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Sen. Nelson Vows To Fight Trump Offshore Drilling Order

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that would open up areas off the West Coast and the Northeast Unites States to oil drilling. The executive order would reverse an Obama-era ban on drilling.

The Atlantic waters placed off-limits to new oil and gas leasing are 31 canyons stretching from the coast of New England south to Virginia. Existing leases aren't affected.

This doesn't allow gas and oil drilling off Florida's Gulf or Atlantic coastlines, but that isn't sitting well with Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. He's filed legislation with 20 other Senators that would block any additional areas being opened to offshore drilling until 2022.

Nelson has been a long-time opponent of having oil rigs close to Florida's shores. He spoke Friday afternoon in Tampa.

"For the next period after 2022, I think they're going to try to do to the Gulf of Mexico off of Florida just what they've done today in the Atlantic off the entire Atlantic seaboard," he said.

He says opening drilling off the Atlantic coast could mean spills drifting south to Florida.

"Didn't we learn enough from the BP oil spill, when the oil drifted off of Louisiana, all the way east to off of Pensacola and Destin, and a few tar balls on Panama City Beach?" he said.

In 2006, Nelson, a Democrat and former Sen. Mel Martinez, a Republican, got a deal passed to ban drilling off Florida’s Gulf coast through 2022.  Nelson filed legislation earlier this year to extend the ban an additional five years.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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