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Politics / Issues

PolitiFact FL On Offshore Oil Drilling; FL Sharia Law?

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A future sunset?

When Donald Trump takes office in January, does that mean oil derricks could soon be sprouting off Florida's beaches? And did state senators really vote to impose Islamic Sharia law in Florida? WUSF's Steve Newborn digs deeper into those claims with Josh Gillin of PolitiFact Florida.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) has been a champion of keeping oil platforms far off Florida's coasts. He was a key backer of a current ban that bans oil drilling within 125 miles off much of the coast and up to 235 miles at some points in the Gulf of Mexico.

Even though the ban is set to expire in 2022, he has recently sounded alarms about that changing.

In a speech on the Senate floor Nov. 16, Nelson said President-elect Donald Trump’s position on the issue is concerning to environmentalists.  

"Ever since I was a young congressman, I’ve been fighting to keep oil rigs off of Florida’s coast," he said, "and now it's especially important at this time as we have a new administration coming in that took a public position in the election declaring the president-elect's intent to open up additional areas off the coast to oil drilling."

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling on that:

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During the campaign, Trump’s America First Energy Plan called for opening up onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands, eliminating a moratorium on coal leasing, and opening shale energy deposits. Trump called for unleashing "America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves." In a May 2016 speech to the North Dakota Petroleum Council, Trump said that in his first 100 days in office, he would "lift moratoriums on energy production in federal area. We’re going to revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies. These technologies create millions of jobs with a smaller footprint than ever before." He reiterated those views during a September 2016 speech at the 2016 Shale Insight Conference. Trump’s position has remained the same since he won After Trump won Nov. 8, his transition team posted an energy policy that stated the administration will open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands and waters and streamline the permitting process for all energy projects. A few days after Trump won, one of his economic advisers, Stephen Moore, told NPR that Trump’s administration believes it can raise "hundreds of billions of dollars over the next 10 years" by opening up more federal lands for leases for oil and gas development and coal development. On Nov. 18, the Obama administration took the opposite approach, banning offshore drilling in the Arctic as part of a new five-year plan for energy development in federal waters. Trump won’t be able to instantly toss Obama’s ban. His administration will have to prepare a report which could take as long as two years, and then the federal government would have to organize a sale of leases for companies that want to drill there, the Washington Post reported. Although Trump wants more drilling, he may have to wait years for it. CNBC reported that Trump’s plan to expand oil drilling probably won’t happen until his successor is in the White House. Reasons for delay include the years it takes to start projects, local and state governments sometimes oppose drilling, and market forces.

Moving on to another of Trump's nominees, Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, tapped by Trump to be his national security adviser, repeated a claim recently at a synagogue in Massachusetts that Florida Democratic senators voted to impose Islamic Sharia law.

Speaking at Ahavath Torah Congregation in Stoughton, Mass., on Aug. 23, Flynn said:

"Our country was built upon the foundation of Judeo-Christian principles, values, norms. We should fight this idea of this imposition of Sharia law into our system. And believe me, folks, it is happening.

All you have to do is go and look up something called 'the American laws for American courts.’ I don't know if it's happening up here in Massachusetts, it's happening in other states. I have had people in the media, mainstream media, say, 'oh, that's all a conspiracy, it's a lie.'

No, in the state Florida. The state of Florida, they have 36 senators at the state level. 36 senators at the state level. 12 of them are Democrats, the Republicans hold the majority in the Florida state senate. All 12 Democrats, all 12 Democrats voted to impose Sharia law at the local and state level. Now, it was beaten because the Republicans are in charge. I'm telling you, this is 'American laws for America's courts.'"

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Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

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PolitiFact Florida fact-checked a similar claim by bloggers in 2014 and ruled it Pants on Fire.
Sharia law is a wide-ranging set of rules that govern aspects of Islamic life, including religious practice, daily living, crime and financial dealings. Muslims differ on its interpretation.   At root of the Florida legislation in question was a dispute between a Tampa Islamic center and some of its ousted trustees. In ruling on the case in March 2011, a circuit court judge cited Islamic law, sparking outcry from conservatives. That month, two Republican state lawmakers, Sen. Alan Hays and Rep. Larry Metz, announced they would push for a bill to ban foreign law in Florida courts. After several failed efforts, the bill that passed in 2014 — SB 386, "Application of Foreign Law in Courts" — was watered down compared to previous versions. The bill didn’t specifically mention Sharia law. But it allowed a judge in family-law cases only to agree to apply foreign law as long as it doesn’t contradict public policy in the United States. In reality, the bill doesn’t change existing law, which already allowed judges such discretion. For example, if a couple signed a prenuptial agreement in Argentina and later gets a divorce in Florida, a Miami judge could decide to apply Argentina’s law in the divorce case here, Eduardo Palmer, a Coral Gables lawyer who serves on the legislative committee of the Florida Bar’s international law section, told PolitiFact in 2014. Legislators who voted against the bill argued that it was unnecessary and amounted to an attack on Muslims. Rep. Jim Waldman, a Broward Democrat, told the House, "This bill, this proposal, stems directly from a hatred of Muslims. It's caught on across the country and many other state legislatures have dealt with this, and I find it reprehensible." The Senate approved the bill 24-14, with all the votes in opposition coming from Democrats. The House approved the bill 78-40, with a majority of Democrats voting "no." (House Democrats who voted "yes" included Daphne Campbell of Miami, Betty Reed of Tampa and Hazelle Rogers of Lauderdale Lakes.) Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law in May 2014.