone holdout). Trump had promised to veto the ban but he needn’t have worried; the bipartisan bill was never given a hearing in Mitch McConnell’s Senate.
Trump’s not about to give up on letting the oil industry go to work off Florida’s coasts, especially if he wins a second term and no longer has any reason to care what Floridians think.
We already know what they think. In 2018, 69% of voters approved a state constitutional ban on drilling in waters controlled by the state (about nine miles off the western and southern coasts and three miles off the eastern coast).
Beyond those limits, it’s up to the feds.
The opposition to drilling brings together two groups that agree on very little — business and environmentalists.
Florida’s economy depends on tourism, as we’ve so painfully learned from the coronavirus shutdown. Tourism businesses closed faster than most others and they likely will be one of the slowest to recover.
That experience should be easier for us to imagine the economic fallout of a Deepwater Horizon-like oil spill taking place a few miles off the Gulf or Atlantic coasts. A spill won’t shut down Disney World, but it would destroy coastal livelihoods and have devastating and lasting environmental consequences.
And if you think another Deepwater Horizon spill is less likely today, don’t forget the Trump administration’s attempts to undo — at the oil industry’s urging — some of the safety regulations Obama’s administration put in place to prevent more spills.
More drilling, less safety regulation is this administration’s goal.
All the more reason Florida voters should deny Donald Trump another term in office and another four years to make his dream of oil rigs off our coasts come true.
Editorials are the opinion of the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board and are written by one of its members or a designee. The editorial board consists of Opinion Editor Mike Lafferty, Jennifer A. Marcial Ocasio, Jay Reddick, David Whitley and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson. Send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.