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Florida Still At Risk For Offshore Drilling

Stock photo of an oil drilling rig.

“The Trump Administration is playing games with Florida’s coast.”

That was the warning from Jennifer Rubiello, state director of environmental advocacy group, Environment Florida. She was speaking at a press conference Thursday that discussed Florida’s status when it comes to offshore oil drilling.

Last month, the Trump Administration announced that it would allow all of the country’s coasts to be available for offshore oil drilling. The following week, however, U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke stated that Florida would be “off the table” for future drilling.

But some lawyers argue Zinke’s comments hold no legal binding for the state’s position on drilling plans.

“An announcement on the fifth day of the comment period is jumping the gun. The Secretary is not supposed to be making a final decision at that time,” said Alyson Flournoy, Professor at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law. “Any final decision that excludes Florida is actually more vulnerable to challenge than if he had said nothing.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, is calling for an extension of the moratorium on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, which is set to end in 2022.

Castor urged Floridians to contact the Department of Interior and have their voices heard before the comment period is closed.

“It is absolutely vital for interested parties: those of us who are concerned about the future of Florida’s economy, tourism, all of the Mom-and-Pop small businesses on the beach, and for everyone that loves our beaches and is concerned about the environmental risk that drilling off of our coast presents, you have to get your comments into the Interior Department,“ Castor said.

Castor is calling for an extension of the moratorium on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, which is set to end in 2022.

Anyone who wants to comment on the Trump administration's drilling plans can submit their concerns to the Department of Interior by March 9.

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